The Synopsis

The other day an editor I know asked permission to use my latest synopsis as part of a talk she had to give. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, because up to now, I always thought I stunk at writing synopses.

Who knew : ) She went on to say that it was the kind of construction she looked for but rarely received, so I thought I’d share the steps I take to write a synopsis with you.

When I began writing I was a pantser who  believed that plotting  inhibited my creative process. That’s probably why it took me a year and a half to write my first book, which I never sold.

As time passed, I began to realize that if I wanted to write more books faster, I needed to plan more and if I planned more, writing the synopsis at the end of a project might just be easier.  I’ve played with a few variations of my process over the years but here’s what I’ve found works best for me:

1- Before I start to write a book, I write a character analysis for my hero and heroine because the more I know about who they are, where they’ve been, and what they want, the easier it is to move onto the next step–

2-  I write down my hero/heroine’s goals/motivations & conflicts. Keep in mind, it’s very effective if your hero/heroine’s goals oppose each other (ex: he wants a stay at home wife and she wants a career).

3-Once I’ve established their goals/motivations & conflicts, I write a  chapter by chapter outline. Sometimes this is a bare bones outline, sometimes it’s in depth.  Now I can begin to write the book.

Once the book is finished, I pull out the chapter by chapter outline I did months ago. I pinpoint the most important plot points in the finished book, (only those events and motivations that moved the story forward in a major way), and incorporate them into the outline. Don’t forget to reveal the character’s emotions and motivations. (Leave out secondary characters, you’re only using bare bones here.)

Once I’ve tweaked the outline, I begin to write the synopsis (in present tense) by picking up all the important elements from the outline. I introduce the hero/heroine each in their own paragraph. As they’re introduced, I identify their goals, motivation and conflict in as few words as possible, 1-3 pages maximum.

Wow, talk about pressure.  But take heart. Writing a good synopsis is tons of work but you’re also creating a valuable marketing tool. A good synopsis may even help you discover your blurb or pitch, and in the end, you’ve honed your writing skills too.

Best,

Cathy Tully

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5 responses to “The Synopsis

  1. I like this. Very concise. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Plot, Conflict, and Outline | Burgess Taylor

  3. Great advice. I’m going to use this as prep for my nano.

  4. Thanks for this practical and helpful post – will definitely be taking your advice.

  5. You’re all very welcome.I don’t know a writer who dreads this process. Have fun!
    Cathy

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