Synopsis first?

For years, I thought you wrote the synopsis after your book was written. It’s then that you want to start submitting to agents/editors/publishers. So you sit down and struggle to tell your 300-page novel in five pages or less.

For me, the word struggle doesn’t begin to cover it. What do  you include and what do you leave out? Is the sub-plot important? What about the secondary characters?  It almost takes me longer to come up with a synopsis than it did to write the story.

And then there’s the logline, which is another subject. To be honest, I wrote  and published several books before I knew what a tagline or logline were. In case you are wondering, here is one definition:  A “tagline” is a short, clever sentence or phrase somewhere on the book’s cover thatmm-blog should pique a potential reader’s interest enough to flip the book over and read the blurb (a one or two paragraph description of the books’ contents). For example, the tagline for A Question of Time is “In time, there are infinite places to hide a king.” A “logline” is a two-sentence plot summary. Readers don’t see loglines; your write them for agents or publishers to give them a quick idea of what your book is about. So they need to be carefully constructed, too. 

So many ways to condense your book!

But now I have learned you should write your summary first. And before you do that, you should sit down and  write an outline. As a pantser, or one who starts writing with only a vague notion of the book’s plot,  this was a revelation.

Oops, doesn’t that make me a plotter?

Maybe not. It doesn’t mean I have to fill three binders with notes or put sticky notes all over the wall behind my computer, or create a story board with pictures and descriptions. It’s more like a road map. We all download directions from MapQuest or type in our destination in the GPS before starting a trip. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a side road or detour if you are so inclined. (If you use a GPS, you will be reminded constantly how to get back on the main road.)

In the article, “Plotting Boot Camp” by Amanda Renee (Romance Writers Report, May 2016) the author outlines the steps you need to take to arrange goal, motivation, and conflict in your story. Renee states that she takes her cues from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat when she creates her “beat sheet.”

You can find numerous references to beat sheets, but simply put, there are specific places in your story where certain things must happen.  Must is the keyword, because to miss one beat is to have things begin to fall apart.

I decided I would try this method, mainly because it works so well for others. I’m already almost 6,000 words into the story, so I may have to backtrack a little. It’s worth it if I reach the end and everything fits, there’s a happy ever after, and no loose threads or plot holes.

So by looking at the synopsis as a kind of literary GPS, I can take up my story and go forward, hopefully on the right road. And, I may just take a side road or two to see what it’s like.

Because at heart, I’m a pantser.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lorrainequinn4
    Oct 30, 2016 @ 08:33:29

    This is a new concept for me, another pantster. I’m taking a workshop on line about plotting. There are 44 pages of questions for each major character. Crazy! But, I found my heroine is full of conflict – internal and external. She has great motivation, and her goals are clear. My hero on the other hand is weak. Good to know. I am currently brainstorming ideas to cause havoc in his life – creating baggage before I write. It hits the beats internal and external. It would be easy to write the synopsis because I know the key things that are going to happen before I fill in all the details. I’m not sure how this new approach will work out, but I feel pretty good about the story I want to write. It’s a learning process!


  2. CrizGazr
    Oct 31, 2016 @ 07:35:49

    I can get excited talking about my book (poor hubs) so my synopsis kind of falls from my babbling. I have also started writing it first. Mine is in a separate page at the beginning of the book. I work in Scrivener so every time I write I see it sitting there, if I get stuck or lack motivation -I read it and often adjust it. It’s all a matter of finding what works for you. If it sounds good, I try it. This was something I tried that worked.


  3. Sandy Bruney
    Oct 31, 2016 @ 11:16:19

    I’m glad to hear it worked. I was hesitant about trying this as I am not ordinarily organized except in my head, which goes off on tangents. Writing the outline firmed up the fuzzy thoughts and showed where the weak points were. So, so far, it’s all good.


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