Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Dreaded Synopsis

I am proud to say that I finally muddled through the synopsis I've been dragging my feet on for weeks. (applause) Yes. Yes, thank you. Why is it these things are so hard? I mean, we're writers, right? We're used to forming sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

As I was lamenting over this unpleasant task the other day, a friend (one who shall remain nameless, though she knows who she is because I made her check it over until I'd overcome all of her objections) said to me, just tell the story. Great concept, but how do you tell a story that isn't finished yet?

I've written one, two, three and even ten page synopses before. But on work that's already finished. This time, while the story is in my head, the high points anyway, it's not complete. Guess what? I now have a better grasp on my story. I have a clearer picture of the overall theme. I forced myself to sit at the computer, gave myself permission to write crappy (sorry, there's just no other word), and put the story down as if I were telling a friend. Then I was able to go back and tighten and focus on the elements that really needed to be there.

It worked. Minimal tears were shed. I still have all, make that most, of my hair.

So how do you feel about writing synopses? Do you dread it? Love it? Do it before you ever start your story? If so, do you stick to it, or does it change a lot?

Happy Tuesday everyone!


  1. Mindy,

    I used to dread the synopsis and I could only write it after I completed my novel. On the fourth book I began writing the synopsis before the book and it does change some by the time I finish, so I revise it again.

    I begin with my 1-2 sentence commercial blurb. Then I put together a character sketch. I expand the commercial blurb to a page and then three pages. I never write more than a 3-page synpsis. I write a chapter by chapter outline and begin writing the actual book.

    I went through a period where I forced myself to write several synopses for a couple of trilogies that I still haven't written. That exercise alone cured me of my synopsis problem. I don't dread them anymore.


  2. Sorry for my spelling error. I had a couple of interruptions from family (hubby).

  3. It is hard to do when you have no idea what's going to happen next. :) But since I'm a plotter, I usually have most of the main plot points formed in the beginning so it's not as hard to write. (Of course, it does change.)

    My favorite tool to use is the synopsis writing section and the Magic Conflict Chart in Carolyn Greene's Prescription for Plotting workbook. It's been a huge help for me!! The website is:


  4. I just wrote a one page synopsis using the snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson. It worked like a charm.
    I don't enjoy writing a synopsis, but judging contests has really helped me with mine. I can see clearly what isn't working, I just hope I can see it in my own work.

  5. I'm going to try Missy's suggestion because I've written my first book's synopsis over for every contest and submission. It gets different, not always better, but maybe it meets the need better with each rewrite.
    So anyway, I'm going to try Missy's suggestion;-)

  6. Years ago I also took Carolyn Greene's The Plot Doctor workshop. It was a huge help. I used the charts and graphs until I came to the character sketch process which includes some of Carolyn's techniques. If you get the chance, I would defintely take one of her workshops.