Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Dreaded Synopsis-- The Most Underutilized Tool in the Box

So I've got the complete rewrite of EVANGELINE finished and I'm ready and raring to go on my second draft of Mara's story. First thing I'm going to do is write a synopsis.

I can hear the groans through cyberspace now. (And apparently time, too, since none of you have read this as I'm still writing it, but I'm just cool like dat.)

Why write a synopsis now, you say, before the final draft? Things might change, you say.


At this stage I use the synopsis to remind myself of the plot without actually having to read the story again. This helps keep me from packing extraneous information into the synopsis. There might be some details I've forgotten, but that's for the best. It's probably minor subplot, which has no place in my short synopsis. It also helps me keep the story a little fresher in my mind for once I actually start reading through and line editing.

As I write the synopsis, a scrawling, scribbled-out, longhand mess at first, the story slowly becomes clear in my mind. And, if I find I do want to change something, the synopsis is the best place to plan such revisions, especially if they lead to other major changes down the road.

Without actually making any changes to your manuscript, you can use the synopsis and save a lot of time in the long run if you are already thinking of making major changes to the plot. Usually once I have the plot the way I like it, my short synopsis is finished. Even after all my revisions to EVANGELINE, the synopsis I made after the first draft was finished still applies. I made changes in style and hopefully refined the narrative and dialogue, and I even added and deleted some minor subplots, but none of those changes affected the major plot arc.

Since wriitng a one page synopsis is the most difficult for me, that's the length I eventually strive for, but when I first start the process, it's more like three pages. Whatever length works for you is fine, but I think over five pages means you might be focusing a bit too much on subplots. In this case, you should ask yourself why that is. Should one of the minor subplots become a more major one?

The other great thing about crafting a synopsis before you read the story again is that you're still so excited about your novel. The story still feels alive and new and full of potential. The synopsis is all about potential, about seeking it out and playing around with possiblities.

Why not make your synopsis work for you instead of slaving over it? Especially when you are on the verge of querying, trying to craft a query letter at the same time and having the query sound too much like a synopsis.

I'm really looking forward to working on my second draft, but before I dive in head first, I want to be prepared, armed to the teeth and writing with a purpose.

The synopsis is an indispensible tool. Make it work for you!

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