Summaries, Save me!

25 May

Though plot synopses make me want to hide in a wardrobe so I can rock back and forth and eat cookies, I’ve learned something valuable from them. Which is that a plot synopsis is one of the best writing blue prints there is. Okay, fine, I know this is probably common knowledge but it wasn’t for me so just in case, I’m sharing. If you’re a querying writer then you’ve come across this dreaded monster and if you’re anything like me then the act of writing a synopsis has probably made you cry. Also, it has probably been written AFTER you’ve finished your story. It all depends on what kind of writer you are, but since I’m a wing-it kind of writer, it never occurred to me to write a synopsis beforehand, even if some story aspects will change.

The best synopses are the ones that are only one page long. Two, tops. I always was relieved when I found an agent that asked for longer synopses because wow, is it hard to compress the main plot of your novel and squish it on that one page. But it is also the best way to figure out what the most important points in your novel are and therefore what you have to write towards. Writing a short summary has the same effect as a brainstorming session, especially if you set a timer and try to do it in a short time. Usually I just write and see where I go, or I daydream to see what the best way to go is. The summary forces you to do that without your brain noticing every shiny thing in your vicinity after you’ve only been daydreaming for three minutes.

So, to keep it short and simple: Write your synopsis before you write your story, even if you’re not a plotter. If you want to try your hand at plotting (which I’ll be trying now) you can use the synopsis to fill in the gaps between. I’ve planned out thirty chapters and two scenes per chapter, so I can fill in what will happen during those moments. Plotting doesn’t have to mean there is no room for creativity, it just means you’ve mapped out the way to reach your destination. Which doesn’t exclude unexpected detours. It also means you can think about any possible plot holes and avoid them. And it also allows you to focus on moments that are crucial to your story and therefore could possibly save you during editing. Write that synopsis and focus on the most important points belonging to the main plot. Have someone else read it and see if it gets them as excited as you. Who needs muses when you’ve got summaries?


The good thing about a bit of plotting is the use of notebooks and post-its!

The good thing about a bit of plotting is the use of notebooks and post-its!



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