Writers talk a lot about the synopsis and how to write it. Most recently we at Chiseled in Rock published The Dreaded Synopsis by Terry Wright and Synopsis: A Perfect Fit by Janet Lane.
I have written seven novels. One was published only in audio. Two were published in hardcover, mass market paperback, and e-book. One manuscript needs a major rewrite and is probably destined to sit on a shelf forever. The other three are in various stages of writing, submission, and/or revision.
I'm a pantser, a binge writer, and I do not edit or revise as I go. Not necessarily desirable, but I've learned to deal with it. It took awhile, but over the years, I developed a synopsis-writing process that works for me. Here 'tis:
Before I begin the real writing of a novel, I use my basic idea to churn out a narrative outline. It's not a chapter outline or even a chapter-by-chapter plan, but I end up with a vague idea of my story line and characters.
Over the next few days (or in one case, years) I write and write and write until I finally have 65,000 to 70,000 words with somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 words to go.
I stop writing and read through the novel from page one, writing a chapter-by-chapter summary as I go.
At that point, I plan the remaining chapters of my novel and include them in the summary. This is where I also jot down notes regarding needed revisions.
Then I write, write, write until I've finished the first draft of the novel.
When I move into the revision stage, I change the chapter summary as I change the novel.
When I finish the book, I also have a completed long, detailed synopsis. Agents and editors don't have a uniform standard for the synopses they request with queries or initial submissions, so it's wise to go ahead and prepare a couple of shorter versions, including a one-page, single-spaced summary. They typically require a lot of rewriting as I pare the story down to its bare bones. I don't want to be caught churning out a variation at the last minute.
So when do I write my synopsis? I begin when I'm about 80% of the way through my novel's first draft and I continue revising it as I revise the manuscript. The shorter versions are crafted from the completed long synopsis.
Now it's your turn. When do you write your synopsis?
By Patricia Stoltey, who is currently in the process of creating that first draft synopsis from a first draft manuscript that is about 80% complete.