The Synopsis is like winning on several lines of slot play. Are you shaking your head at me, wondering how I could ever claim that the dreadworthy synopsis is, gulp, a good thing multiple times over?
Because I used to hate writing them too.
I waited until the book was finished to try to distill it to a 2 page synopsis and a 1-2 paragraph query hook. I would throw myself on the floor bemoaning the impossibility.
Scraped-skin-across-tar painful? Yup.
And much easier to do if you start it in the drafting phase, when you don’t know where the novel will end, but you need a roadmap. I give myself some leeway and let the drafting synopsis reach five, gasp, pages.
That’s what the drafting version of the synopsis does. It lets you know what comes next. Helps you over the hump of Writer’s Block.
It tells you when you’ve veered off on a tangent.
Not that tangents are bad. Sometimes they become the story. But the synopsis is your map. It reminds you that you’re changing your book as you go and that changes have ripple effects.
Writing a synopsis during the drafting phase forces you to plot out your book. And also draws attention to gaps in the plot before the book is done.
Plus the practice of writing one helps.
When you get to revision, you know what you thought was important in drafting. And now might not be. You get to hack away at the drafting synopsis, sculpting it to a lean, soon-to-be-querying machine.
Revision is a time when the story changes so the synopsis must conform to all plot shifts. The synopsis’ brevity forces you to isolate your one main plot.
The synopsis is an essential querying tool (read agent-requested material for evaluating a book). It helps sell your book at the querying stage.
It also helps crystallize in your mind what the central plot is and how to succinctly describe it. The synopsis will help you determine genre and impact your pitch too.
For me, having a synopsis during each of these three phases streamlined my work time and created a better manuscript.
Do you still hate synopses?
But do you see their inherent value?