Thursday, January 10, 2013

How the evil supervillain SYNOPSIS can make you a better writer.

No, really.

This is an elaboration on a tweet I made Wednesday.

Everyone's method is different, but when I'm crafting a synopsis, it involves three things.

1. Flailing around in my chair, hating everything in sight.
2. Bitching to my CP's/ Writer friends that I'm writing that 'damned synopsis.'
3. Writing the synopsis.

3b. I go through chapter by chapter, and summarize the events in each in a fresh word document. Then when that's done, I go through it and cut or add to the synopsis trying to hit whichever page/ word count I need for the submission.

(Note, I'm speaking specifically about a full synopsis, not a half-page version which is definitely shorter and will leave things out.)

And here's what I've learned from the dreaded synopsis: If I come across an entire chapter that I don't have to mention in the synopsis AT ALL--that chapter isn't necessary to the manuscript.

And I either need to cut the chapter from the manuscript, or fix it.

EVERY chapter should have something happen. EVERY chapter should be vital to the manuscript. Whether it's an event or an emotional realization that draws the plot forward, there needs to be SOMETHING happening to draw the story forward or it's just filler.

It might be the PRETTIEST, WORDIEST, MOST POETIC filler you've written, dripping in wit and humour and raw emotion, but here's where murdering your darlings comes in: It may be an amazing chapter, but if nothing happens, then it needs to go.

If you're married to that chapter staying in your MS, then you need to fix it. MAKE it VITAL to the manuscript. MAKE something happen.

But, I'd say 9/10 times, you can probably just cut it.

I recently deleted an entire chapter, and omfg did that ever hurt. But you know what? I saved that chapter in a document by itself. Maybe I can make that beautiful chapter into something else some day.

But it's not meant for that MS.

And it was The Dreaded Synopsis that taught me that lesson.


  1. I'm thinking of taking all of those cut chapters and putting them in a vase on the counter. They'll start to stink eventually, and then it will be easier to throw them out...

  2. Great advice! The synopsis is so evil... and yet so helpful.

  3. Sometimes the synopsis is a lifesaver. Feel free to continue complaining about them, though. They are still excruciating to write, however necessary. :)