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Getting through the one-page synopsis is not enough for me. I don’t feel comfortable writing until I have a complete map of the story. However, before I can expand the one-page synopsis to a longer one, I have more story questions to answer.
Advanced Plotting and the Longer Synopsis:
1. Answer the following questions.
- After the hook (set-up) and the character leaves the ordinary world, what events could happen to get the character to the midpoint of the novel? Brainstorm different options and weigh each to make sure they serve to advance your character to her next plot point. For each event, write how the character grows, how the stakes rise, and how the conflict increases. You might not use everything you think of, but it’s nice to have options.
- Do the same for the mid-point to the black moment. The black moment is the point in the story where the character loses hope of achieving her goal. In a romance, it's when either the hero, heroine, or both decide they cannot be together. The events you brainstorm should escalate to make things worse for your character in terms of her story goal.
2. When you've decided on key events/scenes leading the character from the ordinary world to the mid-point, then from the mid-point to the black moment, you are ready to expand the one-page synopsis to a double-spaced longer synopsis. I aim for five pages, but many editors prefer even longer. Use your discretion. You can always add or delete later.
- Save your one-page synopsis as a new file. This is the base of your longer synopsis.
- After the paragraph where your character leaves the ordinary world, write two or three (or more) paragraphs describing the events leading up to the midpoint. Emphasize why the events are important and how they affect the main characters. In other words, include the “because” with the “and then.”
- Skip to the paragraph about the mid-point, and following it, write two or three (or more) paragraphs describing the events leading from the mid-point to the black moment.
- Flesh out any paragraphs from the one-page synopsis that need more explanation.
Don't forget, a synopsis gives an editor all of your book's major plot points, including any twists, and the ending. This isn't the place to play coy. Make sure the character development shines through.
Remember, you'll need to review and revise your synopsis when you've completed the book. My characters always reveal nuances I wasn't aware of before I wrote, and I make sure the book accurately reflects these by revising my initial synopsis.
At this point, you should feel comfortable with where your book is headed. If all this plotting makes you cry “uncle,” then stop here. But there’s another step to take if you want to plot your book in more detail. I consider it advanced plotting. It's where you plot each scene before you write the book. If you're interested in plotting one or more scenes, stop by on Monday for a full description of Plotting the Scene.
Whether you decide to try a few steps, write your one-page synopsis, or go all the way and write the long synopsis before writing, I hope this information leads you to a better understanding of your book. But remember, there is no right way or wrong way to write. If plotting doesn’t suit you, don’t force it.
The full article is available on the articles page of my website, Jill Kemerer, and it is linked on the side of my blog.
Thank you for joining me this week. Have a wonderful weekend!