Friday, November 19, 2010

Writing the Synopsis Before the Book: Part Three

This week, I'm sharing my method of writing the synopsis before the book. On Monday, we learned what story basics were necessary before we write the synopsis. On Wednesday, we learned the process of writing a one-page synopsis.

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!


  1. Great series, Jill. I use detailed synopses more and more to rehearse the story and make sure the characters and complications are developing, long before I plunge into the actual writing. I'm tweeting this.

  2. I so admire this about you. And I appreciate these tips you've shared! I'm a pantser, but there's no reason I can't implement a little organization, eh?

    Have a great weekend, Jill!

  3. You detailed this so well!

    And I wanted to tell you Jody's post made me cry for you today. (In a good way.)
    ~ Wendy

  4. Great series of articles this week Jill... very helpful information!

  5. A synopsis is so important in engaging an agent's attention, definitely worthy of the work involved in perfecting it. Happy Friday to you :)

  6. Love this and your last post. I'll be plotting my novel in January and will be reviewing your how to's. Great information Jill!

  7. Yay for plotting! :)

    Have a great weekend.

  8. Good series! And I am looking forward to the plotting the scene post. I don't like synopsis writing much but I love plotting for the story!

  9. this type of stuff is the bane of my existence...the BANE, I tell you! ;)

    okay, maybe feeling a little dramatic today.

  10. Good afternoon!

    DirtyWhiteCandy: Well, thank you! I appreciate it!

    Janna: I'm a big believer in trying something and if it works, keep it. If it doesn't--throw it out!

    Wendy: I got teary-eyed myself! If I've learned anything this month, it's that I have amazing friends. I'm so thankful.

    Kelly: Thanks!

    Julie: Thanks!

    Joanne: I agree. A few years ago, I was rejected on a partial based on the synopsis. It IS important!

    Lynn: You are going to have a fun January!

    Erica: Yay!! You too! :)

    Cindy: You and I share similar plotting processes. I love it too!

    Tess: That's why I love you--keep that dramatic side coming!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Great stuff, Jill! I'll have to book mark this page!

  12. I am just amazed at all of this. It is way over my head. I do agree that a one page synopsis is a great idea to start with. And some notes. You are one organized writer!

  13. This has been an amazing series this week, Jill. One I will come back to again when I start plotting again. Very soon, I hope.

  14. Katie: I bookmarked your synopsis page, too!

    Nancy: Ha! Our brains work in mysterious ways. This process works for me! :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Heather: I always say to take what works and leave everything that doesn't. Hope you find it helpful!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  16. Sorry I've been skittish all week hitting blogs. Hope you've had a great week with lots getting done. :O)

  17. Way to organize, lady. You've given me some great tips.

  18. Hi Jill -

    Thanks for a thorough treatment of this subject. I admire your ability to plot. Maybe if I hang around you and others, some of it will rub off on me. :)


  19. What a treasure trove of information! I've immensely enjoyed all of these posts and yes thanks to you I wrote the synopsis for my next WIP before I hit word one on my MS! Thanks Jill!!

  20. Diane: I've been skittish all week too! Hoping to catch up with everyone soon!

    Em: Thanks! I wish my pantry were so organized. :)

    Susan JR: I don't know, I have pantster friends who are AMAZING authors! I say to follow your instincts. But wouldn't it be nice if we lived close to get together? :)

    T.Anne: Woo-hoo!! It's such a weight off to have a synopsis written first! Yay!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. Such great insght into your plotting process! I'm with Tess, I hate synopses and write them as short as possible. But I do love outlining and like you, I can't seem to write without planning it out.

    Thanks for sharing, Jill!

  22. Beyond any doubt blog with useful informations.


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