Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing the Synopsis Before the Book: Part Two

Today we're looking at the step-by-step process of writing a one-page synopsis before the book.

If you missed part one of this series, scroll down to the previous post to learn the basics needed before you start your synopsis.

Basic Plotting and the One-Page Synopsis:

1. Write the summary of your book in one sentence of fifteen words or less.

2. Get to know your characters. Figure out the main characters' goals, motivations, conflicts. For romance writers, nail down what is keeping your hero and heroine from falling in love.

3. Expand your fifteen word sentence to five sentences:
    a. The Hook (Story set-up)
    b. Leaves Ordinary World (Act One)
    c. Mid-Point (Act Two)
    d. Black Moment (Act Three)
    e. Finale (Ending)

4. Expand each of the above sentences into a full paragraph

5. For romance authors: Write one paragraph describing the heroine’s story goal, her motivation to achieve the goal, and the conflict keeping her from getting the goal? Repeat for the hero. Spell out their inner conflicts keeping them from embracing love.

For other authors: Write one paragraph describing the main character’s story goal, the motivation to achieve the goal, and the conflict keeping him or her from getting the goal.

6. Create a file for your new book in your word processor. Create a single-spaced document called one-page synopsis in this file. Copy the paragraphs you wrote in the following order:
  • The hook

  • Heroine’s GMC (goal, motivation, conflict)

  • Hero’s GMC

  • Leaves ordinary world

  • Mid-point

  • Black Moment

  • Finale

Many of you might want to stop here. You have the basics of the story. You have an idea for the beginning, middle and end, and you’re ready to write. The one-page synopsis can easily be double-spaced and expanded into a longer synopsis whenever you decide.

For those who want to continue to intermediate plotting, or writing the long synopsis before the book, stop by on Friday for the final installment.


  1. Love this outline and breakdown, Jill! It's a great reminder to me as I begin to sift through ideas for my next book!

  2. I'll be starting a synopsis for a new book idea soon, so this list is especially helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Just clicked over from twitter. Great post.
    I am a "pantser" who is trying to become a plotter. This will be very helpful.I copied and pasted into my "Motivation" file!

  4. Wonderful posts on synopsis writing, Jill! I'll be coming back to those soon as I tackle my next project.

  5. I like the idea of a synopsis first, and the way it really gets you to think out where the wip will go, ahead of time.

  6. Great guidelines!!! I followed this with my current rewrite of my book and it helped tremendously.

  7. Jody: I print out a sheet with these instructions for each new novel. It takes the guess work out, and helps me keep track of ideas. Have fun with the new book!

    Sarah: You're welcome! You'll have the synopsis written in no time!

    Dawn: Welcome! I'm so glad you found this helpful. The full article is linked on my website: as a pdf file for easy printing.

    Heather: I love the sound of "next project"! Has a nice ring to it!

    Joanne: Yep. Sometimes my ideas get cookie-cutter-ish before I write, so this helps me expand and deepen them before writing.

    Jaime: True! Spending a day or two doing this for a rewrite is a great way to focus. Love that idea!

    Wendy: Ha! You're welcome!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Awesome tips, Jill! I even mentioned your posts on my blog today - I'm definitely trying this method out!

  9. Beth: Wow, thanks! I hope you have fun with it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. This is awesome! I love it. Can't wait until Friday.

  11. Hi Jill -

    You sent shivers down this pantser's spine. I've graduated to working on my characters before writing, but I'm not at this point yet.

    Susan :)

  12. So practical and detailed. You're really working here to give something very valuable to your readers. Kudos to you for it!

  13. Susan M: So glad you're enjoying it!

    Susan JR: Don't panic! Plotting isn't for everyone!

    Cassandra: What a nice compliment. Thank you!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  14. Jill this is excellent!!!! I hope you don't mind I copied into word and am going to use it tonight as I outline. I can't thank you enough for making the outlining process that much easier for me!!

  15. T.Anne: I don't mind at all, in fact, it's linked as a pdf file on the side of my blog. I hope you find it useful!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!


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