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I used to hate them because the ones I wrote sucked all the life from the novel, reducing it to bare-bones sentences that did nothing to capture the depth of the novel itself. Now I hate writing synopses because they are much more difficult to write than the novel ever was.
It's not easy distilling ,odd words into a few pages. The synopsis is the most important part of your submission package and, as such, it has to be developed and sweated over and polished with the same attention you devoted to the novel itself.
Along with the cover letter, the synopsis is what sells the editor on the manuscript. If they don't see anything they like in the synopsis, they won't even glance at your chapter samples. The synopsis is your sales pitch. Think of it as the jacket blurb for your novel the synopsis is often used in writing this, and by the publisher's art and advertising departments, if the novel is purchasedand write it as though you're trying to entice a casual bookstore browser to buy the novel and read it.
Which isn't too far from actuality. This is something I have to do, and do well. Do it step by step. The first step, of course, is realizing that you're going to have to write a synopsis -- if you intend to market your novel, that is. The best time to realize this is just before you sit down with your manuscript for the final reading preparatory to declaring the thing completed.
Sit down to that final reading with a pen and paper beside you. As you finish reading each chapter, write down a one- or two-paragraph summary of what happened where, and to which character, in that chapter. Notice any themes running through your chapters as you're reading?
Symbolism you didn't realize you'd woven through the story while you were slogging away at the computer for all those months? The subconscious mind is a wonderful thing. Take note of themes, too.
You may just discover your one-line story summary that agents and editors like so much, if you didn't know what it was before.
Or even if you thought you knew what it was, before surprise, says the Muse, you were wrong. What you will have when you are done is a chapter-by-chapter novel outline, what I call my author's outline. This is pretty dry reading, and since chapter-by-chapter outlines seem to have fallen out of favor with editors and agents, this will likely remain one of your most valuable writing tools, and that's about it.
Don't throw this away when you've done your synopsis, either. You may know the story intimately now, but you do forget details over time. You may decide to revise the novel in the future, and this outline will help you. I've used mine to make sure I'm not duplicating character names from one project to the next.
The subconscious mind can also booby-trap you. Reading an outline is much easier than leafing through or rereading an entire novel. There is an immediate use for that outline.
What you are doing, basically, is distilling the story down into smaller and more manageable packages, step by step. So, you pinpoint the most important plot points in that outline, and you put them into a synopsis.
Notice I said the most important points. We're talking about only those events and motivations that moved the story forward in a major way. We're talking about only the most important characters, the ones your reader will ultimately care about, not the bit players.Once you’ve completed an outline, it’s time to put it to use and get to work on your first manuscript draft.
You may have a million questions at this point. Learning how to write a plot outline is an essential skill if you want to become a prolific author. Whether you find the distant target of reaching a substantial word length or the creation of a satisfying, forward-moving plot daunting, if you write a plot outline for your novel in advance you will have a blueprint that you can alter if necessary as you go.
Bella, thank you for sharing this! I’m an outliner, because it helps me write better and faster. I’m a busy direct response copywriter by day, so anything that makes my meager book writing time more productive is invaluable to me.
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This article is the first part of a series about one of my favorite writers, Michael Moorcock, which will culminate in an interview with the man himself.
When to Structure Your Story’s Outline If structure is one of the most important factors in the success of a story, you’d think it would make sense to start your outline by figuring out the structure of your Three .