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How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week 8, Writing the Synopsis

Updated on September 16, 2008
Photo: nuanc,Flickr
Photo: nuanc,Flickr

I'm so excited to write this because writing the preliminary synopsis for my novel has made this my favorite week so far! Maybe it's just because I've been writing actually sentences on formatted pages in Word instead of fragments in Excel cells. It's been great fun fleshing out scenes and, in the process, coming up with even more ideas and character traits. Most of all, writing the synopsis has really boosted my confidence that - yes, I can do it!

Aren't You Supposed to Write the Synopsis at the End?

Your synopsis is a powerful tool to sell your completed novel, and it won't really be complete until you're finished. However, there are some good reasons to take a first pass at it before you start to write your first scene.

Writing the synopsis helps you identify holes in the plot in a way that's different from writing the outline. At least that's how it worked for me. As the juices started to flow I came up with better ideas for actions and characterization. Writing a very condensed version of the whole story activated my gut feeling about what flowed and what was out of whack.

The other main reason I wrote my synopsis up front was that I'm working with a critique group. The synopsis makes a very nice document to share. I know my group will point out my weak areas and provide invaluable insight. The synopsis facilitates that process.

The Mechanics of the Synopsis

Once again, I followed The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing when it came to formatting and structuring my synopsis. Here are the basics:

  • Written in present tense
  • 1 page of synopsis per 25 pages of novel, double spaced
  • Told in chronological order, leaving out nothing - not even your precious surprise ending
  • Write tight and include your characters' emotional motivations
  • Punch it up in the last act with shorter sentences and more active language

Eventually your synopsis is going to be the primary tool that sells you novel. According to Marshall, your first novel is the only one you should ever have to write in full before selling it. Isn't that amazing? Think about it - you put all this effort into writing your novel, writing a great synopsis is the first step in making sure that work pays off. Of course you'll need to change things as you write. That's okay. It's not a reason to forego writing your first draft now.

Once I'm finished with my novel, I'll go back and polish, polish, polish! And by the time I send that sucker off, guess what I'll be doing? Working on the next one!

See Also:

How to Write a Novel in Six Months, One Writer's Journey

Week 1, Mapping Out the Six Month Plan

Week 2, Resources on Structure

Week 3, Index Cards Are My Friends

Week 4, Sketching Characters

Week 5, Researching Agents

Week 6, Outlining

Week 7, Detail Scene Beats

Week 8, Writing the Synopsis

Weeks 9 - 18, Drafting Updates

Week 19, Sanity Break

Week 20, Transitions

Week 21, Reading the Draft

Weeks 22 - 24 First Revision

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  • CreativeReaction profile image

    CreativeReaction 6 years ago from Virginia

    This is incredibly relevant to me... Thanks so much for this insightful and detailed guide. I am in the midst of trying to pen my first novel and as a "by the seat of my pants" writer I am having a difficult time getting to business. How to Write a Novel in Six Months is giving me a ton of great writing practices. I applaud your efforts and dedication! Thanks again!

  • Whitney05 profile image

    Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

    I'm going to have to print these out when you're finished, so taht I can read them more thoroughly. I think I could implement these tactics to finally finishing my own.

  • Lela Davidson profile image
    Author

    Lela Davidson 8 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Thanks MasonsMom and Earth Angel! It has been an exciting weekend working out the bumps and holes in my story, but I've gotten it to a pretty good place. After I make the final edits that are scribbled all over the hard copy, I'll be ready to share it with my writing group. Wish me luck - tomorrow I start writing my first scene!

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 8 years ago

    You GO Girl!! I am sooooooooooooo delighted to hear you are still faithfully at it!! You are an inspiration to all of us "fly by the seat of our pants" writers!! I am charmed by your honesty!! And your discipline!! I think we all look forward to reading your book!! Blessings always, Earth Angel!!