Monday, January 28, 2008

How Your Synopsis Can Help (Yes, You Read That Right)

Maven Darcy BurkeGood Monday Mooorrrning Mavenland! Before I jump into the regularly-scheduled post, I want to make sure you're as excited as we Mavens are about our Second Choose Your Own Adventure kicking off this Friday, February 1 (and I have to shout out that Feb. 1 is also my daughter's 7th birthday!) and culminating on Valentine's Day. We have a rockin' lineup of authors so don't miss even one installment! Be sure to vote on the genre over on the left.

As always, the Manuscript Mavens would like to thank CYOA for graciously letting us borrow the "Choose Your Own Adventure" name. Choose Your Own Adventure is a trademark of Chooseco LLC, Waitsfield, VT. Check them out at The trademark has been used by permission herein. Thanks, CYOA!

By now you are dying to know how your synopsis can do anything but be a giant pain in your rear. I can't believe I'm saying this, but your synopsis can be a helpful tool, and not just for selling your book. I might not have realized this if Maven Erica hadn't drawn my attention to something quite extraordinary last week.

Let me back up. I have to start with the storyboard and how incredibly easy it makes writing a synopsis. And it's not just the storyboard, it's the prework for the storyboard. Knowing your GMC, story threads, and turning points for each thread basically provides the outline for the synopsis. I'm telling you, I've never written a synopsis so quickly and easily as I did for Her Wicked Ways last week. I propped the board up, whipped open the laptop, and cranked that sucker out!

I can hear what you're saying, "Yes, Darcy, we get that storyboarding is awesome and so far you've told us how it's helpful for writing a synopsis. But how on earth is the synopsis itself helpful?" In a synopsis, you have to boil things down to the barest minimum. Include just the highlights of your story threads, and perhaps not even every story thread. It was this last thing that had me thinking.

You may remember last week I talked about how I divorced my current WIP from another book. In the process of doing that, I was able to tweak the heroine's back story so that it actually made more sense for the story I wanted to tell for her (no more forcing things to fit an existing plot!). Well, when I wrote the synopsis, another bit of her back story sort of stood out as unnecessary clutter. I didn't need it in the synopsis and then I asked myself if I even needed it in the book. I ran it by the Mavens and Maven Erica said, "This is the second time writing a synopsis has streamlined your plot. I find that really interesting. You should blog about that some time." (She didn't say streamlined, but that was the gist, I think.) I hadn't realized writing synopses had done that for me, but she was right! (And it was darned nice of her to suggest a blog topic!)

When I wrote the synopsis for Glorious, I had a similar epiphany and tweaked the story accordingly. Voila! Instant brilliance! All from the synopsis. (Okay, maybe not instant.) Who knew the synopsis could bring the truly important pieces of your plot into crystalline focus? Instead of looking at the synopsis as a dreaded summary I must write, I think I've decided it's my friend. The friend who tells me what really matters to my book. Wow, did I blow your mind? The synopsis is your friend.

Where's the strangest place you learned something about your book or your writing? What tools have been helpful for navigating your plot as you write and revise?


Vicki said...

Another great post and it couldn't be at a better time. I'm writing the POS synopsis now.

Oh how I wish I had storyboarded this book. (sigh) I did not. Have one and have never used it. Maven E is going to change that though!! So maybe the next synopsis will be much easier.

Anonymous said...

I've never storyboarded. I find them too cumbersome, but since I've never tried it, maybe it's all perspective.

The fastest synopsis I've ever done is on a short story currently under consideration at Ellora's Cave. I literally did the 3 page synopsis after writing about 2500 words, because I felt it was the best way not to go over their max word count.

Maybe that was a shortened version of storyboarding?

Writer & Cat said...

A lot of people swear by collaging. I'm supposed to lead a collaging workshop for my chapter in March, which is a bloody joke, but maybe if I lead the meeting, I won't have to cut and paste.

Jody W.

lacey kaye said...

I totally agree synopses are not the devil. I don't even think they're that awful to write. I am NOT a fan of editing them. What to keep? What to lose?

Can't wait to see how the ol' SB helps out! (Or read yours...I'm getting to it, I swear.)

Darcy Burke said...

I hear ya Vicki re: "I wish I had a storyboard." I wish I had a dime for every time I've said that about Glorious.

Christine, I don't find the storyboard cumbersome, but I also don't lug it around. I do use it a lot. More than I ever thought I would. It's frightening how much actually.

LOL, Jody. I haven't tried collaging. Let us know how it goes!

Lacey may not like to edit her own, but she's hella good at editing other people's! (No, that is not an invitation to ask Lacey to read your synopsis. Lacey's going to kill me!)

Jackie Barbosa said...

I love the way writing a synopsis, just for myself, can clarify where I'm going with the story before I get onto a wrong path (although I have had times where I've written a synopsis I thought made perfect sense only to discover as I wrote that the characters were having none of it, lol).

If I had to pick the tool that's helped me the most in identifying the crucial aspects of a story is to write the hook/blurb first. That boils down the essence of the story to a very few words, and that keeps me from starting a story that goes in five directions at once (a failing of mine!).

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens