Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Do You Struggle With What To Write Next?

Synopsis Series: Part 1

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have a few hours set aside to do some writing. You sit down with a coffee or tea and re-read the past couple of pages. You have a vague idea of where the scene is going and what happens after that, but when it comes to writing the actual words… nothing.

You struggle to get the scene right for a few hours, and the end of of your writing session, you have only written a few hundred words. And you’re not even sure they’re good words. You really love your story, but when it comes to getting it down on paper, its just so hard.

Other writers seem to get much higher word counts, it seems like they are just better at thinking than you are. You’re pretty sure there’s nothing you can do about it, its just how you are.

The truth is, its probably not ‘how you are’, rather you’re just not working with a proper synopsis.


What is a synopsis?

In the context of a novel a synopsis can refer to two things:

1. A plan and scene-by-scene break down of your entire book that you use as a guide to write it.

2. A plot summary you give to agents and publishers so they have an overview of your story without having to read the whole thing.

While these seem similar and both called synopsis, they are not the same thing. If you think your synopsis can be used for both of these, you either have a terrible book plan to write off, or a terrible summary to give to agents and editors, or more than likely, both.

But that’s okay, its rare to meet an author who is good at either!

Maybe you don’t like working from a synopsis, and you’re ready to stop reading now, but stick with me to the end. Give me a chance to change your mind. Lets look at the pros and cons of writing with a proper synopsis.

CONS:

- Boredom: Knowing what is going to happen just makes the book boring to write.
 

- Hard work: Writing a good synopsis takes time and hard word, its much more fun to just start writing.

- Inflexibility: You’ll end up torturing the plot to keep it in line with the synopsis, rather than letting it flow naturally.


PROS:

- Productivity: Knowing what will happen next means massive word counts.

- Easy-breezy Writing: All the hard work has been done before you start writing the first draft.

- Less Editing: Plot holes are patched, character arcs are complete and in place, stakes, conflict and tension are all clear and easy to follow building to a breathtaking climax, all before you begin.

- Less Wasted Time: If a story just doesn’t work, you find out before you start writing, instead of 12 months later when you have a complete first draft that is unsalvageable.

- Industry Preparedness - The first time you sell a book, you have to write the whole book first. However by your fifth book, you will be signing contracts based on a synopsis, and you have to be able to deliver a novel based on the synopsis you have provided!



How Can A Synopsis Make You A Better Writer?

Imagine you sit down to write for the day. You have the same few hours as last time, but today you have a detailed, complete synopsis for your novel. You read it through before you begin for the day and then you start writing right away, no need to sit and think about what is going to happen next.

The tension between your two main characters is almost unbearable, but you know you need to hold it for two more chapters, when it will have the biggest emotional impact. You know even though it seems like they are never going to forgive each other, everything is going to turn around when they confront the villain and the truth is revealed. So you can focus all your attention in this scene on raising the stakes and adding the finishing touches to your red herring, that you started setting up in chapter two.

Its a very convincing red herring and you are certain your readers are going to be shocked at the reveal. Even though you know the twist, you are excited about writing it. Its just so clever! You’re proud of yourself for coming up with it. And you’re proud of the incredible tension and high stakes in this scene. If you didn’t have a synopsis, you would struggle for weeks to come up with a way out of this crisis for your characters, and you’d run the risk of it being a bit deus ex machina. But since it was all planned in the synopsis stage, you have been able to thread in all the parts you need from the beginning. You know it will feel clever instead of slapdash.

The conflict between your characters is so intense it almost brings you to tears, but you finish the day having easily written over 1000 words per an hour. You’ve completed another scene and you’re excited about the scenes to come. Even though you know what will happen, writing is so much fun when its easy and you leave every session with 3000 more words!

Does that could like a good writing day? When I am mentoring writers, I find it much more productive to give feedback on a synopsis than the novel itself. Ideally, I would always be working with someone on their synopsis /before they begin writing/, not after, when they have a whole novel to fix.

In part, that is why I am writing this blog series. So you can learn how to fix all the problems with your novel BEFORE YOU WRITE IT.

If you write a synopsis, get feedback, address all the issues, get feedback again and keep repeating until the synopsis is solid and plot hole free, THEN write the novel, the only editing you will need to do is typos and stylistic stuff. Yes, synopsis are hard work, and yes, they aren’t always fun to write (I actually love writing them, so don’t assume you will hate it, you might love it too when you learn how to do it properly!), but they save you so much time, pain, frustration and heartache in the long run, I think its crazy to write without one.

Over the next eleven weeks, I am going to show you HOW to write a synopsis, so that your novel is successful before you even start writing it.

Stay tuned, because next week is part two: The 5 Parts Of A Synopsis.


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