Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Five Core Parts Of A Good Synopsis

 Synopsis Series: Part 2

I keep taking about ‘proper’ synopsises, but in truth there are many fantastic ways to do a synopsis and they can be quite different. What I am talking in this blog series is how I do synopises, so lets call it ‘The Jake Corvus Method’.

What Are The Parts Of A Synopsis Using The Jake Corvus Method?

1. Overview - Your overview gives you the basic details of your novel structure. It should contain information such as the target audience, the genre, the intended word count, the number of chapters and the goal word count per chapter based on those two numbers. EG: 80,000 words, divided by 25 chapters is 3200 words per chapter. This will help you balance your scenes later on in planning. You will not have to stick to this word or chapter count exactly, its just a guideline. It will help you produce a manuscript that is the right length and format for your target audience.

2. Character Profiles - Eye color, hair color, height, right? Nope. Character profiles are critical, but probably not in the way you think, or in the way you are used to writing them. By all means, you can jot down some notes about appearance so they don’t change half way through the book. However the real core of character profiles is motivations, goals and stakes. Your novel plot revolves around the conflicting goals and desires of your hero and your villain. So starting with these elements, weaving them into the character before you begin writing so they are central to their very being, will give you a stronger, more appealing story. Your villain (and sub villain!) profiles will be even more important than your main characters. No one being mentored by me is ever going to have the problem of getting half way through a book and realizing they have no proper antagonist!

3. World Building - Depending on the genre and locale of your novel’s setting, this could either be huge and complicated, or reasonably simple. If your novel takes place in a contemporary setting, particularly somewhere you are familiar with, this might only consist of some local maps, photos and a few details you need to keep straight in your head. If you are creating a setting from scratch, such as a fantasy or sci fi universe, it could be long and extensive. Any setting you create from scratch has to have the diversity and infrastructure in place to feel realistic. That means a realistic ecosystem (dragons are all well and good, but there has to be a reliable food source for them!) and fantasy cities need to deal with the realities of mundane life. How does a floating city provide enough food for all its people? If a city is underground, where does all the sewerage go? What happens when the surface floods? There can be a lot to think about!

4. Simple Synopsis
- This is a bullet point list of scenes, largely used for brainstorming and putting things in order before you start your detailed synopsis. If you have written a synopsis before, it probably looked very similar to what I call a simple synopsis. In short, a simple synopsis is where you brainstorm all the scenes you want in the book, and give them a 1-2 line summary, and put them in roughly the order you want them to occur. The real work comes in the next part, the detailed synopsis.

5. Detailed Synopsis - This is the big meaty, sometimes scary part of the synopsis. You may look at the other four items on the list and think: ‘What is left? Surely I already have a synopsis now!’. Not even close. The detailed synopsis is where the real work starts. Its also where the MAGIC starts. In our detailed synopsis, we aren’t just going to cover what happens in scenes and why, we’re going to track our narrative traction, our emotional beats, the two purposes of each scene and the character arc of each character in the scene. But don’t worry, each of those elements will have its own dedicated blog post. When we are finished this blog series, you aren’t going to feel overwhelmed, you are going to feel like an expert. And you’re going to have the best damn novel synopsis you have ever written in your life.


And don’t forget to sign up to my amazing mailing list at It contains book news, stories too personal for facebook, movie reviews and when you first sign up, you get the full, unabridged version of the chicken story!


1. Do You Struggle With What To Write Next?
2. The Five Core Parts Of A Good Synopsis
3. The Command Center of Your Novel
4. Characters Readers Remember Forever
5. Character Mistakes You Can't Afford To Make
6. Building An Empire

Wednesday, November 7, 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.


- 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.


- 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.


And don’t forget to sign up to my amazing mailing list at It contains book news, stories too personal for facebook, movie reviews and when you first sign up, you get the full, unabridged version of the chicken story!


1. Do You Struggle With What To Write Next?
2. The Five Core Parts Of A Good Synopsis
3. The Command Center of Your Novel
4. Characters Readers Remember Forever
5. Character Mistakes You Can't Afford To Make
6. Building An Empire