Is a Synopsis Too Old School?


I’m teaching my synopsis workshop at CRW this month (June) and wondering if I’ll actually ever teach it again. Once upon a time, a synopsis was mandatory–you needed one to pitch editors and agents, and you needed one for just about any writing contest. Now the world is more about self publishing, and I’m there, too. But I still actually end up doing a synopsis.

Maybe it’s habit, maybe training, but I find a synopsis actually has a lot of use.

First off, it helps me when I get stuck or lost, which happens every book. I need to have something to remind me that ‘oh, yeah, that’s what I was thinking.’

I generally do the synopsis by hand, not computer. You just think differently with a pen and paper, and ideas can be a little more loose, and I can let my mind wander a bit. I don’t have to worry just yet about putting things together.

Then I need to to clarify my thoughts in general. Until it’s on a page, ideas are like vague mist–they dissolve way too easily. If I write it down, the ideas become solid, and the flaw also show up so I can fix them.

Which brings up the next thing–it is far easier to fix plot holes, and lack of character development, and an unclear theme, and weak motivations, and all the other structural issues in a synopsis. If I fix it there, I avoid massive rewrites. I may have to tweak the structure once I get writing, and it may drift a little, but I know the character arcs are solid, and so is the pacing.Davinia's Duke

I did this with Davina’s Duke, my most recent novella (which was awarded the Indie BRAG Gold Medallion for independently published books. I got stuck, remembered, oh, yeah, I don’t have a synopsis, and went back to figure out what the heck I was doing. Maybe some folks can keep that all in their heads…I certainly can’t. Once I knew where I was going again, I was able to pull the novella back on track and get it done.

And these days, if you are self publishing, you need marketing copy. Yes, you can hire this out, but that is one more expense. I’d rather develop, edit, revise and polish my own copy to make sure it is just what I want and need.

So maybe a synopsis is old school, but so am I. So I think I’ll keep doing them. Which reminds me, I’ve got to get one done for the novella I just started….

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