Oh, synopses, you wonderful, awful things…

So I just finished powering through another round of edits for Windward to prepare it for RevPit, despite feeling like my brain was leaking out my ears. Yesterday afternoon saw me chugging water and passing out on the couch from busting my butt to beat the deadline (last weekend saw me entering Writers of the Future, so it’s been… a thing).

Anyway, now that I can think and type and actually use words again I wanted to talk about something that I hate. I hate it worse than query writing guys. The dreaded synopsis.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m good at writing synopses, because I really suck at them. But I write them anyway. Why? They are such a valuable tool to check and make sure your story didn’t go off track (especially if you are a discovery writer like me. My stories are always going “track? What track? What’s down this hiiillllllll?!”) Here’s the breakdown.

Synopses can show you plotholes. When you’re writing, it can make total sense that Character A goes off with Character B, but then when you’re reducing that chapter to two sentences for your synopsis and you can’t think of a single good reason for that event… Time to edit! Similarly, because the previous chapter was also two sentences, you can look back and realize that the real answer was there all along! (Why did they fix Thor’s Hammer in Stargate if they weren’t going to use it to de-Goa’uld-ify Share’ when she was pregnant like three episodes later?)

Synopses show you slow sections. If you find you have nothing to write about what happened for an entire chapter… that could be a problem. It’s time then to take another look and see if you can spice things up. Increase the tension, add in a fight, throw in some drama, whatever. Just make sure your random-giant-bashing-through-a-mountain then also still makes sense after the fact.

Writing your synopsis can help you pin down your themes. Then, you can go back through in editing and polish those themes till they shine, creating a cohesive story instead of a series of semi-related events. This is something I really struggled with, and still do some.

Synopses aren’t just for agents and editors. They aren’t something to avoid at all costs. Instead, they are a tool you can use even previous to submitting to agents and editors, to really clean up your story.