Monday, December 29, 2008

A Year in the Life...

This year is about over, and a new one will begin later this week. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but I do believe in looking back over the past year just to see where I was at this time last year – what’s the same and what’s different. Let me tell you, it’s been a busy year. Insanely busy.

I could have started writing everything that had happened, and all the little things that happened as a result of the big things, but then I’d be here for the rest of the week. I don’t have time for that, so, instead, I focus on only the big things. The things that changed either me or my life in some way.

I think this is not unlike writing the synopsis for a novel. I think a synopsis should contain the major plot points, but also the major points that change the character in some way, either internally or externally. Here are the things I do to write a synopsis:

1. Go through each chapter and write down the major plot point, plus my absolute favorite part. If they happen to be the same, even better.
2. Make a list of all of these pieces, then turn them into a narrative (present tense, single spaced).
3. This is always longer than one page, because there are always too many pieces of the story that I love and want to include. So I go through each item and prune out anything that’s not part of the story’s framework, or skeleton. I keep doing this until I’m down to a single page.
4. Tighten up word choice, review spelling and grammar/punctuation, and polish until it shines.

What I have left are the most important pieces of the story, both to me, and to the story. This is also a good exercise in pacing – if I can’t find the major piece in a chapter, then maybe I need to rethink that chapter.

Anyway, that’s what I do to write a synopsis. What do you do?

8 comments:

Marcia said...

What do I do? Well, that pretty much sums it up, LOL. I really like your point about pacing. The chapter by chapter approach forces you to figure out if each chapter has its reason for being and pushes the story forward.

Angie Frazier said...

I do the same thing! I also do this chapter-by-chapter break down to see if anything in the chapter isn't truly useful. If not, I ditch it (meaning, I put it into a "cut and use later" file--b/c I can't truly kill my darlings!).

Lady Glamis said...

If you've ever done the Snowflake Outline, that's what I do. It includes the three different "acts" of a story. Like a play. The three main "disasters" of the MC, and how they are resolved.

It's the short synopsis I usually tweak and edit for my queries.

Christina Farley said...

Oh I just pull my hair out. And then scream a little too.

PJ Hoover said...

A synopsis is a painful thing. I used to have a hard time writing under seven page ones, but now I can manage to get it to a page. I only mention characters who are very main and needed I try to entice. it's still hard.

Tabitha said...

Marcia & Angie - how funny that we do the same thing! :) And I can't truly kill my darlings either...I put them into the 'coma' file. :)

Lady Glamis - very cool! I've heard that's very effective, though some love it and some hate it. Glad it's working for you! :)

Christina - LOL!! Yeah, I do some of that too.

PJ - It sure is hard. And what works for one person may not work for another, which can make it all the more frustrating. But I'm glad you've found something that works for you. :)

Mary Witzl said...

I think your way makes good sense and I wish I had such a systematic approach. A friend of mine taught me my way of doing it. She imagines her novel as a movie and pictures the most important scenes, trimming and polishing up as she sees fit. I've been muddling through that way myself, but having read this, I wonder if the chapter-to-chapter approach wouldn't be a little more practical. I'll give it a go and see how it works.

Carrie Harris said...

Well, my first step to writing a synopsis involves swearing a lot. The second step involves liquor. ;)

Can't stand synopses.