I’ve been experiencing a bit of a stall out with the new project and decided to change things up a bit. I could keep going on as I have–as I did with the last book–and spend weeks floundering around before I really get down to the nitty gritty of writing. OR…I could try something different with my writing process. Something that strikes terror into my writer’s heart at the mere mention of the word. Yes, that’s right.
I’ve decided to write the synopsis first. Gulp!
I’m still working out my writing process, so I can’t really call this a radical departure. Still, I’m having to change my mindset about synopsis writing and that is daunting. I’ve always viewed the synopsis (along with the query letter) as the most difficult part of writing. I’ve never liked writing them, but that was mostly because I could never really figure out what they should contain. I know there’s a lot of “how-to” information on the interwebz–God knows there are plenty of online workshops on the subject. And there are always workshops at RWA National, some combining synopsis with queries and pitches, some just on the synopsis. I’m not alone; synopsis writing is a topic that strikes fear in the heart of many writers.
However, something happened while I was frantically trying to figure out how to write the synopsis for The Lazarus Gambit. One of the links coughed up in a Google search led me to an article by Hope Ramsay titled The Seven Paragraph Synopsis on The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. In it, she boiled the synopsis down to (what I’d consider to be) the bones of the story. Those paragraphs are enough on their own, if written well, but they also provide the framework for a longer synopsis, if required.
Once I’d written my initial seven paragraph synopsis of The Lazarus Gambit, I went right back and re-wrote it–five times. I’m still not 100% satisfied with it, but each time through was a learning experience. I’m rather embarrassed to admit it, but I think I may have learned more about the story than I did while I was writing it. Writing that synopsis was, for me, a revelation.
I’d always thought writing a synopsis before writing the story was: a) something only published writers did (for book proposals), and b) something that would kill the story for me (a fear I’ve long held). Part of the reason I believed writing the synopsis first would kill a story is that I truly thought a synopsis had to be several pages of detailed information. Trust me, that’s not what goes into those seven paragraphs. All you have room for is the essence of the story, not what happens in each and every scene. Like I said, a revelation.
My plan is to work on the seven paragraph synopsis first. I’ll be doing this with the understanding that it’s a very loose outline at this point and subject to change. But at least I’ll have a framework I can build upon. We’ll see how it goes. If it works, it’ll be another tool in my writer’s tool chest. If it doesn’t, well, no harm, no foul.