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Monday, July 8, 2013

#2 - Writing A Synopsis (HOWNTWAN)

This is the second article in the semi-comedic series of How Not To Write A Novel (HOWNTWAN). The first article in the series can be found here: What's Your Story About? Keep reading over the next couple months for the rest of the series.

2. Writing A Synopsis

It’s probably not that important to write a synopsis to a novel before you start writing it. After all, that would probably take away from the organic and creative nature of the story-writing process.
I wonder if Stephen King writes a synopsis? Or J.K. Rowling for that matter? No, I’m confident they just get out some paper, and write. After all, they have an idea of what they want to say - at least for the first paragraph or two, anyway. So, you can do exactly the same. You know you want to write a wonderful novel, full of action, mystery, and pathos. Its going to be about something sort of semi-autobiographical anyway, so it’ll be easy. You just need to get the first page written and the rest will come. How’s the story going to end? You’re not quite sure yet, but there’s a good chance the hero will stop everything from getting blown-up.
Yep, no need to write a synopsis at all. Besides which, synopses are boring. Who can even spell the word, anyway? And if you have to write several hundred words about your story even before you write it; well, where’s the fun in that?
Is it any wonder that once new authors finish their story (and actually even this percentage is fairly low), they have to go back and figure what the hell actually happened in it? There are pieces of plot scattered all over the book, like an exploded bomb. Nothing flows, and so the rewrites begin. Wind forward another year, and onto the third rewrite. Now the author is getting a little dismayed - the novel may never quite get finished. I have seen this so many times before. Heck, I even know a few wannabe authors who are on their fourth or fifth rewrite.
“Where’s your synopsis?” I ask.
“I don’t have time for that,” they reply. “I’ve already written the book. I know how it ends.”
I know how it ends. As if this is the only important thing in the whole story. It’s a funny thing, but all books have endings (I didn’t say happy ones, or even ones that make sense, but they all do have endings). But not every book has a plot that you can follow, or one that doesn’t have gaping holes in it, or one that actually makes any sense. Where are the synopses for these books? I doubt they even exist.
Writing a synopsis of your book should be one of the first things you actually do. It’s a bit like a recipe. If you’re making spaghetti and meatballs, you’d better not only have all the ingredients, but also a recipe to put it all together. It’s no different writing a story. All the elements that go into a book are no good without the method and recipe. You don’t cook the spaghetti before you make the meatballs, and you don’t add the chopped up onions to the mix at the very last moment (unless you’re making some kind of meatballs I have never tasted before). It’s exactly the same with a book. Write the damn synopsis first. It’s only a few hundred words. Besides which, doing this may actually help you realize it’s going to be a tough job making these two hundred words into an 80,000 word novel. The synopsis may actually tell you you’re going to need a few more ingredients in the recipe. Ground beef and spaghetti aren’t the only things that go into spaghetti and meatballs; there may even be cause to add some herbs and spices. And most good novels I’ve read have herbs and spices aplenty.

Anyway, enough said. If you’re happy to keep your day job, leave out the synopsis. Just start writing your book. I wish you the very best of fortunes!

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