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Using Your Synopsis to Improve Your Book

The dreaded synopsis. It’s the rare author who truly embraces the synopsis, even those who consider themselves plotters. Mostly I guess, because the synopsis you write for submission is probably quite different from the one you write to plot the book for yourself. For one, you’ll be forced to write complete sentences.

Most of my clients write, or at least send, the synopsis last. Usually they work hard on those submission chapters and send me the synopsis only after we’ve got the chapters nailed down. The problem with this is that a synopsis can, and should, greatly change the chapters you first started with. It’s something I hadn’t really thought of until recently and something I bet a lot of authors ignore.

When I review a synopsis, I’m looking at it as if I’m reading a condensed version of the book. I want to know how the characters are going to grow and change, if the plot is smooth and makes sense, and if it takes the story to the level I think that particular story needs to be taken to. So when I edit a synopsis I’m editing to make sure all of those things are in there. Sometimes that means adding or improving upon the story in a way that changes the first chapters you’ve written. Which means, you might need to go through and rewrite or at least heavily revise the chapters we once thought were complete.

Just as I’ve often recommending writing your pitch before you write your book, I recommend reviewing and potentially revising chapters once the synopsis has been finalized. Writing a synopsis, like a pitch, should give you insight into what makes your story stronger.

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9 comments

  1. This is great information. I am working on my synopsis along with my revision of my novel. As I track the plot, character development, and conflict/tension, and pacing. I’m finding for me, subsequent drafts is where my story comes alive.

  2. In a dual POV manuscript, does the synopsis need to reflect the flow with a few paragraphs from the second POV character? Thanks!

  3. I started doing this a few years ago and now try to write a synopsis before I start a new book. I found it helped keep me on track with the story. It’s not set in stone, I still make changes to the plot as I write, but having the synopsis makes a huge difference. It’s worth that bit of pain at the start, plus it’s nice to not have to face an icky task straight after writing ‘the end’.

  4. I love synopses! Usually it’s my outlines that end up being “processed” into synposes, but since I diligently adjust the outline as the plot moves along, in the end all the work that’s left is polishing. So no skull breaker. I love writing synopses, they are a wonderful tool.

  5. I just wrote a synopsis for a contest entry, and it really helped focus my book. I now need to do another round of revisions, mostly for emphasis and character arcs that are too implicit, or have small (but key) moments left out.

    I love the synopsis. The query still gives me fits, however.

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