Why I absolutely, positively must have a plot synopsis

For me, a plot synopsis for every book I write is an absolute necessity.

It’s also an absolute pain in the ass.

Then why do I do it? Writing the little buggers is work. Hard work. No writing project I’ve ever tackled takes me nearly two months to write and polish only 10 to 15 pages. Though it’s not the writing that takes me so long, it’s the brain-cell-killing thinking/plotting. But yet I do it, for each and every book, for two really good reasons.

One reason helps me get book contracts. The other helps me keep my sanity.

My publisher wants a synopsis for my books. They want to know what happens, how it happens, why it happens, and who it happens to before they ask me to sign on the dotted line. They want to know what they’ll be getting for their money. Can’t blame ’em for that.

I need to know those things, too. (This is the sanity-preserving part.) I need to write out, plot out, and figure out my books from the beginning to the end. Those of you who have read any of my books know that I lean toward the complex side of plotting. Nope, I’ve never made anything simple for myself. My books are fantasy adventure, with a sprinkling of intrigue & suspense, a smattering of mystery & thriller, with a dollop of romance. They’re the kind of books that require hints along the way, and I couldn’t drop hints unless I knew where I was going with it. I have to know where the story is going and where it’s going to end up.

The more books I write, the more necessary a plot synopsis is. I’m in the middle of writing my fifth Raine Benares book, and each book builds on the events of the ones before. In fact, the next one essentially picks up where the previous one ended. I’ve got to know exactly where I’m going. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take detours along the way (and I most definitely do), but the framework of the story is always what I write in my synops.

And going through this process doesn’t just save my sanity once I actually start writing — it saves my time. I’ve been writing one book a year — actually one book every 9 months that are published every 12 months. (I’ll save the wacky math involved in that for another post.) I’m writing my fifth and sixth books now. I want to write each of them in 6 months rather than 9. Why? I want to start another series. But my fans want to get their Raine/Mychael/Tam fix once a year.  For me to stand a snowball’s chance in a hot place of being able to do that, I’ll have to speed up my writing process to do two books a year. Combine that with a full-time day job and some simblance of a personal life. 

You see what I’m getting at — I don’t have time to wade through a book and hope my plot hits me over the head. I’ve got to have that worked our before I start writing. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

The shortest length of time between starting a book and finishing it is a plot synopsis. Know where you’re going and you’ll get there quicker.


5 Responses to “Why I absolutely, positively must have a plot synopsis”

  1. 1 Terri-Lynne
    January 12, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Yay! So I do it the way at least one pro does! Huzzah!

    I don’t do a point by point outline with roman numerals and annotations. I do a plot summary, beginning to end. I did one sixty pager, I did one twelve pager. For me, the more detailed the plot in the end, the less summary plot. It gives me room to whittle and wheedle. That’s just me.

  2. 2 Erin U.
    January 12, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I’ve tried this on short stories. Unfortunately, while I’m writing a plot synopsis, it feels like I’m opening a release valve that lets out all of my story energy for that story. I’d really love to write a plot synopsis for my novel (rather than working off of a list of bullet points), but I’m afraid the energy will drain out of me like it does with short stories.

    Has anyone else experienced this maddening effect?

  3. 3 Chicory
    January 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I’ve tried writing plot synopsis, but I tend to treat them `more like guidelines than actual rules’ and by the time I reach the end of the story the events are so different from the ones I planned out that they’re not even kissing cousins.

  4. January 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I don’t do plot synopsis, but then, I’m not struggling to hit deadlines for two books a year. My process just doesn’t allow me to work out too much ahead of time, unless I want that “ahead of time” to last a very long time. But everyone has different methods.

  5. January 14, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Great post, thanks very much. It’s been very helpful!

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