Finding Your Story: Thoughts on the Synopsis

Previously, I discussed developing an elevator speech, or abstract, as a technique to help “find your story.”

Which brought forth the question:

Bo, I am working on my abstract. Do you have an example I can follow?

So to start, let me provide a link for initial guidance:

Early in your writing process, making your abstract (or synopsis) perfect is not the objective, nor is formatting important (but it’s the same as a manuscript: double-space, 1/2″ indent, Times New Roman font). Rather, it is to distill the story into its key elements.

As you write the manuscript, you may find you need to change/update the synopsis to match, but I like the exercise of asking yourself “what is my story?” And then answering the question as succinctly as reasonable…

In three paragraphs, what is your story?

In one paragraph, what is your story?

In 25 words, what is your story? Etc…

The exercise is simply meant to give you insight into “what is my story?” With that focus, your actual writing is likely to be more efficient and less likely to follow bunny trails that don’t progress the story.

I intentionally am not including examples (since it is your story and I think your pre-manuscript synopsis benefits from also being in your own words). But since that may not stop you from wanting to see examples – or doing your own google search for that matter – here are some additional thoughts from others that do include examples:

Note Susan Dennard’s comment from the last link regarding her own synopsis worksheet:

I use [this] as a general guide every time I write a synopsis. Sometimes, I even use it before writing a novel to help me get an idea of the general plot I want to follow.

So, while most advice on an abstract or synopsis centers on writing them AFTER completion of a manuscript, I am not alone in finding them of value as an early step in “finding your story.”

Bonus thought: if outlines are easier for you, feel free to develop an outline of your book in lieu of a synopsis… Either will help convey the essence of your story to yourself and others.

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