Plan Your Novel with Story Synopsis
Today is the second in an 8-post series on preparing your novel for Nanowrimo. In today’s post, we focus on writing your story synopsis for your novel preparation. (Updated from first publication in 2014.)
If you missed it, the first step in your novel preparation was your elevator pitch.
What is a story synopsis?
A story synopsis is a short summary of your book.
In the planning stages, a story synopsis can help you think through the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
I like to draft the story synopsis as a way to think about the inner and outer changes for my two main characters.
Tip: If you do plan to pitch your story to a literary agent, you’ll need a synopsis. Once your novel is polished, you can come back to your draft synopsis to edit or use for inspiration.
For now, don’t stress about getting it “right.” You’re only job is to get your ideas down on the page.
To help you write your story synopsis, I have a cool tool to share with you, called a Plot Spinner, designed by the award-winning romance author, Patricia Simpson. She built this tool, based on an exercise by writing teacher, Alicia Rasley.
As you start your story synopsis, keep in mind your genre. This will give you a general ideal of your story ending.
(Opens a new window.)
Time to budget: I recommend you take 30-60 minutes to do this exercise.
You can also use this outline and do the Plot Spinner by hand:
Here’s the structure and an example by Patricia Simpson:
1. One sentence summary paragraph (like a movie listing on TV)
2. What issue you are exploring. Mine was: trust
3. Premise. The idea you want to prove or disprove by the end of the story.
“You can never go home again.”
“There IS a such a thing as love at first sight.”
“To find a sense of home, sometimes you have to leave it.”
4. Simplify your basic story (from Alicia Rasley’s class) by writing ONE sentence
for each of these (keeping your issue in mind):
Heroine’s external struggle because of issue:
a. At the beginning. (Divorce, caused by lack of intimacy, has
caused loss of house.)
b. In the middle (Tatiana is kidnapped when she trusts villain.)
c. At the end (Tatiana must trust Ren to find treasure to get
Heroine’s internal struggle with issue:
d. At the beginning (Tatiana doesn’t trust men.)
e. In the middle (Tatiana finds out Ren is using her to break
f. At the end (Tatiana learns she has to trust herself FIRST before
she can trust men.)
Hero’s external struggle with issue:
g. At the beginning. (Ren has to woo a woman to break the spell.)
h. In the middle (Ren realizes he will probably die before he
i. At the end (Ren chooses death to help Tatiana save her home.)
Hero’s internal struggle:
j. At the beginning (Women are to be revered or bedded, not
k. In the middle (Ren is confused about his growing
admiration & lust for Tatiana.)
l. At the end (Ren gets to know and trust a woman for the first
time in his life)
m. At the beginning (Against his better judgment, Ren offers his
services to Tatiana.)
n. In the middle (Just when she is softening toward him, she finds
out why he is wooing her.)
o. At the end (Tatiana must trust Ren implicitly to save the
5. Now take the above sentences and arrange them like this:
a, d, g, j, m
b, e, h, k, n
c, f, I, l, o
PRESTO! CHANGO! You should have the basic path of your story in 15
String them together with modifying phrases to make sense. But until you
have your sentences in 4, DON’T write the synopsis!
** Share your synopsis in the comments below! **
*Typed up by Author (and programmer), Patricia Simpson, adapted from a workshop by Author and Teacher, Alicia Rasley
Patricia Simpson is described by reviewers as “a premier writer of supernatural romance.” Author of numerous paranormal novels, she is inspired by science, paranormal phenomena, and archeological discoveries, and consistently garners superior ratings and awards for unusual heroes and unpredictable plots. Simpson has been called “a master at keeping suspense going on a multitude of levels,” and a “masterful storyteller.” Find out about her award-winning novels here: http://www.patriciasimpson.com/. Patricia also teaches a story planning course “Start a Book in 5 Easy Steps” here: https://toolbox-for-writers.teachable.com/p/start-a-book-in-5-easy-steps.
Would you like hands-on support to plan and write your novel?
If you’d like hands-on support to plan your novel with your peers and with experienced instructors — Beth and Ezra Barany, then join us for our next course starting October 1st: 30-Day Writing Challenge to Plan Your Novel.
You can join the home study course at any time here.
NEW! PLAN YOUR NOVEL LIKE A PRO
You can also check out our newest book, Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, here!
This book will help you get excited to plan your novel. The tools shared here are designed to spark your muse and give you confidence when you sit down to write your story. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! is for organic writers and pansters who want a roadmap to follow, so that they can let their creativity loose.
“Beth’s book is like plotting for pantsers!”—Tess Rider, Science Fantasy Romance Author
ABOUT BETH & EZRA BARANY
Beth Barany, an award-winning novelist and certified Creativity Coach for Writers, runs Barany Consulting, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to helping novelists write, publish, and market their books. She’s the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, and the paranormal sweet romance collection, Touchstone Series. She’s currently working on a science fiction mystery series.
Ezra Barany, an award-winning novelist and the bestselling author of The Torah Codes series, is also a teacher and mentor.
Together they help authors get their books out into the world.