Some people like to work with structure in their fiction; others prefer to have a general idea and enjoy writing to find out just where this story goes.

Neither is ‘right’  but at some point – even if that point comes after your first draft is finished – you need to collect all your thoughts into a brief synopsis. you need it for three reasons:

  • To keep you on track with your editing. Once you clearly understand your story line you can see what bits are missing and where you have wandered off track into some irrelevant (but beautiful) tangent. You need this clarity to guide your editing.
  • As a basis for your back cover blurb.
  • This is the heart of your marketing pitch. It’s what agents and editors want to see. Again, it gives clarity to the project.

Whether you write your synopsis before you start to write your story or novel, or whether it comes afterwards you need a synopsis statement, probably one sentence covering each of the following:

  • Your main character – the type of person he/she is and the setting they are in
  • The over-riding goal of this character
  • The inciting event that starts the story and how the character decides to deal with it
  • The conflicts the character encounters and his/her means of dealing with it
  • The concluding event and the major discovery made by the character.

You don’t necessarily need to follow that sequence, but an agent or editor is going to want to know you are clear on these points. No amount of verbiage is going to cover up if you lack this clarity.

I myself have only recently become a convert to this type of synopsis. Previously I saw a synopsis written ahead of the story to be like putting on a very tight Victorian corset – not something that was comfortable or helpful. Now I find that it points me in one direction and keeps me true to the essence of my story.

Give the  synopsis a try – think of it as an elevator speech for your novel or story. Then, when someone asks “What is it about?” you’ll have an answer.