October 19th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Darkrooms and Synopses

I’ve spent the week working on a new proposal, and thus I haven’t been on the internet much. I don’t want to be online during this nascent period of any writing project, I find I get too distracted, too drawn from the world of the book.

Blogging is like pulling teeth for me at this stage. I am not ready to talk about the story, but I’m not much in the mood to talk about anything else. Reading industry stuff is similarly dangerous — I’m bound to get all neurotic about whatever it is in my pretty new book that readers or industry types are saying they are sick of, or. alternately, moving heaven and earth to shoehorn in something they say they are in the mood for.

But if I can ignore all that noise, then this is my favorite part. Planning the awesome. Writing the synopsis.

Yes. I said writing the synopsis. I am a planner, and I generally start with a concept (“killer unicorns” “what secret societies are really like” “post-apocalyptic Persuasion”) and build from there. To me, plot is what happens when a particular character enters this situation I have built for him/her. Just as Persuasion wouldn’t have been the same story if Anne and Wentworth weren’t the type of people they were (imagine Marianne Dashwood in Anne’s situation!), the way my stories play out depend wholly on the characters making those decisions. The reason I’m able to write as many short stories about the rich killer unicorniverse as I am is because other hunters respond to their destiny in very different ways than Astrid does, and their stories of embracing (or denying) their hunter nature are just as fascinating.

But I digress. To me, a synopsis is a chance to get down all the really awesome stuff my brain is dreaming up. To move about the puzzle pieces of the plot and make sure they all fit together and are logical. I like to write them BEFORE I write the book, before I get all bogged down in details. Having a road map helps keep me on track.

There’s a lot of hatred out there for synopses. It’s taken as a given that all writers hate writing them. But I don’t, and you don’t have to either. Instead of looking at it as a chore, look at it as your chance to shine. Your chance to enclose all the awesomeness of your book without really having to pull it off just yet. Your chance to tell instead of working so hard to SHOW.

The other great thing about starting small and preplanning is it gives you a chance to spot plot problems and figure them out before you’ve invested 40,000 words in a direction that won’t work. I’ve had books die on me for lack of proper preplanning. Synopses are my friend.

Speaking of which, back to work…

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