Monday, May 20, 2013

The Painless Synopsis Exercise


I am repeating this step-by-step guide because when I posted the above writer witticism on Facebook recently I discovered that authors I care about are still having trouble composing the synopis.

I urge you to try this technique because it works. It seems simple and it is. Please don't hold that against the method. Here is my remedy for the torment of synopsis writing (previously published by me in Writers Digest Magazine). I know it will help because it has helped me immensely.

The 7 Phases of Writing the Painless Synopsis

Phase One – A Recorder, A Jug of Wine and Thou
Gather these materials in a cozy spot. “Thou” is someone who appreciates the kind of story you write. Relax, take a sip, turn on the recorder. Tell your story aloud, in whatever order it occurs to you. Include all the elements of the story and each character from beginning to end. [Thou can also be another aspect of you.]

Phase Two – Stacking the Deck
When alone, play back the recording.  Use 5x8”index cards, one scene idea per card, as you hear a scene mentioned, identify that scene in one sentence at top of the card.  When finished, you should have 45-60 cards, depending on the length of your novel.

Phase Three – Floor Play
Sit on the floor. Spread the cards out in the order they occur in the story. Look for places in the story line where there is too little action or too much for purposes of pacing and clarity. Add or subtract cards as needed. If you don’t yet know what scene to add at a specific story gap, place a blank card there so you know you need to come up with a scene. Your cards for the conclusion of your story must convince the editor you have a story ending that will satisfy a reader.

Phase 4 – Cutting the Cards and the Task Down to Size
One card at a time, write 2-3 well-crafted sentences presenting the scene at its most intense, moving and conflict-ridden. Brainstorm any scenes you may need to add.

Phase Five – Don’t Forget the Players
When a character is introduced in the story, at that point in your card pile add another card with a description of that character in a single tightly written sentence.  Craft that description with careful attention to the closely observed detail, the perfect detail that resonates with the essence of that particular character.

Phase Six – For Openers
On its own card, write an opening sentence – concise, straightforward and startling. Polish this sentence into a true gem to open your synopsis in sparkling fashion.
 
Phase Seven – There You Have It
Type your synopsis directly from your card pile, turning over one card at a time and typing what you’ve written there. Throw in a transitional sentence or two where needed to make the telling run smoothly. The Winning Result: A brief of your story without dialogue or much description and a synopsis that could sell your book.

The 2 Secrets here are #1 Demythologize the Activity & #2 Make It Play. Nothing demythologizes better than hunkering the butt down onto the floor. Fooling around with cards is the play part. Trust me. It works.

Find many more very practical writing exercises in No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. Reviews posted at www.aliceorrseminars.net. For an autographed copy send $10 (postage & handling) to Alice Orr Seminars, P.O. Box 6224, Long Island City NY 11106.



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