Writing A Book? Starting With A Synopsis

Courtesy of the movie: Julie & Julia

*walks up to microphone & taps it…clears throat*

“Hi…My name is Des…and I’m a procrastinator.”

*the group in unison sing in monotone* “Hiiiii, Des.”

I have been a very bad girl when it comes to writing. Ending 2013 brought on tons of emotions that required processing and refocus. I approached 2014 determined to make productive changes, especially when it came to writing my book. Well, as many of you know, come January 2014, I got sick for two weeks. Talk about a monkey wrench tossed into my plans.

Coming out of the infestation called “le flu”, it took some time to reorient my life. Here we are, at the end of January already and looking back, I can’t help but cringe a bit at how the start of my grand new year towards awesomeness–a.k.a. 2014–is already looking, which is…nothing as I planned. Go figure. Does anything ever really turn out the way we thought or planned them to be?

I should start accepting it and work with it, instead of huffing and puffing, only wasting more time procrastinating because my “plan” or “idea” had flying monkeys swing by throwing poo. Apparently, it is common knowledge that monkeys throw poo.

Since the New Year, I have been productive in one area–book blogging. It’s been good, keeping my fingers exercising on the stair master of a keyboard, filtering my running thoughts into somewhat cohesive thoughts for all of you to read. With that, has come much reading. It’s felt good, being pulled out of that Holiday reading slump I was in two months ago, and tackling that wonderful stack of books.

With all the reading and book blogging, and attempts at refocusing my life, my writing (my book) has suffered, only because I had allowed it to. Why?


I can not be a “pantser” writer–someone who sits down with just a thought of a concept, and begins writing, later seeing where the story goes–I tried that. I wrote 67,000 words and was only ten chapters away from finishing the first book of what I thought would be a trilogy. Well, there was a major problem. My plot wasn’t fully developed or had a resolution–an ending. I tried and tried. I even had the bestie chime in, tossing all the possible ideas with me. It just wasn’t working. My concept, and plot was so big, the possibilities and directions on where the story could go, was all over the place. It wasn’t a tight enough concept.

I don’t want to go through that heart ache again.

I spent the last four, or five months researching. I knew I needed to organize my new concept (which still has elements I hold dear from my first concept and draft) and I needed to plot and structure this time.

So when I say synopsis, I’m talking about knowing the beginning, middle, and end of my story. I believe this new concept will be told through two books.

This time, I told myself, I would outline my story, understand it, know it before actually writing it. I believe, once I do this, there will still be room to allow the story and characters to lead things here and there and surprise me. Those moments are the best.

Doing some “googling” and seeing what other people out in cyberspace (do people still say that?) had to advice in regards to Synopsis writing, I stumbled across something I found useful and of course, I wanted to share it with y’all.

Here’s “5 Steps to Writing A Synopsis”

(click on title for link directing to the entire article with details prior to 5 steps)

With some examples of which points to include, from a story of mine called The Lord of the Isles (finished length: 12,000 words).

1: The HOOK Start with the main character and trigger event which sets the story in motion. Reveal the character’s emotions and motivations, those points which explain why a character does something.

  • Theme: This story is a time slip to the nineteenth century. It’s about accepting changes and not prejudging people. It’s about co-operation and selflessness.
  • Main characters and background problem BEN’S father and CASSIE’S mother are about to be married – and he doesn’t think much to the idea, either having a step-mother or, what is worse, a younger sister.
  • Ben’s one big interest is Railways, particularly steam locomotives and he grudgingly thanks Cassie when she gives him an old photo of his favourite locomotive, The Lord of the Isles..
  • Trigger event of story Cassie’s precious cat runs into the old disused railway tunnel and Ben reluctantly goes in to look for it.
  • Story quest 1 Ben wants to prevent his home life from changing
  • Story quest 2 The rescue of the cat

2: The BODY of the Synopsis.  Write the high points of your story in chronological order.  Keep these paragraphs tight, don’t give every little detail.

  • High point 1 Halfway through the tunnel Ben realises that the rails are no longer rusty, but shiny with use, and what’s more, he feels the vibration of a coming train. Having caught the cat Ben runs out of the other end of the tunnel just in time before a steam train rushes through.Cassie does not believe Ben’s story of the train, as none emerged from her end, and her cat is still missing, having jumped out of Ben’s arms in fright. She agrees to continue the search the next day.
  • Highpoint 2 Together they go through the tunnel, which, along with the old photo, acts as a passage into the 19th century. They meet Tom, the chimney sweep.
  • Highpoint 3 Ben, who is quite thin, is captured by Mr Burns, the Sweep Master and sent up to clean a chimney. After this terrifying experience, he manages to escape through a window of the house.
  • Highpoint 4 Tom is fascinated by tales of ‘their time’ and Ben gives him his grandfather’s wind up watch. Tom knows where the cat is and promises to bring her.

3: The DARK MOMENT when all seems lost

  • **Highpoint 5 Ben leaves the photograph, along with the other contents of his pockets, in the big house where he swept the chimney, so they have no way of returning to their own time. Tom volunteers to go back for it
  • Highpoint 6 Having retrieved the photo and the cat, the three are about to enter the tunnel, when Mr Burns captures both boys and locks them in his cellar. Cassie escapes.


  • Highpoint 7 Cassie causes a diversion involving a pie man and a herd of pigs so that the boys can escape from Mr Burns through the coal chute. With the evil man on their heels, the three of them plus the elusive cat, rush back into the tunnel, hoping to bring Tom into their time.
  • Highpoint 8 They hear the train whistle behind them.


  • Highpoint 9 Tom does not emerge into the 21st century and they are left to wonder what became of him, especially as the council is blocking up the tunnel entrance so they cannot return.
  • Highpoint 10 When Ben looks more closely at his photo of The Lord of the Isles, he notices that the driver, who has one arm resting outside the cab, is wearing a wrist watch long before they were invented. He guesses it must be Tom, fulfilling his wish to be an engine driver – and obviously having escaped Mr Burns’ clutches.
  • Highpoint 11 Shows how the main characters have changed. Ben and Cassie have become friends through their adventure together and have both learnt to accept each others’ virtues and weaknesses. Ben realises that he had prejudged her.

A synopsis is NOT* A chapter by chapter detailed account of the plot* A blurb to entice the reader

A synopsis IS* Your principal selling tool* A concise account of what your book is about with nothing left out* Always written in omniscient present tenseIt’s well worth spending as much time polishing and honing your synopsis as you did your novel.

© Stephanie Baudet. First published in Writing Magazine October 2008


I appreciated coming across this. In addition to all the other awesome research other authors have directed me towards in reference to Structure & Plot Outlining, I feel as though this will help me get back to just figuring out the gist of the story’s beginning, middle, and end. I’m excited and kind of itching to get to the actual writing of the story, but I want to do my story justice by building it’s skeleton before attempting to put skin over a half-crack pot silhouette.

Hope this proves helpful to any other writers out there who come across my little blog.

Happy reading and writing everyone!

2 thoughts on “Writing A Book? Starting With A Synopsis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.