Friday, February 18, 2011


Judging by the groan I get in response from other writers when I say I’m working on a synopsis, I gather that it’s not most writers favorite task. I wasn’t too thrilled either when I got my contract and it said they wanted to see a synopsis first for each book.

But now that I’m working on my seventh crochet mystery I have come to like doing the synopsis. It is where the story starts to come together. At times, it seems like magic as information from all different places starts popping up in my mind.

My chosen method of working is first thing in the morning when I’m still a little half here and not quite there. I like to use index cards. I learned to write scenes on index cards when I was writing scripts, but it works nicely for books, too. The good thing about index cards that as I think of something that needs to happen earlier, I can write it on a card and stick it where it belongs. I number the cards, but end up with adding abc, etc to the numbers as I stick more cards in.

Writing a synopsis is about telling rather than showing. I find that in writing mysteries, there are two stories. The first is what happened. Who killed so and so. How they did it. Why they did it. And what clues lead to the killer being uncovered. Then there is the story the reader gets, which is the first story all mixed up and revealed slowly. For me the synopsis turns out to be the plot the reader gets with some explanations of what really happened mixed in.

When I get done with the index cards, I either start writing the actual synopsis on a yellow legal pad or move right to the computer. The funny part is that I barely look at the cards unless I get stuck.

I’m still on index cards right now, but the pieces are falling into place. Tidbits of information I never knew would be useful seem to fall from the sky and land on the cards. The characters are all starting to talk in my head, or in some cases, argue. I don’t want to give anything away, but in this book two plot lines have to dovetail and all these neat ways to do it have been showing up in my imagination.

When I’m finished and my editor has given me the okay, the synopsis will be like a book map. Even though things will change in the actual writing, I will know where I’m headed and the ride will be so much more fun.

For the writers out there, how do you feel about writing a synopsis?


Linda O. Johnston said...

I actually enjoy writing a synopsis, Betty. I start with something I call a plot skeleton that I've developed over years of writing, where I do a stream of consciousness plot first, then analyze my characters, stick it all into a sort-of screenplay plotting format, then turn it into a synopsis. Somehow, it works!

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, it sounds like your method is similar to mine.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this and the comments.