More on the Art of the Synopsis

Diana Peterfreund who claims to love writing synopses is doing her very best to try and get out of writing one. Her methods include, well, actually you really have to see it. It’s very very funny, and I may steal it for our workshop on synopses in March, especially the interpretative dance!

C’mon, Diana, just write the damn thing!

Speaking of which I’ll be getting back to writing my own damn book . . .


  1. Diana Peterfreund on #

    I love synopses. I’m not sure how I feel about outlines. At present I have this half-outline/half-synopsis mutant that isn’t doing anyone any favors. Plus it has no ending.

    See, the deal is that my outlines are usually monstrous things that aren’t meant to be paraded around in front of anyone that cares. Snippets of dialogue, random scene ideas, reminders to myself of favorite movie scenes, foods, smells, articles of clothing, or music to put me in the right frame of mind to write the scene I’m describing… stuff that would never ever make it into the final book. Then, once I have it all worked out on paper, and in my head, I turn it into a pretty and marketable synopsis of about five pages.

    But my contract says outline. So I’m trying to turn Quasimodo here into something more Esmerelda and I’m winding up with a Frankinstein monster.

    And a lot of mixed metaphors.

    Plus, did I mention I don’t know how it’s going to end? What I’m really trying to get out of is figuring that bit out.

  2. romance gal on #

    Diana, What’s the diff tween outline and synopsis? How come you have to tell them the real ending? Can’t you just make something up and then write whatever ending you want in the real book? What does your agent say?

    Justine, When you’re rewriting your book how do you keep track of everything? Books are long and if you make one change in one place you’ll have to change other things elsewhere? So how do you do that? Do you have a flowchart or something?

  3. Diana on #

    Well, to me, at least, the outline is the messy, only-makes-sense-to-me thing I do *before* I write the first few chapters, and the synopsis is the sales tool where i make it sound all pretty after I’ve written a few chapters. i must write the outline before writing the proposal. I must write the proposal before writing the synopsis. i don’t have time to write the proposal before the outline is due, hence, this is new. I’m not saying that it’s too hard. that’s justine putting words in my mouth. you’re just catching the doctor in the middle of the operation, with guts all over the place.

    i’m sure i could turn in something now and change my mind about some of the details later, if I wanted to. My editor has expressed openess to that possibility. The thing is i’m not sure i’m comfortable with it. my process has generally been to know what i’m writing before i write it.

  4. Rishi Gajria on #

    Totally unrelated but South Africa getting pounded here by Sri Lanka. 1/98 in the 16th over.

  5. corey on #

    I used this proggie called whizfolders to do outlining. Before it was cumbersome to say the least but this app makes it very intuitive b/c it can keep up with the everywhichway your brain careens. Makes things easy as pizza.

  6. Justine on #

    Diana: Good luck with it!

    Romance Gal: I use a spreadsheet with a row for each chapter and columns for whose pov it is, how many words it is, what time it is, what day, and where it is. (My book shifts between 3 povs and Sydney and NYC.) It works great. It’s especially good for seeing if there’s an imbalance betwen pov characters etc and for sorting out timing.

    Rishi: I was pleased to see Sri Lanka get it together. Maybe, for once, the triangle series won’t be tedious. I have to confess though that I’m not a huge lover of ODIs. Test cricket is my thing. Speaking of which seems like it’s quite the series right now in Pakistan . . .

    Corey: way back when I used microsoft project then they stopped supporting it for mac and, well, I switched to simpler spreadsheets with the info is easilly translatable to other formats.

  7. romance gal on #

    Thank you very kindly for answering my questions. I’m trying to write a novel at the moment and it’s much more difficult than I thought! 😉

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