It’s just three days until NaNo officially starts, and I’m hearing a lot of “I don’t know what I’m writing about” going on in emails and blogs and Facebooks. This is an issue that is not at all new to me — the amount of times that I started NaNo (or a novel in general) with no idea what I was going to write about is …well, the amount is far too many. I guess I always felt like if I narrowed my options down too much, I was somehow losing out on all the other ideas out there, or otherwise screwing myself.
But in truth, after having done this a handful of times, I’ve come to believe that if you don’t have one solid, strong, clarifying idea (even if it’s a bad one), then you’re going to spend a lot of time chasing rabbits down rabbit- and gopher-holes for the entire month of November. It’s scary to say, “I’m going to pick this one idea, I’m going to plan it out, and THAT is exactly what I’m going to write about.” I used to rail against it in a way that was akin to a phobia and a tantrum combined. “I WILL NOT GO NEAR THAT PLANNING THING! I WILL NOT!”
And now I’ve become a convert. I must plan. I must have a logline. I must have a general outline. I must know who my characters are and what they look like. Otherwise, I have learned that (for me), the NaNo experience will be good, but the resulting novel will not.
So, I’ve spent the past few days writing the synopsis of my novel. It’s not a good synopsis (yet), but it’s getting there. And it’s helping me see the holes in my story that I would not have seen until I’d written my way to day 20 and then went, “Ah, hell.” Writing a synopsis is scary. SO SO SO incredibly scary. I mean, big time. But it’s also incredibly helpful. Even if you stray far and wide from your synopsis (I always do), even if you aren’t really sure what your synopsis is saying yet. Even if you aren’t sure of anything. Just TRY writing a synopsis and have that learning experience. That’s my suggestion.
My other synopsis suggestion at this point: Don’t stress about getting it ‘perfect’. Right now, it’s just for you, and it’s really just a guideline to help you as you begin writing. No one else has to see it, and it’s probably going to change a lot, so just get something, anything, down. You can always tweak it later.
That being said, here are some synopsis-writing resources:
Or you can do what I do, and use this sort of formulaic outline to put your synopsis together:
- A section about your Main Character’s “normal” world and what he or she wants from it (main goal).
- A section about the inciting event that sets things in motion (and changes the main goal).
- A couple of paragraphs about the big, middle events of the novel (escalating in scale).
- A section that shows the novel’s climax AND how the Main Character will handle said climax.
- A bit about the wrap-up.
Unlike a blurb or a teaser, in the synopsis, you want to write your ending in detail — because you as the writer need to know a. what the ending is and b. how your character finds the balls to deal with said ending. Even if it changes.
If you’ve already donated and have the password, you’re invited to view the synopsis (and breakdown of said synopsis) that got my first novel accepted before it was written. Of course, it’s good to remember there are a million ways to plan, prep, organization, and all of that. This is just the way that’s worked for me!
Walking in the moonlight, s.