I know, I know. Synopses are devilish. But hear me out on this one.
I always start revisions by reading through my WIP, fighting the urge to make line edits the whole time. (If I let myself start making edits, I would never get through the read. So if something is really important, I jot it down on my ongoing revisions list, which is usually the length of Ulysses by the time I start revising.) But this time, to help keep my hands busy while I read, I synopsized my WIP. The urge to line-edit disappeared.
I didn’t mind writing the synopsis while doing my first read-through, mainly because I (apparently) forgot what happened in roughly 40% of my WIP. So I wasn’t slogging through dialogue I had memorized and scenes seared into my brain–the story was fresh, and I found it interesting to summarize each chapter after I read it. There’s a reason why teachers make kids summarize/retell as techniques for monitoring comprehension. It works. I remember all of my WIP after synopsizing it.
Summarizing/synopsizing helped me see the places in the WIP where eighty billion things happen at once (I’m looking at you, Chapter 14) and those where nothing happens for a really, really long time and it’s boring. I can clearly see where the pacing needs work. My synopsis is also helping me figure out where I might place the scenes I want to add and where certain subplots disappear/appear. I’m the type of person who needs to be able to see the big picture a lot while revising. My synopsis will now be my map.
For each round of revision I start on this WIP, I’m going to start by updating my synopsis with a read-through. It’ll both refresh my memory and show me which parts saw the most/least work. The best part? By the time I’m done with revisions once and for all*, I’ll have a synopsis ready should I ever need it.
*”once and for all” = for now, because I am a compulsive reviser
Have you ever used a synopsis to help with the early rounds of revision, writer friends? What are your revision tricks? Spill!
Love your mixing metaphors label! During the first — ahem, and only — read-through of my first MS I wrote down what happened in each scene/chapter. That’s how I learned what a mess I had on my hands. Good times. Definitely agreed it’s a useful exercise. Hopefully with the next WIP it will be more of a guide and less of a death sentence.
That’s a really good idea! I think I might have to swipe it from you:)
Fabulous advice! Synopses are definitely the hardest part of my pitch experience. When I was querying, I didn’t write a synopsis until an agent finally requested one… then I had to rush it. I like your idea much better. 🙂
I was pretty scared that I’d look over the synopsis afterward and see a hot mess in all its glory–but it actually shows a room-temperature mess. I’ll take that as a Hooray!
You are so brave to stop line editing…I’m so afraid I’ll miss something if I don’t change it when I see it.
This synopsis-as-you-read thing does sound like a great tool, for pace issues esp.
I have Ulysses-sized revision notes too. The only tool I use other than that (and re-reading a million times) is that I try to figure out all the domino-effect changes I need to make after making a certain change. I don’t always catch everything, but it makes the plotholes a little less deep on the next go-round.
Figuring out the ripple effects of changes is something I need to work on. In one past WIP, a (minor) character changed gender multiple times throughout the story. Whoops.
I definitely wrote a query for my NaNo project before I started it, and it really helped me figure out where my plot was lacking.