Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books

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!