Monday, September 15, 2014

The no longer dreaded synopsis

By Vicki Delany

Did someone say synopsis? (What’s the plural of synopsis? Synopsi? ).  Over the course of my writing career I have been what we call a pantser (i.e. write by the seat of my pants).  At Poisoned Pen Press, as Donis pointed out, they require a very brief outline and then the first 100 pages of the MS.  

The best instance of me writing totally by the seat of my pants was the third Constable Molly Smith book, Winter of Secrets, where I knew nothing but the first chapter when I began and continued to know nothing about what was going on until I finished.

I blogged about the process at the time:

But now, I have to announce that I am a convert! I am writing two new cozy series: the Lighthouse Library Series from Penguin Obsidian and the Christmas Town series from Berkely Prime Crime.  You will be hearing more (a lot more!) about those books as time passes, in the meantime, have a peek at my new web page for the Lighthouse Library Series ( BTW, I am using a pen name for the Lighthouse books, Eva Gates.

Those publishers not only require an outline for the new book, they wanted an outline for every book before signing me to a three-book contract!

I’ll never be able to do this, I thought.

I have to if I want this contract, I said to myself.

And so I did. And I found that I really, really like writing by an outline.  The initial coming up with the outline isn’t easy. You have to come up with the main premise, then decide how all the characters are going to behave during the book, who the ‘guest’ characters are and what they are up to, and how it’s all going to be resolved.

But once it’s done, I find that it makes the writing of the book so much easier.  It doesn’t destroy creativity, not at all. Because the outline is just the roadmap, it’s what you see as you travel the road that is creative and fun.  For example, in the second Lighthouse Library book, Booked for Trouble, the protagonist’s mother comes to Nag’s Head (where the series is set) and finds herself accused of a murder.  Okay, that was in the outline. But that she drives a Mercedes SLK was not.  That just came to me as I began to fully describe the mother and some of her habits. Did I have fun putting Lucy, my librarian, in the SLK, particularly during the desperate car chase that leads to the climax.

I am finding that once the hard work of coming up with a plot and all its complications is done, then the writing process is so much easier.


Eileen Goudge said...

I'll look for your new series. Congrats!

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks, Eileen!

Donis Casey said...

I will have to give outlining a try...the only problem is that I always end up somewhere different than I thought I would. STill, if an outline gets me further down the road before I start tearing my hair out, it'll be mucho worth it.