So you got carried away writing the synopsis for your novel and now it’s too long. What do you do? Did you waste your effort? How do you use all that material? And how does all this fit into my wildly popular Snowflake Method?
Lindsey posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
I am a first time novel writer and I find your snowflake method very helpful. I completed steps 1 through 3 fairly confidently and was excited to move onto step 4. I wound up getting too caught up in details and writing nearly SIX PAGES of story line. The worst part? I haven’t even gotten to my story’s first disaster yet.
I’m not sure what to do next because I feel like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and don’t know how to pull myself back to a reasonable-sized step 4. Should I just save this content for later and head back to the drawing board to create a shorter, more cohesive step 4?
The Purpose of the Snowflake Method
Randy sez: The purpose of the Snowflake Method is to help you write a solid, well-structured first draft of your novel. All we really care about is getting that first draft written, no matter what process we use to get there. The reader will never know or care how we got the words down on paper. The only thing the reader cares about is:
- How good the story is.
- How fast we get the story written.
So there are worse things in life than writing a very long outline in Step 4 of your Snowflake document for your novel. In the grand scheme of things, six pages is not too much to explain 100 pages of story.
What you have, Lindsey, is a useful tool for creating your Scene List in Step 8 of the Snowflake. Every paragraph of your outline will cover roughly one or two scenes of your novel. This is a little ahead of yourself, but that’s not a crime.
I do think there’s value in writing the shorter synopsis, though, because it will ensure that you’ve got a balanced story structure. So let’s try to put you back on track without wasting any of that hard work you’ve put in so far.
Getting Back on Track
Here’s what I recommend:
- Save that six-page synopsis somewhere—you can call it Step 6.5, your Super Long Synopsis.
- Now try to summarize it in one page. This will be the first chunk of your Long Synopsis in Step 6.
- Now try to summarize it in a single paragraph. This will be the first chunk of your Short Synopsis in Step 4. If you’re not clear on how you could possibly make it this short, remember that you already wrote an even shorter version of it in Step 2, the one-paragraph summary.
- Write three more paragraphs to summarize the first half of Act 2, the second half of Act 2, and Act 3. Keep these short, focusing on just the details that lead up to the major disasters. You now have a full one-page Short Synopsis, which is what Step 4 is all about. Make sure it is an accurate expansion of your one-paragraph summary from Step 2.
- Go on to Step 5, the Character Synopses. These can be as long as you want. You might want to use some of that material from your Super Long Synopsis here, if any of it is special information about one particular character.
- Finish Step 6, the Long Synopsis. You already made a start on it, but now finish it, trying to expand each paragraph of your Short Synopsis into a full page. If you feel the urge to write more, do your best to restrain it. You are still working out the big picture here. Details can come later.
- Finish the other steps of the Snowflake as you like. When you get to Step 8, which is the Scene List, resist the urge to write more than one sentence about each scene. If you really have more that you want to write about each scene, save it for Step 9, where you can amplify on each scene as much as you want. There is no limit in Step 9. You can write as much or as little as you like.
Good luck on this, Lindsey! I confess that I haven’t often seen a writer go over their word count on the Short Synopsis. Usually, writers hate synopses (I’m not too fond of them myself), and they want to write less. The fact that you’ve written a lot more tells me you’re excited about your story.
And if you’re excited, your reader probably will be also.
As a reminder, if you like using the Snowflake Method and want a software tool to make it fast, easy, and fun, then my program Snowflake Pro might be the thing for you. Version 1.2.1 is now available, and anyone who bought either an earlier version of Snowflake Pro or my book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is welcome to download the latest version for free. All the details are on my Download Again page here.
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