Outlines, Synopses and Plots…Oh My!

Outlines, Synopses, and Plots...Oh My!

I’ll be honest. My writing process isn’t for the faint of heart.

Or probably even the sane.

I am not just a plotter but a Super Plotter. For most people, that would rank right up there with flying monkeys.

In my last post on my endeavors to write my synopsis (Synopses: Love the Burn) for my urban fantasy, From Olympus with Love, I was whining about how difficult of a task that can be. However, I would also like to point out that I have written my synopsis BEFORE I have written the book. If plotting gives you a rash, writing a synopsis before a book would more than likely make you pee yourself. I know it did me, and I am 100% plotter.

In another honesty moment, I have to admit, shortly after starting my synopsis, I stopped. Something was wrong. I couldn’t connect to the story. I couldn’t see it. I was frustrated. I had tried every varying type of writing process (pantser, pantsters, plottsers and plotter), and  my process still didn’t feel right. I was fairly confident I was a plotter, but, if that was true, I had a basic enough of an outline I should just be able to type everything out in my synopses and then hop to writing the book.


At least, not for me.

So I stopped–beat my head on the wall a few thousands times–and asked what was wrong. According to what I knew about plotting this should work, but why wasn’t it working for me?

Over the years, I have learned one very important thing about myself: I am an instinctual writer.

“Hold your horses,” you say. “A.M., you just said you were ‘100% plotter.’ You can’t be both.”

Au contraire mon frère. (Or ma soeur)oxymoron

I am a plotter in that I need a solid plot before I write a book, but it has to be extremely detailed and vivid. And the only way I can get that, I realized, was to do an almost completely free-flowing right brain outline with uber detailed scene notes (dialogue, emotions, conflicts, ect.). Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

Well, it worked!

After days of getting up at the butt crack of dawn, I ended with a thirty page outline of my book. Granted, it was a mess because it had been done all right brained, and I wouldn’t allow myself to interrupt the process to organize or doubt myself. I really enjoyed that part. I felt extremely connected to my story and my protagonist, Pandora. But being a plotter, I knew there were still too many unknown variables for comfort or a good story.

So I returned to my synopsis writing and, after multiple derailings by illness and other responsibilities, I completed my synopsis at nineteen pages. Overkill for some, but not for me. By the end of editing my synopsis, I felt very connected to my story and confident as a whole.

Does it still have holes, unknowns, and problems?


But that is what I have GREAT critique partners for. Even though I am a plotter, I recognize that I can’t know some things until I actually write the story. At this point, if I worked on it any more, it would just be perfectionist procrastinating…and that is a whole ‘nother blog post.

7 thoughts on “Outlines, Synopses and Plots…Oh My!

  1. I think you can plan your novel religiously but the basic plot is bound to change as your characters take over and ideas come into your mind. My thought is to not be afraid to change the synopsis if a better idea comes along.

  2. My method is similar, so I can very much relate. I write a very simple outline, maybe five pages for an 80,000 word novel, then I write the first few chapters, which gives me an idea of the characters. I then write the detailed outline for the first third. Once I’ve written the first draft of the first third, I write the second third’s outline, and so forth.

    When I look back at my outline at the end, it resembles a present tense, unspell checked, rapid-fire version of the finished novel.

    I can’t understand people who don’t outline. It would drive me crazy 🙂

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