A Synopsis or a Summary?
It may seem like it doesn't matter, but there actually is a distinction between a synopsis and a
chapter summary. A synopsis is usually intended to be short (a page or less). A chapter summary
can be longer (sometimes much longer, 20-40 pages if it is being used as an outline). A synopsis
tells overall about what happens in the book, but does not necessarily go through each scene and
event. It can skip over subplots and minor characters. A chapter summary goes through every
scene in the book. It tells who the narrator is and what happens point by point. A synopsis may be
in the viewpoint of the main character. A chapter summary is told in third person.
Some agents or editors may request a synopsis. Others may request a chapter summary. You
should have both to hand. A chapter summary is something I often write while in the midst of the
book. It is adapted from an outline and changes as I actually sit down to write the book. If I
change this chapter, it will affect other chapters, so I do that in outline form to see how it's going
before I do it in written form. If you're not working from an outline, it can still be useful for you
to write down a chapter summary as you complete each chapter. This is a chance for you to look
through previous chapters and see if they are going well, leading from one to the next.
A synopsis isn't something I write until I've finished the whole book. I need to know more than
just what happens in each chapter. I need to know why it matters, what the theme of the book is,
who my target audience is, and more. A synopsis is something that may be used internally in the
publisher to help people in marketing understand what the book is about and how to pitch it to
bookstores and other buyers. It's not about details. It's about the overarching plot and character
Does that help?
Calendaring Your Novel
I wish I'd learned to use a calendar while writing earlier in my writing career. Instead, it wasn't
until book #11 that I started using a calendar from the very first draft. Maybe it isn't as important
in fantasy, when days of the week might not be the same or as regularly checked as they are in
modern times, but if you're writing a contemporary novel of any kind, you need to make sure that
the events of your book can happen on the days you say they do. Choose a month and a year, get
a calendar out, and start writing down which day of the month and the week each chapter happens
on. Save it, because your editor and copy-editor will want to see it.
Here's what happens when you start using a calendar: you realize that you have eight chapters all
on the same day. Or you realize that you missed one Sunday. Or you say "the next day" when it's
actually four days later.
Trust me, you will be so glad you started doing this. It's a simple thing to add to your process. If
you're like me, you have a document that's open already to collect all incidental information
about your draft, from descriptions of characters and places to quotes, etc. I keep my calendar
there and refer to it frequently to make sure I've got it right. This also means that if you change
the day one chapter happens on, there may be a domino effect that means you have to change all
the others. But that's OK, because it's all contained in your calendar.
Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison