Shannon Stacey


Perpetually Mangling Synopses…Syndrome

I don’t care what Diana says, synopsis writing for me is like going to Hell and finding out they have smokes, but not menthol, and Dunkin Donuts coffee, but no cream, and Doritos, but only Cool Ranch.

Logically, I know and understand everything she said—always have. Doesn’t mean I can do it. I “know” how to drive a standard, but that doesn’t mean I don’t chirp the tires to death and stall at every intersection. I have a method (for writing synopses, not driving standards—my method for that is owning automatics), and the method works, but it sucks.

It all starts with “the storyboard”. It’s not really a storyboard, I don’t think, but that’s what I call it. I go into Excel and make empty boxes—one box for each chapter. For the synopsis I’m currently mangling, my storyboard is a grid of 20 boxes. I print the sheet and then use a pencil to fill up the boxes. I’m not tracking arcs and subplots and my ratio of suspense to romance. I just jot down the highlights of each chapter—usually each box has 3 sentences in it, since I’m usually a 3 scenes per chapter kinda gal. And it’s nothing fancy. In box 6, for example, I have jotted down “wet dreams”. There are no wet dreams in chapter 6. Those are key words which invoke an entire scene which resides in my head. That’s pretty much the extent of my plotting.

When it comes to writing the synopsis, I can’t break myself of being a slave to the storyboard. It’s my “an den” version. She arrives at the club…an den…she dances with the hero…an den…she excuses herself to powder her nose and runs into the club owner…an den… It’s not pretty. It’s long as hell, but not pretty. Then, when I’ve finished writing a blow-by-blow account of my storyboard, I open a blank document. Then I write the real synopsis—the version which encompasses the soul of the story, evoking the tone and feel of the actual book. The version with no “an dens”.

It’s an incredibly inefficient way to write a synopsis, but it’s the only way I can do it. But I’ve learned that it’s more efficient for me because my muse doesn’t cough up the pretty version. So I just do the “an den” version and get it over with.

So today I’m struggling through the wrapping up of the pretty version (which isn’t easy even after I’ve done the first version.) I wish this was an aspect of writing that came easy to me, but it doesn’t.

Fortunately, my smokes are menthol, my coffee has cream and my Doritos are original nacho-licious.

9 comments to “PMS…S”

  1. Anna Lucia
      · January 19th, 2006 at 1:10 pm · Link

    I dont’ think there’s anything wrong with your method, is there? It seems to get the job done (story sold) and you get it done?

    You could maybe find a way to cut the angst out of the process, but that’s the only bit of the process that needs to go… :wink:

    I do think the cult of the Dreaded Synopsis has a lot to answer for, though. New authors are scared of them before they even find out what they are…

  2. Jaci Burton
      · January 19th, 2006 at 2:07 pm · Link

    Annnd dennnn you send it to me. Right?


    And there is no method for it. It’s whatever works for you.

    If it works, don’t :censor: with it.

    Don’t forget the part about annnnd dennn you send it to me :whip:

  3. Mel
      · January 19th, 2006 at 2:34 pm · Link

    I skipped the “an dennnn” part, but even *I* know if you don’t send it to Jaci, there’s hell to pay. Just sayin’

  4. Diana
      · January 19th, 2006 at 4:10 pm · Link

    Dude, that’s how I do it (except for the storyboard, but that’s just bells and whistles, anyway). Anna’s right. It’s only the angst that needs to go. I think it’s fun. The description you just gave didn’t sound particularly painful. At least not to me. :whip:

  5. Gabriele
      · January 19th, 2006 at 5:29 pm · Link

    Well, after Miss Snark’s synopsis snark, I’m even more afraid of cooking up one, what with my three plotlines, ten subplots and more than 50 character most of which are important -sort of stories.


  6. Charlene
      · January 19th, 2006 at 6:11 pm · Link

    Hey, Shan, whatever gets the job done! Just don’t run out of coffee or Doritas. :thumb:

  7. Karen Templeton
      · January 19th, 2006 at 8:39 pm · Link

    Method? You have a method? :eyebrow:

    Me don’t got no stinkin’ method. Me just starts typin’ and hopes for the best. :crazy:

  8. Shannon
      · January 20th, 2006 at 11:27 am · Link

    Well, it’s not so much angst that I’m doing it wrong. Just angst that I wish I could find a more efficient way to do it. I’d like to cut the an den version totally.

    But, oh well. whatever keeps the :type: going.

  9. WaxMIA
      · January 21st, 2006 at 11:52 pm · Link

    *steals all Leslie’s nickels and pays someone else to write synopses*


  • Get my latest news straight to your inbox!

    I'll only be sending newsletters when I have news to share, and I'll never share your information. You'll receive an email asking you confirm your subscription (so please check your spam box if you don't receive that). You can unsubscribe at anytime.


  • Affiliation

    Shannon Stacey is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of

    If you purchase a book listed on the site from, she’ll earn a small commission. Thank you!