Creating a Story


I’m working on the synopsis for a new book, so I thought I’d share the process with you. I hope this is especially helpful to you newbie writers, as well as of interest to readers who’d like a peek behind the scenes.

First, a definition: a synopsis is generally a “selling tool” to show to an agent and/or an editor to let him or her know what your book is about. If it’s your first novel, you’ll need to have written the entire book and will then use the synopsis and three chapters to form your proposal. If you have some books under your belt, a synopsis may be sufficient to get a contract. Some people use the terms “synopsis” and “outline” interchangeably, but either way, it’s the entire story–beginning, middle and end– in about 10-20 pages.

Before I get into today’s installment, let me first say that I’m in my beloved Outer Banks. John’s teaching a photo workshop here, which gives me lots of time on my own to work. Midday today, though, I needed a break, so I took a drive north to my favorite town on the Banks, Duck. Over the years, the Outer Banks have become very commercialized and many, if not most, of the wonderful little houses have been replaced by gargantuan beach mansions. Duck, though, has maintained it’s lovely little village feel, and I adore it. I had to stop and take a pic of the cottage I used to own with my ex. I recall when we added that top deck. Our two golden retrievers loved it. One day, we were in the front yard and turned around to see our dogs up on the roof! Can you say heart attack? But anyway. . . back to the topic of this post.

I already have a synopsis ready to go to my publisher. It needs some polishing, but it’s in pretty good shape. However, Tuesday afternoon I took a nap–or started to. Suddenly, a new idea came to me and now I have to see where it will go. Thus, the need for a new synopsis. Since yesterday was a travel day, today is my first day to work on the new story. I plan to write this very quickly, taking no more than four or five days to do the whole thing. That’s extremely fast for me, but I made good progress today. Here is what I did, beginning only with the bare bones of the idea that came to me in my quasi nap:

I figured out the beginning and the ending of the story–in very general terms.

I figured out who has a point of view. Right now, subject to change, there are five.

I named everyone, figured out their ages, years of birth, ages of their children, years of their life milestones and some of their occupations.

I wrote one-page character sketches for four of the five main character. Tomorrow, I’ll get to the fifth character–plus one dead person.  (When I start actually writing the book, I will write a “character autobiography” for each of them. More on that another day).

I figured out the main way in which each character will grow and change during the course of the story. Not how they will grow precisely, but the growth and change I want to see in them. The “how” will come in the next few days.


Oh, and on my drive to Duck? I did a lot of thinking, jotting down notes at stoplights. (OK, sometimes I couldn’t wait for the stoplights, which is why the writing is kind of crooked).

So, I’m off to a great start. The best part is that I love the story concept, and I’m optimistic I’ll sail through this synopsis (for a change). I’ll keep you posted, and hope you’ll sail through it with me. 


  1. Margo on October 31, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Diane, I have the distinct feeling this new idea will take place in the Outer Banks, possibly Duck…I hope this proposal works out because it sounds like you are very passionate about this story and I love the fact the idea came to you during a nap/dream. It’s amazing to me how quickly you were able to get the beginning, middle and end already down on paper and all kinds of other details…I think this is a book that needs to definitely be written!
    What a gorgeous home you owned in Duck…it must have been awful to give it up! As much as you love the area I hope you and John can move there someday…I can just picture you writing while looking out the spacious windows to the sea!

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