How to Use the Synopsis Method to Outline Your Kidlit Novel

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A synopsis is a brief summary of your book. It hits all the major plot points and reveals all the secrets. Some writers know all of the big moments in their book before they’ve even put a single word on paper. This could be a good method for you if you like to have a road map but also enjoy flexibility when it comes to drafting your story.

As you’re writing your synopsis outline try to hit the major plot points: the beginning, middle, and end, all the twists and turns, the climax, and the resolution.

A good outline should answer the following questions:

  • What is the main contract of the story? Basically, what is your main character’s purpose or adventure? Boy finds out he’s a wizard and goes to school, spider forms bond with a pig, girl learns she doesn’t belong, bunnies go to war, teddy bears protect their children, etc.
  • What is the time frame of your story and how does it add pressure on your characters? Nothing feels pressing if they have all the time in the world.
  • What is at stake for your characters?
  • How will the pressure grow as your story progresses?

A synopsis has three essential parts: characters, conflict, and story arc.

Once you know your characters it’s easy to come up with conflict for them and a narrative arc. Characters are the heart of your story. Their inner conflict will often influence and be influenced by the outer conflict of the novel. Getting to know your characters means you know what will make them run and hide or stand up and fight, which means you can put them in harm’s way to create your conflict.

Remember to note how your main character becomes involved in the story, the conflict that moves the story forward as well as all the fun and games that get in the way, any notes about your world, and what makes it special.

You can write your synopsis as detailed or as skeletal as you wish and whether you write in complete sentences or fragments is up to you. The point is to get the big picture on the page before you as a roadmap to follow before you begin writing.

Having multiple strategies to approach your work with is important. Not every story can be approached the same way. You may find that your last novel needed outlining, but that your current novel is flowing from you so fast you’ll be done by the end of the month. I find it helps to assess each project as it happens and to just go with whatever seems to help me get the words on the page.

So give it a try and let me know how it worked for you in the comments!

Originally published on August 23, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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