How to use a spreadsheet for your synopsis

#writetip The dreaded synopsis has found its way to the top of my to-do list.

How do you take 82,000 words and summarize them in to 500 to 1000 words?

Sweat it out, of course.

As I’ve said before, I love my spreadsheets and don’t know how anyone can write a novel without one. Well, here is my next use.

One column of my spreadsheet has a name for each scene. The name represents what happens in this scene.

To create my synopsis, first I’m look for turning points in the novel. Luckily, I already have this in the spreadsheet. The turning points are events that take the story in a new direction.

Next, I write each scene name on a paper. I cross out anything that doesn’t need to be in the synopsis.  Once I do this four or five time, I write out a one line description of the scene. Now I know if I’m anywhere near the right word count. If not, I keep cutting.

I follow some simple guidelines:

–       Use protagonists POV

–       Don’t include questions

–       Use present tense

–       Write in the same voice as your novel

–       Don’t turn the synopsis into a list

–       Include the ending

If the first line of your novel is great, and I hope it is, why not use that as your opening line of your synopsis?

If you have any tips for writing a synopsis, I’d love to hear them.




10 thoughts on “How to use a spreadsheet for your synopsis

  1. Inspirations is another handy tool. It’s software that allows the use of visuals for setting or character descriptions. It also works with a variety of shapes to fit around text. A timeline can be created at the top or bottom of the page. It often ends up looking like a collage. Comes in handy for remembering all of the `bits’ that go into a story.


  2. I’m struggling with my synopsis and I’d like to try a spread sheet. However, I’m such a visual person, I need a photo of how this would look. Do you have a excel synopsis photo you’d be willing to share?


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