NaNoWriMo Quickstart Guide – Part Eight: Writing a Synopsis

Step 8: Writing a Synopsis

While you might be tempted to write your story just from your scene list, it’s a good idea to take one more final step and make sure everything is in place before you begin the process of turning your story into something people are going to love to read.

That final step is turning the collection of scenes you’ve made into a synopsis of the whole story.


Basically, what you’re doing is writing a short version of your story using the information from your scenes and adding whatever details you think need to be added to make the story work. It’s a final pass through your story to double check that it’s going to work the way it is, and that everything will flow smoothly before you commit to writing the whole thing out.

If you’re doing it on paper, you should take a fresh sheet of paper and write everything on that, and if you’re doing it on computer you can start by editing together the bullet point versions of the scenes into full scenes. Since you’re doing a synopsis, don’t be afraid to leave out some details that are already understood between scenes (like turning names into “he” and “they”) and look for ways you can add transitions between the scenes to make things flow together.

What you will end up with will look something like this:

On a morning in late October, Sam and Bob arrive in the sleepy town of Springville. Pulling over to a gas station, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute female gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant flirts with Bob and offers to let him know the details if he buys her lunch, something he happily agrees to do since she’s very attractive.

Later on outside the Diner where Bob is having lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird shaggy homeless kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so he gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls with delight and runs away. Sam shakes his head at the sight and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits, checking his phone to see their messages.

During lunch, the attendant is curious and asks Bob about what he does. He tells her that he and Sam are Monster Vloggers who investigate strange events for their YouTube channel, which has over two million subscribers. She’s excited by the idea of meeting someone famous and asks to be on camera, so he takes out his phone and begins interviewing her about the local events. He finds out from the attendant that every full moon there’s been disappearances for the past year, and that the local farmers have been so scared they’re moving away and half the farms around the city are now empty. He also learns that a girl went missing just two days before while out delivering mail in the west of town.

After lunch, Sam finishes watching the interview Bob did and decides that since this is the last night of the full moon for this month, this will be their only chance to learn the truth. The two plan to go to where the girl disappeared and look around. 

Later that night, the pair are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a giant werewolf eating a deer. When they try to film it, it charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse. As the two are trying to get into the locked farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him as Sam desperately hits it with a shovel. The werewolf ignores the shovel, but then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid instead.

As Sam and Bob watch, the werewolf catches the weird kid, but before it can hurt him two other werewolves appear and attack it. It’s two against one, and the killer werewolf goes down quickly as the boys film the event, gushing over the ratings they’re going to get. Then, after the fight is done, the two new werewolves turn to advance on Sam and Bob but the weird boy stops them by nuzzling Sam. At this, the two werewolves transform into a man and woman and tell the boys that they were here to stop the rogue werewolf from causing trouble for their kind, then demand Bob hand over his phone and make them promise not to reveal what they’ve seen. In the end, the pair are left driving home with a story they can’t tell and it turns out the boy peed on Sam’s pants.

The End.

Some ideas have been made clearer, and the whole story has been tightened up with transitions. This is one of the advantages of writing a synopsis first, since it lets you have a clear picture of the events so that you can just focus on describing the scenes and dialog as you’re writing.

Also, if you’re writing a comic book or movie script, this synopsis lets you start to break the whole story down into scenes and locations so that you can think about page counts or costs before you commit to writing the whole thing. You can also use it to get feedback from others about what works and what doesn’t work about the story, and make easy changes before the whole story is written.


With this, you’re ready to write that story you wanted to bring to life! You’ve gone from having a vague idea and picking a genre, to brainstorming characters and core premises and turning ideas into characters and scenes. This is a method you can use again and again to develop the stories you want to tell and express your unique vision to the world.  Over time, you might start to skips steps, or develop your own methods of doing things, and that’s great too! The whole point of this book is to help you get started and give you a framework you can use or change as you tell the stories you want to tell.

Of course, this is just a starting point in learning the writing process, and like any great art, there is always more to learn. In the following extra chapters, we’ll look at a few Techniques to take what you’ve learned so far and make it even better!