For me, coming up with a plot for a book and writing a synopsis isn't quite the same thing, but one leads to the other by necessity. (Editors like to see before they buy.) I'm highly organized and methodical -- my writing brain is the exact opposite (kinda like Felix and Oscar for you fans of classic TV). Books come to me in snippets of dialogue, pieces of scenes, chunks of chapters. I know there's a book in there somewhere, but it's up to me to lay all the puzzle pieces out then put them together to find out what the final picture looks like -- and to find the core of my book, that kernel of a thought of what it's REALLY about. Everything else you write (subplots, new characters, etc.) will branch out from that central thought.
Some writers swear by having a synposis to go by, some swear at it. I'm somewhere in between. If I have a complete synopsis for a book, I'll invariably stray from it, but it's nice to have it as a security blanket. When I wrote Bewitched & Betrayed, my intent was to flesh out the partial synopsis I'd written to sell the book to my publisher before I started writing it. Once I'd finished the edits for The Trouble with Demons, I didn't have time to flesh out anything. So I just dove in to writing Bewitched & Betrayed. My agent and my editor have the finished book now, and I'll be hearing in a few weeks how writing without a net worked for me. Hopefully it went well.
What a synopsis is not -- A synopsis is not every bit of action that will go into your book. It's the "view from 40,000 feet/big picture" view. You include only the main plot points. A book synopsis should ideally cover the book from beginning to end (but only the main points and how they relate to each other), introduce only your main characters, and be written in the tone of your book. My synopsis for TTWD was in first person, Raine's point of view (just like the books), and it is also in present tense. It gives the action a more immediate impact.
But when you're first starting to write a book synopsis, feel free to include anything and everything you want to. That way you've got something to work with (and to whittle down to find the core of your book -- what it's REALLY about). By having everything together in one document, you can see the big picture and begin to weed out the stuff you really don't need to include, and come up with other really cool stuff. Chances are it will start off looking like a convoluted mess (mine do). As you edit, delete, add, refine, tweak -- the synopsis will start to take shape (and most importantly, so will your plot).
And a reminder: tomorrow morning I have to go out of town on business and won't be back until late Saturday. I'll be back to blogging on Monday.
And on Tuesday night (June 23) at 7:00 at the Cary, NC, Barnes & Noble, I'll be doing a booksigning/panel discussion with James Maxey, Mark Van Name, and David Drake. If you're in the area, please come and join us. We had a blast last year. See my EVENTS page for all the details. I'll post pics from the signing on my blog next Wednesday.
Then on next Thursday morning, Derek and I leave for a long weekend (and much needed vacation) on North Carolina's Outer Banks. I'll post pics when I get back. And when I get back, it's back to work -- writing synopses for the next few Raine books to get another contract. I'll be blogging about the process.
And I'll post some of the best CafePress ideas to get your votes -- I've gotten some great ones.