When you first begin a novel, it's fairly easy to remember what you've written so far. However, the deeper you get into that word count, the harder it is to keep track of everything, and you could easily find yourself amidst a jumble of confusion regarding various characters and storylines. When did she last speak to that guy? How did those two characters leave their last meeting? What month did her mom come visit?
Going back and rereading specific sections will of course refresh your memory, but that can be time-consuming and can often feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. It can also interrupt your momentum, which is something you definitely don't want to do. Plus, once you have tens of thousands of words written, just finding the scene you want to re-read can be a pain.
I find that creating a chapter-by-chapter synopsis is a great way to address this issue. Each time I finish a chapter, I switch over to the synopsis and note the salient points and timeframe, then get right back to the novel. When I need to check dates, confirm conversations, review how the overall story is progressing, etc., I first consult the synopsis to locate the section in question. Then I go to the manuscript to read it.
Before I started using synopses for my drafts, I found myself rereading from the very beginning over and over and over. That approach leads to lots of editing, but not a lot of writing. Using a synopsis will help you complete your first draft faster. Then you can go back and make it better, which is my favorite part. It's much easier to edit than to stare at a blank page, right?
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.