9 Questions Every Author Should Ask

I’m a panster. For all of you non-writers that means I write by the seat of my pants. The story unfolds with each new letter on the page. I don’t know where its going to go until it gets there. Is it the best way to write? No. But it was the only way that worked for me. I found that I didn’t like knowing the entire store before I wrote it because it lost some of the magic. That’s not to say I wrote completely in the dark. I always knew what the next two scenes were going to be. But it does mean I wrote myself into quite a lot of corners that took a bit of rewriting to get out of.

Recently I found myself in the position of having to write a synopsis before the story was written–on deadline no less! Can we say pure, unadulterated panic? Luckily I have wonderful CPs (critique partners) who remained very calm and talked me off the ledge.

After I stopped hyperventilating, I sat down and thought really hard about what I needed to know about my characters that would drive the story forward. If you’ve been in the writing community for any length of time you’ve heard of Debra Dixon’s GMC. Each character must have a goal, a motivation to reach that goal, and a conflict that arises that they have to overcome to achieve the goal.

Being a panster, I never really paid attention to GMC. Oh, I had it in the back of my mind but it wasn’t something I wrote down on paper and referred back to occasionally. So, when it came time to write my synopsis, I had to find something that worked for me that would focus the story.

I came up with nine simple questions that ended up being my lifesaver. After answering each of these questions I had my character arcs down pat and half my synopsis written:

What happened to the hero in his past that makes him the way he is now?

What happens to the heroine in her past that makes her the way she is now?

How does what happened to the hero affect his relationship with the heroine?

How does what happened to the heroine affect her relationship with the hero?

What is it about the hero that helps the heroine grow?

What is it about the heroine that helps the hero grow?

What does the hero learn in the end that facilitates his HEA?

What does the heroine learn in the end that facilitates her HEA?

I’m not saying this is the perfect-one-size-fits-all way to write a synopsis, but it helped me so I’m hoping it will help someone out there.



16 thoughts on “9 Questions Every Author Should Ask

  1. We are very much alike, Sharon, lol! I’m a pantser who also had to write a query and synopsis for my WIP—terrifying for people like us! I have Debra’s book GMC on my desk by my computer and can’t write without it! I actually got to meet Debra Dixon at our local writers chapter a couple years ago and got my book signed by her—wonderful lady 🙂 So I feel your pain, but I read the query and know it was very good 🙂
    Great post!

  2. This is great, Sharon! I’m a pantser, too, and I really hate synopsis writing. I’m revising an old story right now, and I want to have a loose outline (even though the first draft was complete, it’s changing a lot now). This helps a lot – thanks!

  3. Sharon,

    I have to giggle. I am a plotter/pantzer. I know the beginning and the end. I’m just not sure how they get there. Trust me, I’m not liking the rewriting process, because being a pantzer takes your characters where they want to go…and sometimes that is not good for the story. Like you, I found that out the hard way. This time, This book…things will be plotted out, and I won’t deviate from the outline in my head, no matter what “They” want!

  4. Great tips! I think each type I write a synopsis or query I go about it a different way…but I’m keeping this list to add to my collection. Never hurts to have other avenues to explore. Thanks.

  5. Fantastic tips–and as I was reading your questions, I was answering them in my head to make sure I have all that covered.

    I’m keeping these nine questions.
    Thank you!

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