Editing the first draft – Write a descriptive summary of your plot – step 6/7

Hello! For those of you who have just arrived, this post is part 6/7 in my ‘editing the first draft’ action plan. You can find links to the other sections below, once the post is live.

  1. Print it off.
  2. Have a preliminary read through and cut out any initial ‘waffle’ that doesn’t serve the scene and overall plot.
  3. Create ‘character sketches’.
  4. Create a ‘scene list’.
  5. Using the printed draft and the scene list, assess each scene in line with a ‘scene/sequel’ framework.
    5a. Cull any further waffle. Reorder scenes where necessary.
    5b. Add in scenes/notes for key details that may have been missed first time around.
  6. Write a descriptive summary of the entire plot, from start to finish.
  7. Face the second draft with a new-found confidence that you will be able to write and edit with more focus and clarity.

6. Write a descriptive summary of your entire plot, from start to finish

To recap very briefly what we’ve covered so far in these posts, we’ve created a simple scene list from our printed drafts and from this simple scene list we’ve created a more in-depth scene plan that nailed the purpose and structure of each individual scene. Brilliant. This is probably enough for a lot of you to sit back down and start tackling the second draft. However, there is one extra step I found really helped me to get everything clear in my own mind – writing an extended summary of my entire plot from start to finish.

For this summary, I didn’t follow any frameworks or worksheets, I simply used my scene list and a word document to spew (I mean summarise!) everything I had planned so far onto a page. The summary has no dialogue and is simply a description and explanation of everything important that happens, in order.

The summary is very similar to a ‘synopsis’, used to pitch your novel to editors and agents and defined by Writers Digest as follows:

‘The synopsis supplies key information about your novel (plot, theme, characterization, setting), while also showing how these coalesce to form the big picture. Quickly tell what your novel is about without making the editor or agent read the novel in its entirety.’

However, I am hesitant to use the word because at this stage we are using the summary purely for our own planning purposes. Plus, my novel summary ended up being about 8 pages long and pretty rambling – whereas, with the time-pressures and overload of submissions, you are often advised to keep your synopsis focused and to the point.

Although we aren’t writing a ‘synopsis’ to sell our stories at this stage, here and here are a couple of links that have a few examples of the type of approach I took when writing my summary. These examples are briefer and don’t summarise every scene like I am suggesting we do, but you can see the loose and free approach to the writing. To simplify, the sort of thing we are looking for is a more detailed version of

‘This happens because of this, and X reacts this way and causes this. X faces this decision and chooses this which pushes Y away who then does this….’ and so on and so forth until you get to your dramatic conclusion!

The benefits of writing a summary for me were:

  • It allowed me to look at my story as a whole, rather than focusing on scenes in isolation. Obviously, it’s paramount that we do drill down into the detail of each scene (hence why I’ve spent a good few blog posts doing so) but it is equally important that your scenes work together towards the collective story goal. Novels are so long it’s often easy to forget things, get tunnel vision and lose sight of the bigger picture.
  • It made my story much clearer in my mind, which means that when I redraft, I have a clear idea of what I am aiming for.


As I mentioned before, this step is optional, but I recommend doing it to anyone and everyone who will listen! However, whether you have or not, we are coming to the end of our editing plan, which means the starting line of our second draft is in sight (there aint no rest for a writer, huh?!). I think you will all agree that this is a cause for celebration, so how about heading over to the final Step, Step 7 for a little bonus post I’ve written for this very special occasion! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


6 thoughts on “Editing the first draft – Write a descriptive summary of your plot – step 6/7

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