It's time to revisit, in detail, writing your summary. I often talk to people who tell me "I get started writing but it never gets going, my mind wanders," and when I ask them if they write a summary they always ask me "wha?" This is how important the summary is: it's nigh fucking impossible to write a full story without one.

 

With no summary, you look like this when writing.



  

Some people can do it. I can, but the stories I write without one always need heavy editing for continuity. Shorter short stories often don't need one, but it always helps. If you want to write a novella, novel, or longer-form short story you need one.

I've told you before it's a small percentage of length compared to you finished work. For the following, these are the percentages of the total length of the actual story a summary should be:
  • long short story: .03%   
  • novella:  0.025%
  • novel: 0.01%
Let's assume you write your first drafts in Times New Roman, 11pt font, double spaced, with default/stadard margins, 0.5" indentation of the first sentence, and 0pts before and after every paragraph. Not doing that? START! Using that here are some examples of length of a summary: 

  • Long form short story, 75 pages long: 2-2.25 pages 
  • Novella, 150 pages long: 2.5 pages 
  • Novel 300 pages long: 3 pages 

The first rule of summaries is they are to be written in Times New Roman 11pt font, single spaced, with defualt.standard margins, 0.5" indentation of the first line of a pragaraph, and 0pts before/after each paragraph. Single space always! You'll find you need the room.

The second rule is you only ever write the summary when you have decided the genre of your story, the basic arc, and who the maian protagonist/anatgonists will be. This step comes between inspiration and creating character summaries. This is vastly important because you need to know the general gist of your story before you can create the character biographies and before you know what secondary characters you will need. It will also tell you anything you need to research. Make no mistake, by the time we're done you may have added or deleted protagonists or antagonists.

 

If it feels like this just write down the percentages and always have a calculator on hand 


  
 

Hopefully if you're here, you've read my works. If so, I hope you read The Dryad. If not, read it now. That way, the following example will make sense. What you are going to read is a writer's summary. This is not what I woud give an agent or publisher. It's what I used to write the short story. You'll see several notes written into it that would help a writer, not a publisher. So here we go. 




___________________________________________________________________________ 


     Raven Keppler has inherited the identity of the Dryad. The first was her aunt, who fought Master Bloodless, a “superhero” backed by corporate America who Dryad swore was evil, and framed her as a master jewel thief. Fighting against him made her a supervillain, and the first Dryad fell into the role, using her ability to fly and talk to animals to steal jewels with her niece’s help, though she only stole from people she knew were doing wrong. This information she learned working for Samuel McBride, a wealthy hotelier.
     Raven’s parents abandoned her when she started to show the same talents as her aunt Annette. Raven was raised by her as a sidekick until the woman was killed by Master Bloodless, who later turned to the dark side and was defeated by Gryphon, though his body was never found. Rave has grown up trying to reject her aunt’s ways, becoming a personal assistant with a menagerie everywhere she goes.
     Her father shows up and tells her Dryad stole the family’s jewels (he he) and it’s in a safety deposit box. The key is being held by none other than James McBride- Raven’s boss and the son of Annette’s lover/boss Sam McBride. Her father threatens to reveal her identity to the police unless she steals the key to the box. 
     She tries but realizes it must be done at night, and twice as she’s prowling she is stopped by Gryphon, a sexy and mysterious superhero, who is actually her boss James.
     START STORY: Desperate and scared after a serious threat from her father, Dryad uses animals to set off a bank alarm across town to distract Gryphon so she can break into her boss James McBride’s house. 
     Unfortunately, he’s home and captures her, and they have a steamy interlude. Read: explicit sex. He’s caring and not too dominating, tall, dark, and handsome, rangy build.
     She manages to escape and at home her father slaps her and tells her she must go back. He shows her he has everything lined up to give the police and puts the fear of God into her. 
     McBride shows nothing the next day and she tries to make it into his safe but is interrupted by a security guard. She uses her ability to talk to animals to hatch a plot with McBride’s dog, distracting everyone while she breaks in that night. Before she can escape the grounds with the key Gryphon shows up and captures her, but she drops the key in a hiding spot.
     He is tall, blonde, and built like a middleweight boxer, and they have an interlude while he holds her captive. Read: explicit sex. He is rough and dominating, and she is happy. She again manages to escape in the morning to work. 
     James knows the key is to a safety deposit box which contains a map of Dryad’s. He can’t read it, or understand what’s waiting there, but he knows the new Dryad desperately wants it back. He plots to lure her back. When Raven picks up the papers and has a conversation with his dog, James is shocked to realize she is Dryad. He decides to follow her after work, and spies her father who jogs his memory, but James can’t place him yet.
     He changes into Gryphon when Dryad goes out, he hides out at the bank, waiting. He watches, impressed as she makes her way inside, and he waits until she opens the box before he pounces as Gryphon. 
     They struggle, and as they do he realizes she can read the map. He agrees to let her go, if they have sex. They have an interlude. Read: they have explicit sex. He is desperate to have her trust him, and so he reveals he is James McBride. Scared, she flees with the map after tying him up. He escapes and follows her. She uncovers the old Dryad’s fortress and she finds the money. Master Bloodless arrives to try and kill her, but Gryphon saves her, and kills Master Bloodless.
     Raven realizes it’s her father and mourns her life as Gryphon discovers not money, but a confession and proof that Master Bloodless was the criminal that had been stealing jewels all along. He amassed a fortune and framed his sister the Dryad, robbing her of her legacy and life.
     Shocked, Raven is trembling as Gryphon realizes the first Dryad was a relative. He swears to her that he will make sure the world knows the truth, and then he confesses that he loves her, but it’s up to her to trust him. A month later Dryad’s name has been cleared, Master Bloodless’ pilfered jewels have been anonymously returned, and Raven decides to confess to James that she is the new Dryad. He tells her he knew all along, that he’s loved her for a long time, and they make love.
     END STORY
     The Dryad and gryphon will team up, get married, become business partners, start a family, but continue to fight crime, living hapapily ever after.


___________________________________________________________________________ 



Reading that you can see it's your own personal Cliff's Notes. No specific dialogue is included, characters are briefly described. It began before the start of the story with explanations ofthe past and went to the end. Copy and paste it if you like, if formatted correctly single spaced it's 1.5 pages long, appropriate for The Dryad.

 

If you find youself saying "I still don't see what you did there," read on

  

Now let's go through the steps to writing a summary.

Step 1: Start at the beginning of the plot, not where you want the novel to start. If it's a mystery, start with the crime. If it's a romance start with the #1 protagonists basic life history or the event that will send her on the jounrey that ends in romance. If it's a horror start with how the antagonist was created. If it's a coming-of-age start with childhood of the protagonist. If it's an adventure start with the history of "the elixir' (aka artificat) the hero must chase/gain/use to defeat the antagonist. Start with all the background information for the plot and the subplot. If it's a romance with a mystery subplot you'll need the #1 protagonists catalyst event as well as the crime noted.

Step 2: Keep it brief. Write it in present-tense. All summaries are written this way, not stories. Use adjectives sparingly, describe only the action that occurs and important notes of characters/items/places that figure into the plot.

Step 3: Check to make sure you're keeping it brief. When you've written a few paragraphs, read it aloud and imagine you're using it to explain the plot to a friend. If anything sounds extraneous, delete it or re-write it. Parsimony is important.

Step 4: Write it to the end. Not the story's end necessarily, write it to very end. Maybe you're writing a heroic epic and it tells the story of a young hero who will someday be a king. Great, write your summry to the days he is a king and explain if his reign was a good or bad one. If a romance write it to the protagonists' marriage, family, and career goals. If a horror write it until the effects of the conflict die down for all survivors. This is impotant. If you're going to write a sequel, this is the first thing you'll look back on, and it will also give you an idea of the tone of the ending, if sad and morose, hopeful, or joyous.

Step 5: Now decide where the story starts and ends. Look over what you wrote and find the best place. Make a note of START STORY and END STORY as needed. Make them bold or capitalized so mistakes can be avoided. Remember anything before or after can be mentioned in the story, but it will be be brief.

Step 6: Edit it. Does it make sense? Are spelling errors absent? If you read it aloud to a friend, do they understand it all?

Step 7: Highlight the first mention of major characters. Remember 2 protagonists for every antagonist. Check to make sure you have that ratio. If not, you need to fix it. Choose 2 different colors, say pink for the protagonists and orange for the antagonist.

Step 8: Highlight the first mention of secondary characters. There's no maximum or minimum here, it's up to you, but you'll want to keep track of them. Sometims in writing a minor character becomes major. A good bet is if any character is mentioned as often as the secondary protagonist or the antagonist, they are going to become an additional major character. If so, go back and change their color according to if they are aligned with the protagonists or the antagonist. Keep that ratio of 2:1 protagonist:antagonist!

Step 9: Note all the conflict. There will be external conflict (conflict between the protagonist and the outside world furthering the plot). Color those sentences red. You should see external conflict appear as at least 1 sentence for every paragraph between the START STORY and END STORY. Then there is internal conflict (conflict between any major character that furthers their development). You won't see much of this in a summary, maybe 1-2 mentions per page. If you see any more than 2 internal conflicts per  page think of how you can turn the extra into external conflict to further the plot, or consider dropping them. Color them blue.

Step 10: By now you have done lots of editing, so again go over and make sure it all makes sense. If you have a poor protagonist to antagonist ratio, fix it. If you have secondary characters appearing as often as the 2nd protagonist or antagonist, why aren't they a major character? If you have no external conflict, you have no story, so put it in, at least 1 sentence of it for every paragraph between START STORY and END STORY. If you have more than 2 internal conflicts per page, why isn't the extra removed or made external? Additionally you will have some idea of things to research now. If your summary tells you it will be a lot of research, consider changing it to something you know better.

 

It's that easy? Yup, follow those 10 steps and you never go wrong.    Credit


  

Now after these ten steps, your summary should look like this:



___________________________________________________________________________



          Raven Keppler has inherited the identity of the Dryad. The first was her aunt, who fought Master Bloodless, a “superhero” backed by corporate America who Dryad swore was evil, and framed her as a master jewel thief. Fighting against him made her a supervillain, and the first Dryad fell into the role, using her ability to fly and talk to animals to steal jewels with her niece’s help, though she only stole from people she knew were doing wrong. This information she learned working for Samuel McBride, a wealthy hotelier.
     Raven’s parents abandoned her when she started to show the same talents as her aunt Annette. Raven was raised by her as a sidekick until the woman was killed by Master Bloodless, who later turned to the dark side and was defeated by Gryphon, though his body was never found. Rave has grown up trying to reject her aunt’s ways, becoming a personal assistant with a menagerie everywhere she goes.
     Her father shows up and tells her Dryad stole the family’s jewels (he he) and it’s in a safety deposit box. The key is being held by none other than James McBride- Raven’s boss and the son of Annette’s lover/boss Sam McBride. Her father threatens to reveal her identity to the police unless she steals the key to the box. 
     She tries but realizes it must be done at night, and twice as she’s prowling she is stopped by Gryphon, a sexy and mysterious superhero, who is actually her boss James.
     START STORY: Desperate and scared after a serious threat from her father, Dryad uses animals to set off a bank alarm across town to distract Gryphon so she can break into her boss James McBride’s house. 
     Unfortunately, he’s home and captures her, and they have a steamy interlude. Read: explicit sex. He’s caring and not too dominating, tall, dark, and handsome, rangy build.
     She manages to escape and at home her father slaps her and tells her she must go back. He shows her he has everything lined up to give the police and puts the fear of God into her
     McBride shows nothing the next day and she tries to make it into his safe but is interrupted by a security guard. She uses her ability to talk to animals to hatch a plot with McBride’s dog, distracting everyone while she breaks in that night. Before she can escape the grounds with the key Gryphon shows up and captures her, but she drops the key in a hiding spot.
     He is tall, blonde, and built like a middleweight boxer, and they have an interlude while he holds her captive. Read: explicit sex. He is rough and dominating, and she is happy. She again manages to escape in the morning to work. 
     James knows the key is to a safety deposit box which contains a map of Dryad’s. He can’t read it, or understand what’s waiting there, but he knows the new Dryad desperately wants it back. He plots to lure her back. When Raven picks up the papers and has a conversation with his dog, James is shocked to realize she is Dryad. He decides to follow her after work, and spies her father who jogs his memory, but James can’t place him yet.
     He changes into Gryphon when Dryad goes out, he hides out at the bank, waiting. He watches, impressed as she makes her way inside, and he waits until she opens the box before he pounces as Gryphon
     They struggle, and as they do he realizes she can read the map. He agrees to let her go, if they have sex. They have an interlude. Read: they have explicit sex. He is desperate to have her trust him, and so he reveals he is James McBride. Scared, she flees with the map after tying him up. He escapes and follows her. She uncovers the old Dryad’s fortress and she finds the money. Master Bloodless arrives to try and kill her, but Gryphon saves her, and kills Master Bloodless.
     Raven realizes it’s her father and mourns her life as Gryphon discovers not money, but a confession and proof that Master Bloodless was the criminal that had been stealing jewels all along. He amassed a fortune and framed his sister the Dryad, robbing her of her legacy and life.
     Shocked, Raven is trembling as Gryphon realizes the first Dryad was a relative. He swears to her that he will make sure the world knows the truth, and then he confesses that he loves her, but it’s up to her to trust him. A month later Dryad’s name has been cleared, Master Bloodless’ pilfered jewels have been anonymously returned, and Raven decides to confess to James that she is the new Dryad. He tells her he knew all along, that he’s loved her for a long time, and they make love.
     END STORY
     The Dryad and gryphon will team up, get married, become business partners, start a family, but continue to fight crime, living hapapily ever after.



___________________________________________________________________________




And you're done! Next we get into character biographies in detail. You can see now why that step comes after this one. Often writing your summary you will add or delete main characters, and you'll never know your protagonists & antagonists until you write this.

 

Plus all the pretty colors will blow your mind.


  

What you have is your ultimate guide. You've planned out the basic start, middle, end, and have most of the tools to start writing. You just have to write the character bios, the outline, do some research, and then decide conflict pacing. You're almost there!