One of my projects this spring has been writing a novel synopsis. It’s the first time that I’ve done this and I realized when I started drafting it that on some level I’d never expected to reach this point: now that I had, I had no idea what I was doing.

As I often say in my dayjob life, the lovely thing about the Internet is how much information you can find on anything you might care to know about–and the terrible thing about the Internet is the same. All the same, I put together what seemed like a reasonably consistent scenario for what a synopsis should look like and how to write one, drafted it, sent it off to one of my writing groups, and am now in the process of revising it in response to their feedback.

That all makes the process sound very simple, and it is simple, but also difficult. You discover things about the book while trying to summarize it this way; at least, I do, though perhaps it’s different for someone who’s on their fifth or tenth novel rather than their first. I identified a few lingering holes concerning character motivation and plot, and found a way to incorporate a development that didn’t occur to me until the third or fourth revision pass on the manuscript.

Years ago, I went on a camping trip on the Washington coast. The park had a forest between the campground and the ocean, and then a large dune between the forest and the ocean. During the trip I went for a walk in the forest alone, threading narrow paths between clusters of Sitka spruce and occasionally getting turned around as my sense of direction failed me. At last I ascended the dune and could look back on the thick forest behind me. Somewhere among those trees was the campsite where I’d started out.

I’m sure the metaphor here is glaringly obvious, but I tend to remember that moment when I’m this stage of a project. At some point I’ll be done, although not as quickly as I’d like to be.