It took three days. But that was three solid days. Had i been at work then it would have taken a week - a couple of hours each evening plus the week-end. Now i have a condensed version of the plot, which is not exactly the map i was hoping it might be!
Under each chapter heading I wrote the following:
This allows me an at-a-glance guide to the who, where, when of each chapter and whether the characters should be holding an umbrealla or licking an ice cream. Below this i have written two to three short paragraphs on the main action and plot points. I've also dropped in little bits about character.
At this stage the synopses are based on what i have actually written, not what i wish i had written. So any ideas i've had about changing plot and character along the way i've noted down seperately (in red). I think it is important at this stage not to confuse the actual with the could be. It takes a fair bit of discipline, because every couple of sentences you think oh if i just changed that, and what if he was to just... It's natural to have those instincts and in some places i was desperate to tidy up a bit of clunky prose, but (cliche count:6) in the long run that little change to that sentence there could be a complete waste of time at this stage because you don't know yet whether that part of the story will definitely be in the second draft. You could just be dressing up a sentence for vanity and nothing more. Tempting, but think of the time you could save by being strong and resisting that urge.
The next step for me will be to read through the synopses and scrutinise the plot, looking for any holes or any explanations that are too convenient, anything that doesn't ring true. I'll make notes in the margin of anything that i think needs changing for the second draft. After that it's into the heart of the story - the characters.
Have a happy and prosperous 2011. I'll be back!