I discover more about myself as a writer every day that I write. Learning one's process is part of the process and it's why the rule of "writers write" holds so true. My latest discovery is this: I love the idea of the Synopsis, and I capitalize the word out of respect for its distinction, the closest thing that a writer can get to a first draft without ever actually writing one.
It really is all that you need to get started, and as I've come this far on the Writer's Journey, I've realized that the structure that I crave is inherent in the Synopsis. It gives me the confidence that I need as I dive headlong into a new project, and I know this because so far, my latest work-in-progress has quite literally blossomed from something that had existed only in the abstract universe of my mind to something traceable and real. It's very much the stencil sketch the tattoo artist uses before they add the color and the shading, the blueprints to the building, the ... you get the idea.
And wouldn't you know it that the discovery of this new and liberating tool came at a moment that was anything but liberating? When I was writing the Synopsis for the novel manuscript that I've recently completed and am querying agents about now, an exercise that forced me not only to be objective but to look at the book for what it was as it was quite literally spread out before me, I understood the absolute value of the Synopsis. I have since read that some authors use the Synopsis instead of a standard outline, and they carry this document throughout the entire process with only slight modifications here and there as they produce the manuscript all the way into the querying stage. This is indeed the writer that I have become, and trust me, it makes something out of nothing really fast.
Whether or not this "something" that comes from nothing is worth anything comes from the process as well. That is, if you have something worth writing by the time you get deep into your paragraph-per-chapter Synopsis (which is how I do it), then you'll know it by then and you can proceed with all the spontaneity and joy that comes from writing a first draft. I say, get that out of the way to make room for the real work of the coloring and the shading, and what a better time-saver then a ten or so page structural Synopsis rather than a five hundred page manuscript?
So far, I've discovered today without ever completing a first draft that my new book will be longer than the planned twenty chapters, and the book itself told me that. How did it tell me? It used the Synopsis as its mouthpiece to give me its vital stats, its characters and conflicts, its height and weight and the name that it would prefer to go by!