Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And now ... the Synopsis

Or the synopiss as I frequently mis-type it.

Tagged by Trish Wylie - I take up the challenge. And what did I ever do to her???

First off, I don't know anyone who likes writing them. They are, without doubt, the blackest of black arts. Best approached with a full glass of wine and the determination of a rottweiler. But, it's an unavoidable task the minute you decide you want to 'sell' your writing - so you may as well get on with it!

These days my synopsis is different. I need it to give my editor confidence that I'm going to produce something worthy of the slot I'm pencilled in for. Something that she knows she can sell. Trish, Ally and I all share Jenny Hutton as our editor and we often send her pictures because it makes her laugh. She knows I haven't written the book, that the ideas are fluid, that I may change a goodly part of it ... But, I'm passed the 'sale' post and I think it's different if you're not - yet!

For a start, you have probably got the finished book in front of you, double-spaced and held together with a serviceable elastic band. You *know* what happens - so make sure you tell her.

So, feeling very brave, here is the synopsis that helped sell my breakthrough book 'For Our Children's Sake'. It's not perfect. I'd change lots of it if I wrote it now, but it worked!


An embryo mix-up at a London fertility clinic is the human tragedy that leads to a DESPERATE MARRIAGE six years later.

When blood tests reveal widower DOMINIC GRAYLING’s daughter to be rhesus negative he knows Abigail cannot be his biological child. The horrifying truth that his wife Georgina died from blood clotting problems giving birth to another couple’s baby is taken into another dimension when he learns their natural child is alive and living with her widowed ‘mother’ LUCY GRAYFORD.

Lucy’s life was rocked when husband Michael finally succumbed to leukaemia; her one consolation is their daughter Chloe. Eighteen months later Lucy has returned to her parents’ home in Dorset and begun teaching again in the local primary school.

Into this hard-won peace millionaire businessman Dominic erupts with his life changing truth. He sees the solution as obvious – a platonic marriage of convenience for the sake of their respective children – and faced with impossible choices Lucy reluctantly agrees.

Arriving in London with Chloe, Lucy starts to build a relationship with Abby. The girls adapt quickly to their parents engagement but Lucy struggles to adapt to Dominic’s elegant and meticulously tidy home – and to Dominic himself, to whom she is becoming increasingly drawn. The intrusive presence of Dominic’s in-laws further complicate matters with their over-indulgence of Abby – who they still believe to be their natural granddaughter - and blatant desire for their niece Fiona to take Georgina’s place as Dominic’s wife.

Lucy’s love for Abby grows swiftly and she sees haunting echoes of her late husband in the little girl’s smile – just as she can see a look of Dominic’s dead wife in Chloe. As the wedding day approaches Chloe and Abby, unaware of any mix-up, are excited at the prospect of becoming sisters. Inextricably linked to Dominic because of the girls, Lucy knows the marriage is inescapable despite her growing unease at marrying a man she’s come to love but whose heart, she knows regretfully, is buried with his beautiful late wife.

Their wedding is an impersonal, civic affair. For both of them the contrast from their earlier marriages is marked. Feeling all the pain of Dominic’s misery, Lucy wants to comfort him and when he begins to kiss her she knows this is something she can do for him – for them both. “Just for tonight” they agree. Their lovemaking is tender and Lucy allows herself to hope for a happy future. But her feelings are completely misinterpreted by her new husband. Catching a tear on Lucy’s face convinces Dominic he will never replace Michael and he backs away.

Thinking that Dominic regrets their lovemaking, Lucy tries to adapt her thoughts to the platonic marriage she’d agreed to. Their life as a family unit begins but the strain of living in close proximity to an unfailingly polite but distant Dominic is increasingly difficult. Under the skilful manipulation of Fiona, Lucy is brought to believe Georgina is irreplaceable in Dominic’s life. His guilt at his wife’s death – she underwent the fertility treatment against medical advice – is another barrier. Increasingly he spends more and more time away from home shattering Lucy’s fragile hopes that a real loving marriage can heal the pain of their pasts.

Having put her depression down to the problems in her marriage Lucy is stunned to discover she’s pregnant. It’s the ultimate irony they should have created a child together just as Dominic decides he can no longer carry on living in this way. His suggestion is they live largely separate lives. His plan is to buy a country house for Lucy and the girls with a separate annex for him to stay in during weekend visits. The sudden revelation he is finding their parting as difficult as she is gives her the courage to fight for their future as a couple and as a family. Unbelievably he discovers Lucy loves him the way he has come to love her and everything they’d ever hoped for in their lives is within their grasp.

That's it! It's short because that's what Harlequin Mills & Boon ask for. Trish is absolutely right when she says you need to do your research.

I'll blog about how I did it another day - because I've still got my novella to write. And what will I give my mum next year if I don't finish it!


  • At 10:33 pm, Blogger Candy Minx said…

    Wow congratualtions on such an ambitious blog and all your inspiration.

    Good luck,

  • At 6:29 am, Blogger Liz Fielding said…

    Natasha, I went to a synposis workshop at the RNA conference last year and apparently (half way through I realised what was wrong with the wip and my mind went off somewhere on its on) the thing to do is write down --

    This happens (ie, Cinderelle meets PC in the woods)
    and then,
    and then,
    and then

    until you get to the end. And then you stitch it all together in proper sentences. Sounded good to me, although I haven't tried it. Editors have learned not to ask me for synopses. They're just grateful to get a book.

  • At 6:29 am, Blogger Liz Fielding said…

    Actually, it was the year before. Time is passing way too quickly...


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