Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

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

Sunday, July 09, 2006

How to ... write a synopsis

Leastways, this is how I did it!

I'm assuming you've finished the book and you now want to attract an editor? You've got your glass of wine, the CD player on, your foodie nibble of choice ... ?

You are now ready to write the synopsis.

I write category romance so that's what I shall concentrate on. Mills & Boon like a short synopsis. Two pages is fine. One page is better! And it's tough to do - particularly when you've already written the entire story and it's full of wonderful bits you just want to share. But, you are going to be *firm* with yourself.

Grab yourself a large pad of paper and scribble down all the big scenes. The 'And then ...' method is great because it stops you filling in too much detail. Don't worry too much about this stage of things. These are merely your notes. No one will see them ....

Next it helps if you understand what an editor is looking for when they read a synopsis.

They want to know:

- If what you've written is appropriate for the line you're submitting to.

- If you inspire confidence that you know what you're doing.

- If you've got enough story to fill the pages.

- If there's something a little bit 'special' about what you're giving them. That's the 'X' factor.

Now you're on to your headings. Give yourself a page per heading.


Depending on the story - this could be a simple statement about when and where the story is set or it could be an attention grabbing sentence. Your choice! Take your time. Play about with your options.


Introduce your main characters. Keep it simple. State facts. Be very selective about what you include. It probably doesn't matter if your heroine is blonde, but it might be worth mentioning if it's a wig she wears to cover her baldness ... (Though that might be a tricky sell!! *g*)


A very little bit about where they've come from. Keep it really tight. Again state facts.


The situation that brings them together and the reason the story doesn't stop there! What's keeping two people, who clearly should be together, apart??


This is the bulk of your 'And thens ...'. What happens. List the scenes. Don't keep secrets.


If you've got enough plot to sustain the book you'll have new conflicts to put in here. Keep it specific. An editor will want to know there's enough substance to your story. What's still keeping your hero and heroine apart? Start pulling the threads of your story together.


Everything changes. Tell the editor what happens!


Nice big dramatic finish. Pull together all the loose ends in a great final 'happy-ever-after' paragraph.

And that's it! Well, almost. You now have to hone the thing into a smooth bit of prose. Take your time. Tighten and polish. Use the strongest words possible. And then print it out and place it on top of your manuscript. Deep breath ... and send it out.

If you look at my 'selling' synopsis below you'll see how I used these building blocks to put it together. I'm sure there are better synopses out there - but it was good enough to make an editor ask for the rest of my manuscript. And, honestly, that's all you need!


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