This month, I’m working on a sweet, contemporary romance novel which I’m proposing for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. I won an editorial critique in the Brenda Novak auction and will be submitting in October. It’s also conference season and I’m attending the Seattle RWA Fall Conference where I’ll have the chance to meet with some agents to pitch the story.
As a part of the Harlequin proposal package, I need to include a synopsis. I’ve written synopsis for my middle grade and young adult, but I wasn’t quite sure how to write one for a romance so I signed up for author, Jennifer Archer’s class at Margie Lawson Academy.
If you don’t know about Margie Lawson Academy, this is a fabulous place for writers to take classes from not only Margie Lawson, but also some amazing writers. You can find the whole listing of upcoming classes here.
What is a synopsis? A synopsis is a marketing device intended to entice an agent, editor or marketing person to ask to read your entire manuscript. It includes the story hook as well as the key elements in your story’s plot.
For me, the key things I’ve learned in the class are:
- When writing a synopsis for a romance (any genre–including YA and NA), be sure to connect all the plot points to how they impact the romance. The external events should affect the characters’ internal struggles and cause their character growth. This was the biggest point of weakness for me in the synopsis I had written before the class. I included the plot points of the story, but I did not include how each of those events impacted the relationship between the characters.
- Conflict is everything–there must be both an external and internal conflict for your main character. For example, in Cheryl Strayed book’s WILD, her external goal is to climb the Pacific Coast Trail, while her internal goal is to move through the grief of her mother. Every event in the story pushes against these two goals, forcing her character to grow and change.
- Finally, cause and effect is key. The plot points form the structure for the synopsis and they are linked by cause and effect. This happens, and this is the effect, this happens and this is the effect. In a story, these cause and effect sequencing will also include the character’s internal reaction, but in a synopsis, the focus is on the plot of the story and the internal thoughts of a character are not included.
When I began the class, I wasn’t sold on the idea of writing the synopsis before I began the book. I thought it might take the fun out of the discovery process of the first draft. But instead, I found that by working and tightening the synopsis, it makes drafting the story a lot easier. I have a map to follow and I can see clearly how to tighten a chapter to zero in on the focus of the conflict. Plus, instead of writing hundreds of drafts which I try to figure out the story’s plot, I do all of that in my synopsis before I even begin writing. Very effective process!
Contest Opportunity: Also, if you are interested in submitting to Harlequin, the annual contest, So You Think You Can Write opens on Monday, September 22, 2014. Polish up those opening chapters, decide what line you’d fit best, and send them in. You never know–you might just get a request for a full and find yourself one of the finalists! Details are here.