Monday, 19 September 2011

Synopsis Writing 101

Given that the Romance Writers of Australia Selling Synopsis Competition 2011 closes this Friday  ( ) I thought I’d give you a few tips about writing a synopsis for romance fiction.

Synopsis Writing 101
Writing a synopsis can seem daunting and most people dread or even fear doing it, yet it is one of the most important marketing tools for a writer. Here are a few simple rules to make it easier.

*Standard formatting for a synopsis is: double space using a 12 point readable font. Courier New is often used because it is a non-proportional font, i.e. every letter and character takes up the same space whether it’s a full stop/period (.) or the letter W.

In the days of counting words by page count, it was the font of choice. Today word counts are usually done using the computer word count tool. Times New Roman is popular, as is Arial, but you can use any font that is easy to read. Don’t just avoid fancy fonts, don’t use them! While they might look pretty, they are taxing on the eyes and we want to keep the editor as happy and relaxed as possible. 2.5 cm margins all round. Number all pages in the upper right and corner, with a header on the top left corner with: AUTHOR SURNAME/Book Title (e.g. SMITH/The Great Love Story) on each page.

*Check publisher guidelines for the number of pages. Standard synopsis length is either one or two pages, for category romance, depending on the line, or up to ten pages for single title or mainstream manuscripts.

*Print on one side of the paper only.

*Write the synopsis in the present tense. This is an industry standard and makes the reader live the story as it unfolds.

*While we should “show not tell” in our writing, a synopsis is all about telling. Tell the editor EVERYTHING - the entire story. Leaving out details in the hope that the editor will want to read won’t win you any points, and will probably cost you the loss of a contract.

 *For category romance fiction, focus on the growing relationship. The plot is secondary. For single title and mainstream, the plot is more important and all twists and turns must be stated. But no matter what genre your book is aimed at, the emotional growth is the most important part to include in a synopsis. It’s also crucial to tell us when each character realizes s/he is in love with the other.

*The first time you use the heroine or hero’s name in the synopsis, type it in CAPITAL letters. Do this only the first time.

#1--A hook that defines the general tone/plot of your story, like you'd like
to see on the back cover of your book. This could be the basic premise or theme of your story. If your book is humorous, then make this humorous. The hook does not contain description or background.

#2--Introduce the heroine and what she wants (goal). Introduce the hero and
what he wants (goal). These two can be in any order.

#3--What's throwing them together (present conflicts e.g.  jobs, mutual family
problems like they need to look after their dead sibling's children, etc)

#4--What's keeping the heroine and hero apart? (Inner emotional conflicts - past broken
relationships: Why must the heroine absolutely never fall in love again - especially with someone like the hero? And vice versa.


Without conflict there is no book!  

#5--How do the heroine and hero eventually get together (resolution). And you MUST tell the editor how everything is resolved. Everything must be tied up neatly in a satisfying way. If you can link it somehow with the opening hook so you come a full 360, all the better.

In between points 1 to 5, include the growing attraction, the blossoming relationship and character growth.

Simple, right?  With practice, it can be. Good luck!

This article can also be found on the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild Website in the articles section:

Monday, 5 September 2011

Statement: There is a Formula to Writing Romance Novels

I wish! In my former career I was a medical researcher. I have a Bachelors of Science Degree in Chemistry and Microbiology. If this magic, elusive formula existed, I would have found it many, many years ago.

BUT one can argue that there are vital ingredients for the recipe to a good category or series romance novel.

1. The hero and heroine should meet (or meet again after a long separation) within the first few pages of the novel. This should be at a point of change – when something life-changing is happening to one of them. There is no time for setting up the story – editors want the hero and heroine to meet up as soon as possible and let us see the sparks fly – the sizzling romance sparks NOT arguments!

2. The most important parts of your crafting techniques are the Emotional Obstacles (Past Conflicts) that make it seem absolutely impossible that the hero and heroine could ever be together. Romantic conflict is about emotion, not the situation. The conflict must stem from the characters themselves because of who they are and what they have lived through. If the hero and heroine have a past, this conflict must not be based on coincidence that could be resolved over a cup of coffee. e.g. the hero didn’t get the messages that heroine left for him.

3. Physical obstacles (present conflict) push the hero and heroine together so that they are always in each other’s face. The hero and heroine don’t want to fall in love – especially not with each other – but they are forced to spend time together. e.g. Heroine lives in Smalltown and loves it. Hero left and lives in Bigtown. Their brother and sister die in car accident, their son survives. The hero and heroine have joint custody. Both want to look after the child but neither wants to move.

4. After many trials, the hero and heroine will realize that they are in love with the other, they will arrive at the Black Moment, when everything seems lost and nothing can save the day. One or both characters will make a sacrifice for the other and/or change in some major way that proves their love. 

5. After the last big crisis is resolved the hero and heroine admit their love to each other and will then enter into a committed relationship.

So a formula we could extrapolate is:
hero + heroine + love conflicts + present conflicts + personal growth = Happy Ever After

The magic formula for writing romance can be summarized: Take one sympathetic heroine and one yummy hero. Add in some past conflicts with reasons they should never ever fall in love. Give them reasons to be in each other’s face all the time. Let them grow as people and maybe make a sacrifice that really hurts. Stir it together and give them a Happy Ever After.