Writing Another Synopsis

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Finally. The moment I have been waiting for (for nearly two years now) has arrived. Harlequin has announced a pitch contest for the Harlequin American Romance line! I am so excited. I woke up yesterday morning and for some reason all I wanted to do was check the forum just in case. And there it was. Must be my sixth sense, huh? J

Anyway. You may wonder why I have waited all this time instead of submitting the old fashioned way. The answer is simple. First, I need some sort of deadline to drive me to submit and a self-imposed deadline just isn’t enough. And second, I love fast results and the wait for feedback on a normal submission is excruciating for me. Basically, I’m hard work. Just ask my husband.

The pitch has been announced and the requirement is possibly the scariest one I’ve come across yet. All you send in to enter is a one-page, double-spaced synopsis. So, I have about 250 words to tell a 55,000 word story in. Yeah. Right.

I’m not going to lie. I am terrified. It just seems so short, so small. Such a small sample with absolutely no second chance. No second piece of work to fall back on. This 250 or so words has to be perfect.

I have read (somewhere, I can’t remember where so forgive me for not crediting the source) that a single-page synopsis is more of a ‘big blurb’. I’d like to think I’m good at writing blurbs. I could be wrong. Later, after I post this, I am going to head over to the pitch workshop with Winnie Griggs on the Harlequin forum and see if we are allowed to post our entries there to be looked at by Winnie. Probably not, but it never hurts to ask. In the meantime, I have found a couple of good sources for writing a short synopsis online. I’ve read through a thousand blogs and articles, mind you, but only two stand out as particularly helpful since they list what should go into a short synopsis.

The first, by Deborah Hale (http://www.deborahhale.com/Suitcase11.htm), is geared directly at romance.  Deborah lists the following as essential for a short synopsis (I’m only going to give you the name of the element, for examples, you’ll have to check out her web site):

1.      Hook Sentence
2.      Heroine Goal/Motivation
3.      Hero Goal/Motivation
4.      Situation
5.      Budding Attraction
6.      Non-Physical Attributes that Attract
7.      Complicating Events
8.      Emotional Complication/Internal Conflict
9.      Black Moment
10.  Life Lesson/Character Growth
11.  Happy Ending

The second is part of a lecture series by Lisa Gardener called Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis: A Series of Ten Lectures (http://lisagardner.com/wp-gardner/wp-content/themes/lisagardner/downloads/toolbox/synopsis_pdfs/lecture7.pdf). Lisa discusses two types of synopsis, one for a character-driven story and one for a plot-driven story. Romances tend to be character-driven, so that is the outline I plan to use when writing my synopsis. According to Lisa, a short synopsis must include (again, see the link for more detail):

1.      Hook
2.      Internal Conflict
3.      External Conflict
4.      Hero and Heroine Work Together
5.      Intimacy
6.      Morning After
7.      Hero and heroine Work Together Again
8.      Showdown/Black Moment
9.      Resolution

So which one is the best one to write my synopsis? I honestly couldn’t say. I’m still reeling at the thought of condensing my entire story into so few words. They seem to have a few common elements, so I think I’ll use a combination of both.

Do you have a system or checklist or a particular article or blog post which helps you write one-page synopses? If so, I’d love to hear about it.


  1. I'm terrible at following formulae, so sadly I'm no help. When I was researching how to write a synopsis, someone said to write 6 paragraphs. For some reason that helped - although it creates 1 single spaced synopsis. I'd have to cut that in half!

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the luck, I'll need it.

    Coming from a science background, I'm actually bestat following a formula, problem is there's really no such thing as 'the formula'. Harlequin is running a pitch workshop, so I'm taking part in that. Hopefully that will steer me in the right direction.


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