Thursday, December 04, 2014

Synopsis Tips from an Expert

The majority of my clients view writing a synopsis as a necessary evil.  They don’t like writing them, but they know they have to.  There are one or two who might give away their firstborn children if it meant getting out of writing a synopsis, but there actually is a handful that seem to like writing them.  Then there’s Melissa Cutler. She does workshops on how to write a synopsis and openly declares her love of writing them.  And, I gotta tell you, her love shines through in the synopses she writes.  They’re vibrant and entertaining and they not only maintain the reader’s interest, they make the reader want more.

Melissa was kind enough to share with us her top tips for synopsis writing as well as the synopsis for her most recent release, The Mistletoe Effect, so you can see how a great synopsis is done.  If you’re as inspired to read more as Melissa’s St. Martin’s editor and I were, I’m including some handy-dandy buy links at the end of the post.  I hope you enjoy!

-Jessica Alvarez

Melissa's Top Tips for Synopsis Writing1. Don't include any secondary characters' names if you can help it.2. Don't include backstory in the first few paragraphs.3. Write the synopsis in the same hook-heavy language and tone as a back cover blurb--in your written voice--because that's what your proposal is actually selling: a hook, the tone, and your voice.4. Contrary to what editors and agents say they want, don't "just tell me what the book is about". Only use plot points and backstory as supporting details to explain characters' emotional arcs. This means you're not utilizing very much plot. 

The Mistletoe Effect: Synopsis
Melissa Cutler

Anyone who thinks shotgun weddings disappeared along with the rest of San Antonio’s Wild West history has never stood in Carina Briscoe’s boots. But there she is with a bouquet in hand, in front of a crowd of hundreds, standing next to the bad boy she’s crushed on since her awkward teenage, and all because her overbearing family insists the show must go on after Carina’s sister and her fiancĂ© call it quits and flee the altar.

After years of fighting for their hotel’s success in the competitive market of destination weddings, the Briscoe family is banking on the publicity surrounding their month-long fiftieth anniversary celebration of the hotel’s Mistletoe Effect—a perfect record of divorce-free marriages during the month of December—to secure a coveted spot in Wedding World magazine’s annual “Best of the Best” issue. But when Carina’s superstitious and not-quite-all-there granny decries that if a wedding doesn’t happen, then the Mistletoe Effect will be jinxed, the rest of the family springs into action. They’re determined that nothing, not even a bride and groom’s imploding relationship, will interfere with their company’s future.

Carina has never been good about standing up to her family, and with them making her feel like the fate of the business rests in her hands, she doesn’t see any choice but to agree to the charade. She comforts herself with the fact that it’s only an act, not a real wedding on paper. And besides, maybe playing along will help smooth things out if and when she finally gets the courage to tell her family about her dream to quit her job at the resort and strike out on her own.

Stable manager James Decker doesn’t know much about weddings, but he does know that Best Man duties definitely do not include standing in for the groom—even if said Best Man harbors a secret soft spot for the Maid of Honor, who also happens to be his boss’s daughter. But one look at the panicked expression in Carina’s big brown eyes as her family tries to fake-marry her off to any willing male with a pulse, and he’s powerless to refuse.

Playing bride and groom with Decker at the lavish reception that follows is way more fun than Carina expected. How could she not enjoy a night of dancing and laughing with the sexy cowboy-in-residence whom she’d never wound up the courage to flirt with, much less get her hands on? But when their harmless evening of jinx prevention ends with a scorching, sleepless night in the honeymoon suite, Carina knows she’s in way over her head.

For years, she’s dreamt of putting some breathing room between herself and her family by quitting the family business and leaving the resort to live on her own in the city, but as holiday festivities celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Mistletoe Effect go into full swing, she and Decker find themselves swept into even more jinx prevention duties…and sheet-sizzling, sleepless nights.

Haunted by a bad boy past that won’t let him go, Decker has poured years of blood and sweat into building a career-launching resume. Briscoe Ranch Resort was supposed to be a stepping stone to bigger and brighter plans, but embarking on a torrid affair with the daughter of his hotel baron boss just might ruin everything. The trouble is, he can’t keep his hands or his heart away from Carina no matter how much he fights it.

Carina had no idea that falling hard for a cowboy would be just the ticket to bring her out of her shell. She’s never felt so free or strong as when she’s in Decker’s arms or stealing secret kisses from him in the stable, despite daily dealings with her pushy father, her superstitious granny, and the Texas-sized list of duties she has at the resort as Christmas marches closer. Decker brings out the best in her, and before long, she has enough courage to stand up to her pushy family and pursue her own neglected dreams.

Decker started out in his fake marriage with the goal of helping Carina gain the courage to pursue her dream career, just as he was pursuing his, but he never could have imagined that he’d fall in love with her in the process—or that the pursuit of her dreams would be the one thing that would end their relationship after she receives a life-changing career opportunity thousands of miles away from the dream job Decker is all set to start after the holidays. He refuses to be one more person in her life holding her back, and so he doesn’t see any choice but to let her go.

He quits his job at the resort and she quits hers, both determined to support the other’s dreams by letting them go so they can spread their wings and fly. The problem is, as soon as Decker quits, he realizes that his dream has changed. A life with the woman he loves is more important than a career, so he decides to follow Carina to California and turns down his new job. Little does he know that Carina has reached the same conclusion, and has turned down her new job in order to follow Decker. After all, what good is a dream career if you can’t share it with the person you love?

Decker and Carina’s final jinx prevention duty is at the resort’s annual Christmas Eve vow renewal ceremony being held for fifty-years’-worth of couples who’d had December weddings at the resort. Decker comes armed with an engagement ring and a plan for the woman he has fallen head-over-boot heels in love with. But he’s not the only one with a plan up his sleeve to keep the couple together. With a little bit of Christmas magic and a surprise proposal from Carina’s family to bankroll both of Carina and Decker’s dream careers at the resort, this cowboy and his lady love prove that there might just be some truth to the Mistletoe Effect after all…

Barnes & Noble:

Google Play:


Cassi Carver said...

Wonderful synopsis! It really highlights your voice and the tone of the book!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Thanks for sharing! Awesome. You tied the emotion into the story too. I am so impressed and jealous ;)

Melissa Cutler said...

Thank you, Cassi.

Elizabeth, my advice would be flip the misconception about synopses being plot-driven and lead with the emotion instead, Good luck to you!

Kimberlyindy said...

Thank you for sharing Melissa. This was fantastic and doesn't make it seem as scary as it could be. And I loved the Mistletoe Effect!

Rachael D said...

You really are good at this. I already read the book, but now I want to read it again.

AJ Blythe said...

I find writing a romance synopsis easier than a cozy synopsis. The emotional arc for a romance is first and foremost, while in a cozy the murder is the primary arc. Yes, the protaganist does go through an emotional journey, but it's different to a romance. Would love any tips!! Thanks.

Unknown said...

Wow, great tips, and what a wonderful synopsis!

DLM said...

This actually exemplifies for me *exactly* why synopsis-writing is frustrating. Not only is there a very wide range of quantity requested ("three to five paragraphs" or "one page" or "three pages" and so on), but there are a number of agents I've queried who in fact specify that all characters *must* be mentioned. I know this is a sure way to clunk-ifying a synopsis. And mine is clunked, because I've seen more guidelines instructing the inclusion of characters than not. Like a lot of neurotic pre-published authors - I obey like a spanked puppy.

Then there is the reworking of the clunker for almost every single query, because of all those varying particulars in submission guidelines. It's a bit like the Biblical genealogies; "who really reads The Begats?" But The Begats are canon.

Unless they're not!

geriatricgypsy said...

Your synopsis was as much fun to read as your novels. Thank you for sharing such great information.

Uhlenbrock CPA said...

Do you want some professional Tax planning advice in San Antonio then call Uhlenbrock CPA, who is we know for its corporate tax preparation in san antonio.Call Us Now: (210) 701-1040

jacob20martin said...

Great Synopsis dear. I really enjoyed reading your post. I was looking for few online ideas to find vow renewal location and that’s how I landed on your blog. Well, few suggestions from you are also appreciated.