Do's, Don'ts and Never Minds: Writing a Snazzy Synopsis

Evolution of a Synopsis

by Margaret Moore

Here are two versions of the synopsis for a book that was originally titled THE WILLING BRIDE, because it was a sequel to THE UNWILLING BRIDE. This title was changed to HERS TO COMMAND. The final title was suggested by Tracy Farrell, after my editor, Melissa Endlich, and I tossed around several suggestions.

The purpose of a synopsis is to give the editors the basic gist of your story -- the conflicts and major players, as well as reveal how the relationship between the hero and heroine is going to develop. You'll see how that aspect of the story grows and changes, how the characters "deepen," and how I try to add more conflicts and complications, especially at the end. What doesn't change from one synopsis to the next is the "meet," or basic premise of the story.

I tried to "lighten up" the heroine and I wanted to make Henry more serious, more sympathetic, more "heroic." He's really quite a "light weight" at the start of this, and in his previous appearances, was very much a "lighter" character. I took out something (the maidservant bit) because while that was an attempt to give the story a more "single title" feel, I felt it ultimately made Henry too unlikeable. I wanted to give Roald a bit more of a motive, and I upped the ante by adding Guy/Charles. You can see that I felt it necessary to put the hero and heroine through more of a wringer, because this is a single title book. You can also see how I weave in prequels and sequel information (the next book is about Ranulf).

A couple of things to note (especially if you're thinking, "What the --? She sold a book based on that?"):

This book was the twenty-fifth book I'd sold to Harlequin. I'd also sold four novellas to Harlequin, eight single title historical romances to Avon Books and one Young Adult historical romance to HarperCollins Childrens Books, so the editors could safely assume I could deliver a full length novel. Also, because I'd worked with these editors on many other books, they could have a fairly good idea of what to expect in terms of my writing and story development. They could also be certain that, if revisions were requested, I would either agree, or come up with my own changes to address their concerns.

So, here are two versions of the synopsis, the first and the last. I haven't even corrected the spelling.

First Version

Final Version

Synopsis Handout

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