This week we have author Janice Lynn talking about the basics of writing a synopsis. She has a new book out this month, Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope.
Janice Lynn is a USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. Janice writes sweet romances for Hallmark Publishing and writes contemporary Medical Romances for Harlequin. Her books have won numerous awards, including the National Readers' Choice Award, the Golden Quill for Best Short contemporary Romance and for Best First Book, Romantic Times Magazine's American Title, and the Holt Medallion Award of Merit. Janice lives in Tennessee with her Prince Charming, their seven kids, her vivid imagination, and an adorable Maltese named Halo who's the true princess of the house. In addition to writing romance, Janice is a nurse practitioner, a quilter, an exercise queen, a military mama and a member of and an avid supporter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Just kidding on the exercise queen.
Writing a synopsis is something that’s always made me cringe. I mean, I’m supposed to take something that takes 300+ pages to convey and cram it into 1 to 10 pages? How am I supposed to do that and maintain voice? Over the years, I’ve attended various workshops, read a lot of articles on synopsis writing, and struggled through writing synopsis after synopsis. Although on occasion one tip or another has helped, nothing ever really clicked. No synopsis writing light bulbs blazing strong in this gal’s head--unfortunately. Writing a synopsis may always be the thing that I struggle most with, but it’s a necessary part of the writing industry. In this article, I hope to establish the main points to cover in a writing a synopsis.
HOOK YOUR READER. From the very first sentence you need to grab your reader’s attention. Here's from my latest Hallmark Publishing release, Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope's, " He’s willing to risk his life to save others. Is she willing to risk her heart on him?" Hooking your reader can also be accomplished with a “What if” question. Be creative and come up with a hook line that fits your story.
YOUR HERO AND HEROINE. A synopsis has to establish your main characters. Who are they? What do they want? And why do they want it? This is the goal and motivation component of your GMC. Your conflict comes from the situation these two characters are put in. How does this situation interfere with who they are or what they want? The more aspects about this situation that stands in the way of what the characters want, the stronger the conflict. For example, in Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope, I start off with a paragraph on Andrew that reads, "Firefighter Andrew Scott knows his job is risky, but he thrives on the rush of saving others." With the very next paragraph, I start with, "Morgan Morris, who’s new in town, has dealt with more than her share of heartache."
THINGS THAT GO WRONG. I’ve heard this referred to as turning points and complicating events. Basically it’s the things that happen in a story that push the characters in one direction or another. Choices have to be made because of these events. These choices make the plot advance. These events/choices can either push the characters together or they can pull them apart. One thing to keep in mind with these complicating events is why they matter. How do they affect the characters goals and motivations? Make sure there is an emotional connection. A story generally has one very bad/serious thing that will go wrong and this is referred to as the BLACK MOMENT. For Andrew and Morgan, he thrives on saving others at possibly his own detriment and she plays it safe because she doesn't want to get hurt again. The emotional conflict is there from the moment I introduce the two main characters.
GETTING PAST THE BLACK MOMENT. This involves everything that’s happened in the story thus far. What has the hero/heroine learned throughout the course of events that has given them the strength/skills to get beyond the black moment? This plays into the characters’ growth arcs and have they’ve grown/changed during the story. Make this growth/change occur due to their relationship.
HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER: Okay, after everything we’ve thrown at the hero/heroine during this short synopsis we need to make sure the reader of our synopsis knows these two people get their happy ending. A satisfactory ending is as important in the synopsis as it is in our stories. It’s our job to convince the reader that these two people have what it takes to endure anything life might throw at them.
These are the basic elements for a synopsis. You can use this guide for writing a short synopsis or even for a long synopsis. For writing a longer, more detailed synopsis, layer in the points we haven’t covered such as setting, secondary characters, subplots, important backstory, etc. The longer your synopsis, the more of these extraneous details you can include.
One last tip, don’t edit your voice out to the point your synopsis is dry, but a synopsis is giving a summary of your story not a lot of descriptive prose. It's easy to want to give a lot of extraneous details and that usually isn't necessary. Make sure that whether your synopsis is one page or ten your unique writing voice shines through. I'll probably still be struggling to write a synopsis after my 50th book, but I do find that having a clear idea of what needs to be there helps. Hopefully, you'll find something here that helps writing your own synopsis a little easier. Good luck & happy synopsis writing!
Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope is my latest Hallmark Publishing release in my ‘Wrapped Up’ series. Each book is stand alone so no worries if you haven’t read the first two books, but each is a revisit to Pine Hill, Kentucky and the folks who live there.
Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope is available at the following places: