The Dreaded Synopsis


For the last two years or so, I’ve come to embrace the synopsis. And though embrace is a strong word, since you won’t find me just jumping into one, I have realized the importance of one if I ever want to be considered by a big publishing house.

So instead of listing all my struggles with writing them, I decided to write how I became comfortable with writing synopses.

I’ve read a lot of articles on the topic and watched a few online teachings. I’m not good with textbooks because it makes me feel like I’m back at varsity and my “Am I going to get graded on this?” mentality isn’t so easy to shake off, even years later.

But the light-bulb didn’t come on until I realized that 1) there’s a specific publisher I like to write for and they require a synopsis. Without one I’m toast at the door. They won’t even consider me no matter how intriguing the pitch, hook or first three chapters. My submission won’t make it past the threshold. So to not put myself at a disadvantage, I knew I had to master the synopsis.

2) I came across a Harlequin editor who gave advice on synopsis writing. A side note: whenever an editor from a respected publisher give advice on writing, take note.

She hit all the points I’ve read so far. But what stood out for me from her advice was how simple she made synopsis writing seem. At the end of her advice she said, synopsis writing is you drawing a map. The map contains all the high points, the beginning and ending. You have a good idea of where the highs and lows are going to be. And writing the story are filled with all the meaty parts in-between, like the ditch the car falls into after a deer crossed the road. You write about all the angst and fear that came along with the experience. A minor setback, but the end destination still needs to be reached.

I started writing my synopsis like this. A road map. And that’s how I still view a synopsis, especially one that’s aimed at an editor.


So besides these things, here are a few points I focus on when I sit down to write a short synopsis:

  1. First thing check the length the publisher wants. This can range from 1-2 pages to 5 pages. Reading the guidelines will save you a lot of time.
  2. Format: Double-spaced, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman font and Header over every page (check with the publisher if they require a specific style of Headers).
  3. Start bold. The same attention you spend on the opening line of your book put the same effort into the opening line of you synopsis. Grab the editor’s attention first before you summarize the book.
  4. Stay focused. In a short synopsis for 1-2 pages there aren’t space for extraneous details. Don’t include secondary plots or characters, unless they play a part in understanding the resolution. Don’t use multiple points of view (POVs) even if they are present in the novel.
  5. Determine your romance’s focus ahead of time. You should determine your target publisher’s preferences ahead of time and use it to guide your effort. A publisher like Harlequin wants romance, so get to that quickly and end on the romantic resolution.
  6. Write in present tense. This is something I didn’t know at the beginning. It is so simple and makes so much sense. Because the present tense creates a sense of urgency. This makes it effective.
  7. Show, don’t tell. Yes, even in a synopsis. Show the story through a good plot. Don’t describe it.
  8. Don’t resort to empty questions. “Will they fall in love?” This is an editorial pet peeve. You’re going to have to answer the question, so you’re wasting space. These types of sentences also yank the editor out of the story. They are views as “author intrusive”. You are not letting the story speak for itself, you are speaking for it.
  9. Many editors make it a rule not to read after the third typo. So be thorough!


Sweat the opening three paragraphs. Most editors conduct a “three paragraph” test.  If you don’t grab their attention by then, they simply won’t read on. A strong opening line and a quick tight overview of the hero/heroine and conflict.

These tips I learned from romantic suspense author Lisa Gardner. I look at them every time I sit down to write a short synopsis as a refresher. And even as I type this post, I learned something new.

Learning this skill isn’t a once off thing. You’ll have to practice it and practice some more. It’s not for the fainthearted and it’s not for the lazy writers. It’s not for the ones who are ‘stuck in their writing ways’, the ones who skip publishers because they want to avoid a synopsis. Because it’s a hurdle they can’t exercise enough to jump over.

Hard work do pay off. And I do believe getting the synopsis is one step closer to publication.


Writing Tips & Motivation 2.0

I’m working on a new WIP (work in progress). I submitted the first three chapters of a WIP to the wrong Harlequin line and ended up with possibly one of the nicest and encouraging rejection letters I’ve ever received in my writing career. I was asked to resubmit something else since the story I sent in didn’t fit with the line and the editors liked my voice *slaps forehead* Can you say nut? Because that’s what I am. Should’ve triple checked. Anyway, I thought I’d share some writing tips that keep me centered as I work through my new WIP.

Hope it helps you too 🙂

*disclaimer: these images do not belong to me, I found them on the inter-webs.

























News, Views and Writing that Love Scene

Another week has gone and I woke up this morning thinking, ‘wow where did the time go?’ It’s been a hectic week writing wise. On Monday I got an email on a manuscript I submitted early this year and was asked to do revisions and resubmit. So I pushed back on a WIP I was working on for submission to Harlequin at the end of August.


I’ve written about this manuscript I was asked to do revisions on before. My publisher (Decadent Publishing) had started a series, Black Hills Wolves, and I’ve read some of the books and love one of the co-creators behind the series, Rebecca Royce’s books, so I was more than intrigued. I queried about the series and then submitted a synopsis. The novels are short reads and I’ve always wanted to see if I could write a novella. During that time there was a lot of back and forth working through plot ideas and I’ve never had that with an editor before. It was amazing how easy, open and friendly; Laura Garland was as we went through this process. I also got guidelines from Rebecca and Heather Long, who’s also the co-creator of this multi-author series.

I had my Rupunzel story to complete while I was doing this, so I figured since I had a worked out synopsis writing would be fast. And yeah it was *smile*

A Wolf’s Choice was just one of those stories that flowed, and I think it had a lot to do with the level of investment and interest I had in the characters. I’ve worked from synopses before, even though I love the ‘discovery’ as I write. And I’ve learned to go with my gut. Some stories will always require a bit of more in-depth planning than others. Instead of viewing an outline and a synopsis as stifling, I rather see it as a road map, along the way side roads will probably be taken and a couple of hours spent admiring the view, but I know where I’m heading.

That’s what A Wolf’s Choice felt like writing. I knew where I was heading, I knew who my characters were and I knew what they were going to find at the end (not just a HEA *wink*).

A Wolf’s Choice is also my first foray into writing a love scene (I talked about it on my Facebook Page: ). I did what every author does when confronted with something they’ve never written before, I went on the internet, researched, did silly status updates where I ‘voiced’ my anxiety but still tried to do it in a non-I’m-a-dunce way.

The best advice I got from the inter-webs was write what you’re comfortable with. Use words that doesn’t make you cringe and words your characters would definitely use, that fits with their personality. And most importantly be true to the story.

So I took the pressure off and decided to chuck out the guidelines for the series (which had a distinct heat level) and just write what the characters and story demanded of me. And the scene became effortless. In fact I think I surprised myself, which really shouldn’t have been such a surprise at all.

My bookshelf consists of such a variety of genres and heat levels that I should’ve known I wouldn’t have a problem writing a love scene. I think where the pressure or even fear comes in, was with what people who knew me would think. Even at thirty-two you can’t help but still care. I’m fairly open about my faith and what I believe; it’s a lifestyle to me. Every day, all day *smile* so how do you reconcile writing a love scene (not a sex scene mind you) with the conservative world of Christianity? (Of course you also have to ask how do you reconcile werewolves, but that’s a story for another blog post *smile*).

Two of my favorite Christian authors are Francine Rivers and Frank Peretti, two writers who write a distinct spiritual message in their stories, but don’t sacrifice the story or characters for preachy writing. It astounded me to learn at first that Francine Rivers was a romance writer, and then I went, “No wait that actually makes sense, since she writes romance in her books.” There’s a love story between a man and a woman, but also between them and God. Made perfect sense. Frank Peretti on the other end, writes nail biting suspense slash horror filled blockbusters you just want to ask Hollywood to make some big feature film out of so you can be scared witless again *laughs* They are open about human sexuality. They do not draw a veil over it as if it didn’t exist. They are honest in their writing. And that’s what I love about these two authors. They don’t conform to what a Christian book is ‘supposed’ to be, but they write the story that’s in their hearts to write and stay true to the characters.

I took a page from them and went for it. In the end I was pleasantly surprised. There are really a lot of varied emotions that goes on in that love scene and it’s vital to the plot of the story. A Wolf’s Choice couldn’t have happened without it. I’m glad I didn’t shy away from writing it. It’s become one of my favorite scenes in the novella. I’m hoping to complete the revisions and hit send soon, and God willing, come back with good news *smile*

Thanks for being on the writing journey with me xoxo





That Pesky Writing Slump


A writing slump is something every author goes through, no exceptions. The same way you’ll get stuck in a plot at one point or other, a writing slump can come at the most inconvenient times.

You’ve drawn up this plan for New Years. You’ve got that fabulous thing called a writing schedule and your outlines all ‘stacked’ out in a neat little row. Because you’re a professional (I have to add, there is this feeling of accomplishment that comes with being organized and having clear goals. If anything it does provide a sense of control of you writing destiny. Yep, I’m a bit of a control freak *wink*).

So what do you do when you couldn’t be arsed, as my cousin says (she’s into everything British), to write? How do you work up the energy to sit down at your laptop? What if you have a deadline? *yikes*

One thing I’ve learned in my thirty-two *grin* years of being on this earth is that for whatever reason, sometimes in life your spirit will be at odds with what needs to be done, motivation hard to find.

Because of this I’ve come up with ways to get myself out of a Writing Slump by doing the following:

  1. Recognize that I’m going through a writing slump *smile* Yeah that doesn’t just work for AA meetings. You need to face up to what you’re going through so you can deal with it appropriately.
  2. Close my laptop. And for a whole 24hours deny its existence. Okay you don’t have to be that drastic, but do leave off the forcing yourself to ‘write at least 300 words a day’ or however many you’ve set for yourself as a goal. Leave it. Walk away.
  3. Go live. Go out with friends, watch a movie, take a walk, work in your garden, check out the mall for sales, the projects you’ve kept off doing around the house‒go do those. There’s life apart from writing, yes we are artists and we love to declare, “Writing is life!” We all know that’s not true. Life is art. No life, no art. Go out, take in the world, be part of the hustle and bustle. Take a day or two.
  4. Now take a notebook with you wherever you go, because inspiration’s going to flood you from all sides. That chapter you couldn’t be arsed to finish is going to claw at you. Scenes will come to you, remember, this is a slump; your spirit was affected here not your ability to convey mental images and a tale in sentences.
  5. Go write. If you can barely contain yourself to work on your story, whether it’s editing or fleshing out a scene or writing something new, go do that.


I think the biggest mistake I’ve made with writing is not acknowledging that it’s something I may not want to do every single day. That I would want to close my laptop and focus on something else with the same level of intensity. As modern-day authors we constantly get bombarded with, “write the next book”, “write a blog post”, “write a status update”, etc. We spend a considerable time of our lives writing. It stands to reason that at some point that’s going to become tedious. You are going to need a break. Orientate yourself. And that’s where I think a writing slump serves its purpose, to remind us that we’re made out of more than just writing. The sum of our parts needs more to survive.

So the next time you get down on yourself for being in one, shake it off! (Yeah I just went all Taylor Swift on you *smile*) It’s your author spirit telling you it’s time to take a break.



Writing Tips & Motivations

It`s Friday the 13th *gulp* …So to keep Freddy Kruger from knocking at our door, here’s some inspiration to start your writing weekend, that is if you’re going to be stuck in front of your laptop like me *grin*

#disclaimer I found all this on in inter-webs so it does not belong to me.

























On Voice Part 2: “Your voice isn’t strong enough.”

Recently I received feedback from an editor that said, “Your voice isn’t strong enough.” It wasn’t, ‘this needs a stronger voice’, only referring to the piece of writing. No. It meant the voice I wrote in normally for my romance novels weren’t as strong as it should be.

Now, if you’re a newbie like me, you first need to absorb the information and then go on a Google search to find out what exactly the editor meant, because in Part 1 of On Voice here on my blog, Lee Child explained in a lovely quote what having a ‘voice’ truly meant as an oral storyteller.

The publishing industry, however, has its own definition of what ‘voice’ is in the written word and when they tell you to strengthen your voice, it has everything to do with your style of writing.

So in a quest to distinguish my voice and make it stronger, I’ve discovered these points I have to focus on.

1. I need a persona when writing.1003679_631124983566225_882649124_n
Uh…yeah I know, sounds weird. But I need one. I need to have a character I can ‘step’ into when I’m writing, almost like placing on a ‘thinking hat’ but more concrete since this persona is going to be ‘put on’ whenever I sit down with my laptop and work on a story. This will allow me to develop and refine my writing objectively. By doing this I’ll also be able to, in future, drop this persona and write as a different type of character because I’ve distanced the ‘daily me’ from the ‘writing me’ and in so doing, made it easier to switch between narrative voices. Some prefer to ‘step into’ their main character and ‘live’ the story through them.


2. Style.
I need to use stronger verbs, alter the sentence structure, use alliteration, internal rhyme, onomatopoeia and uncommon words.
For me this will happen during the self-editing process, when I go back over the first draft, or second or third…you know where I’m going with this *smile* I even read that you can make up words to make your voice distinctive as you write a certain character. The idea here is to match the setting and situation your character is in.


3. Authority.
Authority refers to the writer’s confidence or control of the material. The idea here is to have a strong, credible voice.
How do you attain authority? By doing your research. You must provide specific, concrete temporal and/or physical detail. To write with authority, you have to know what you’re talking about. Even in romance! Spend a good amount of time developing characters, location and plot. This gives you power and control.


4. What do you want the reader to feel?
The emotions you use your voice to invoke will stick with readers. When they open one of your books it will all come back to them. What do you want your readers to feel on page six of a new manuscript? What strategies can you use to draw out that feeling?


These are only a few points that stood out to me that I’m personally focusing on in my writing at the moment. There are definitely more on voice and how to develop it.

One thing to keep in mind; voice evolves over time and working on yours will create a strong authorial voice.

Do you have any tips of your own? Then leave a comment.

What Makes A Love Story

I wrote this article for Kelly Steele’s blog in June of Last year, I thought I’d share it on my blog too *smile.


I recently watched the movie The Lake House for the hundredth time. It’s become one of my favourite romantic dramas. These two people who fall in love with each other through writing letters because one lived in the past in the other in the future. Talk about having problems! *smile*

So, of course, I did some ‘cyber-stalking’ because I haven’t read anything about Keanu Reeves in a while. (Let’s just take a moment‒Keanu Reeves *deep sigh*) The man does a very good job of staying out of the entertainment news *thumbs up* And I stumbled on an interview done by Keanu and Sandra Bullock about the movie ( ).


After a series of questions, the journalist asked them a question that had the writer in me sitting up. He asked, “What’s your definition of a good love story?”

At this point Sandra had answered all the questions first, but for some reason Keanu responded first this time and his response had me re-evaluating my current writing project.

He answered, “A good love story is a story of passion. It starts with that first look — I believe in love at first sight. You want that connection, and then you want some problems. You want them to have to fight to be together, maybe even have an epic battle, like they have to figure out how to break the boundaries of time. And then there’s a good kiss. I think this film qualifies.”

Obviously he’d stuck closely to the plot of The Lake House *grin* But there’s a level of truth here that the romance writer in me couldn’t ignore. A good love story needs passion, he’s right. But believable passion. It can be created on such a subtle and sophisticated way as letters written across time itself, where the actions and emotions of the characters drives the mutual attraction through their words and sharing. Or it can be an instant bolt of lightning that freezes the characters into ‘seeing’ the other for the first time and literally being stunned into stillness at the realization on a subconscious or conscious level, that this person’s going to become significant to them. Hence the ‘love at first sight’.

The connection’s established and like he said, then come ‘the problems’. The stakes. What keeps them apart? This shouldn’t be something that could be solved by a simple conversation. It should create enough relevant tension and suspense that it’s either (in my opinion) a ‘fight against outside forces to stay together’ or a ‘fight against their inner demons to stay together’ or both. And then there’s the HEA. Sounds simple right?



As a new author I’m still learning, I can’t say I’ve figured out all the kinks to writing and don’t think I ever will. It’s a skill I’m constantly working on. Keanu’s quote stood out to me because he explained what a good love story meant to him, and as much as views differ, there’s a universal feel to his view point. I believe there are some great tips in what he said and have applied them to my current WIP. I hope his summary of a good love story also inspires you to write your version of one.