Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Get Synopsis Savvy with Guest Blogger: Eliza Knight

Win a copy of A Pirate's Bounty and meet historical romance author Eliza Knight today at the Boost!

Here's what she had to say about writing a savvy synopsis...

Ten Pivotal Points That Should Appear in Your Synopsis
(For Romance Authors)

Every writer of romantic fiction (who intends to sell that story) has to write a synopsis. First things first, what exactly is a synopsis? This is a 2-10 page piece of writing that tells the entire story in condensed version. It’s got the characters, conflicts and the resolution.

Why do you have to have one? Because editors and agents will ask to read it—it is basically a short-cut to find out if your story has enough in the plot to sustain a novel, whether it is compelling and unique, that there is beginning, middle and end, and that the ending is satisfying. As I said about, think of the synopsis as a very short version of your story. The gist. The low-down. If someone asked you to tell them all about your book including the ending over a cup of coffee, this is what you’d tell them. The synopsis in general is only about 2% of the size of your book. The bigger your book, the bigger the synopsis. For a novella, I usually only write a 2-page synopsis.

The synopsis hits on every major point, introduces and examines the characters but without all the sensory details, scenery descriptions and in-depth details that the novel does. (**Note: this doesn’t mean you can’t put a few of these details/senses/scenery into the synopsis, we just don’t need as much.) In essence, it lets the reader of said synopsis decide if your story is intriguing enough to read the actual pages.

But don’t groan! This is your time to shine. Often an editor/agent will read your synopsis before they read your pages—this means your synopsis could be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker.

1. Opening hook—what pulls the reader in? How does the story begin? Make sure it is compelling and dramatic.
2. First Meeting – in a romance, this should happen within the first three chapters, and getting the characters together in the novel is just as important as getting them together in the synopsis.
3. First Kiss – a pivotal moment, they are attracted to each other, we see that a relationship is blooming.
4. GMC of both characters (including internal and external) – this is extremely important. You need to get across in your synopsis each main character’s goals, motivations for those goals, and conflicts to reaching those goals—internal being things inside themselves that keep them from reaching their goals, and external being outside forces that impede them.
5. Major secondary characters that are integral to the plot – If there is a villain or a best friend who if taken out of the story the plot becomes mush, they must be added into the synopsis.
6. The story arc – What is the story about?
7. The character arc – How doe the characters change throughout the story?
8. Black Moment – What is the major conflict? The big blow-out?
9. Confession of Love – When do the main characters confess their love—and it better be at near the end.
10. Resolution – the synopsis must have the resolution, all questions tied up.

A Note from the Book Boost: Thanks for joining us today, Eliza. You've done a terrific job of making us ready for the front lines of synopsis scribing! Please tell us more about your newest book.


1764. When Faryn is captured by the mysterious and sensual dread pirate Captain Wraith Noir, who delivers her as a slave to the flesh-hungry court of the pirate queen, she expects her future will be bleak and death imminent. Lucky for Faryn, Wraith doesn’t plan for that to be her end, as he wants her for his own.

Duty, desire, passion, revenge and treachery besiege Faryn and Wraith. With the future uncertain, only fate, love and the truth will set them both free.

Reader Advisory: Contains a heroine experiencing the diverse pleasures of a pirate queen’s court, including f/f touching and scorching public sex, as well as mentions of traditional pirating endeavors.


The Coast of the Greek Isles, 1764

The crack of the whip stung as it struck the flesh of Faryn’s bare buttocks. She bit hard on the inside of her cheek, refusing to cry out as she knew the crew liked to hear. She would not try to jump overboard again.

Metal clanked against the masts as men shouted, “Heave! Ho!” to get the sails down now that they’d come into port. Instead of a white sail flying prominently against the mainmast, this ship’s sail was a flag. Large and intrusive, its image would shake any ship or person who neared it. Eerie wisps of clouds dusted the night sky, and the large silvery moon shone in flashes on the design, which sent an involuntary shudder through her now, just as it always did. Against the wide black backdrop, sewn in white, a large skull, and beneath it two silver swords crisscrossed. Below that was clearly an image in white of the top half of a man, well-muscled, who held the two swords.

“School your hands, mate! Orelia will not be pleased that you marred the flesh of one of her slaves.” The voice was filled with authority, and though he spoke English, she noted a slight undertone of French, something she ought to remember as he could prove to be an ally, but as soon as the thought entered her mind it was quickly gone again.


The word echoed in Faryn’s mind over and over in tune to the throb of the welt on her flesh. She looked around with glazed eyes. A rough crew this was. Weapons covered their bodies, some crude, some elegant—and so very out of place, with their rough clothing. They smiled, some with teeth and some without. They leered at her with one or two eyes, some covered with a patch. Some grabbed at their crotches and waggled what little bits of male flesh hid beneath the layers of grubby breeches. Except for one. The captain. He stood out—dark, mysterious, large and eerily handsome. A cut above the rest.

Slave. Slave. Slave.

This was why they’d taken her in the middle of the night. She cursed her sleeplessness and need to walk on the beach that dreadful evening. They’d ripped her from everything she knew, tied her hands behind her back, tossed her over their shoulders and disappeared into the fog. She would be slave to Orelia. But who was Orelia? She’d never heard the name before now.

“Avast, ye wretches, down ye go, else prepare to feed the fish!” a man shouted, as he hobbled up and down the line of slaves on one foot and a wooden pegleg.

The captain’s gaze held hers, catching her breath in her throat. She was frightened…yet another feeling had her belly twisting into knots. Without taking his gaze from hers, he flicked his hand toward her and sliced through the rope tying her arms around the mast. He jerked his head toward the other gangplank and Faryn hurried to line up with the other beaten and naked men and women who would serve as slaves to the mysterious Orelia, eager to have her feet walk on steady ground again. They’d traveled far, she was sure. And as she stepped down the gangplank, splinters sinking into the tender flesh of her feet, she was hit with the knowledge that escape would not come easy.

Ocean stretched far and wide. The sounds of water crashing against the shore, and the scents of salt and ocean surrounded her. Loud voices shouted all around her, mixed with the creaking of boards, boot heels clicking on wood and other ship sounds. From the dock came people, she could barely make them out with only the small lanterns they carried. Naked bodies trembled and wobbled down the planks in front of her. She was delirious from hunger and pain. Cold and wet.

Gooseflesh rose along her limbs, her nipples were hard and stung as her hair whipped violently against her chest.

She cried out and lost her footing. Arms flung out, she sought hold of anything, her hands catching the slippery back of another slave, who jumped forward at her touch. Her knees dropped to the wood of the gangplank.

“Get up!” shouted one of the men wielding a whip. But she could not. She was so weak…too tired. Her vision blurred.

“That one won’t make it. Captain, ye want her back? Might be best to toss her to the sharks.”

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Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Waving Eliza. Thank you, thank you for those synopsis tips. I just about have that ending nailed on my story now and have to face that dreaded writing of a synopsis. I have printed out your advice so we will see how it turns out.


Barb H said...

Eliza, thanks for the info on synopses. Just in the knick,too. I've been working on one for a couple of days and it's...boring!! This is the third story to demand a synopsis, and one would think the writing of it would get easier. Your pointers have helped.

Your new book sounds steamy! Good luck with it.

Eliza Knight said...

Hi Paisley and Barb!

Thank you :) and I wish you both luck!!!

A.W. McQueen said...

*HI ELIZA! Waving like a jackass! Hi Paisley (aka mom)*

Eliza this was a wonderful post. I don't think I have ever had anyone break down the synopsis as clear and concise as you did today.

You have energized me. I have watched my critique partners go through this struggle. I have critiqued their synopsis while dreading having to eventually write my own!

I do have a question. I am in the middle of writing my novel. Should I write the synopsis now? Or should I wait towards the end when I have completed the work?

Like Paisley, I am printing out your list to keep me focused. It's going right next to the list of titles for Regency! :-)

Unknown said...

Always great information from you! (She's a wonderful font of writing tid-bits.) A synopsis is the hardest thing to write for me but this gave me some great ideas.


Unknown said...

Oops . . . not 'font', I meant to say 'fount'. Okay, fingers are tired . . . zzzzzz.

Hugs again!

Gerri Bowen said...

Wonderful list of tips,Eliza!

Eliza Knight said...

Hi Lizzie -- great question!!! There are two answers :) It depends on what type of a write you are. I write my synopsis before I finish the book, because I use it as a guide for keeping me on track. It does change a little as I finish the book, but I find that while I'm in the midst of writing, it is easier to do it, rather than when I finish. Also, it is a good habit to get into, because down the road you want to be able to sell a book on proposal which means, a blurb, the synopsis and the first 50 pages or so. It isn't unusual for established authors to sell on proposal, and if they don't sell, they move onto the next project before finishing that book. Does that make sense? So give it a shot now, and see how it goes!


Eliza Knight said...

Thank you Loni! I'm so glad you found it helpful :) HUGS!

Eliza Knight said...

lol Loni, just saw your second post :)

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks Gerri!!!

A.W. McQueen said...

Eliza that does make sense to me. That reminds me of what you should do when you interview.

Your synopsis is your resume. This is a business after all and we should treat it as such.

Good point and I will do so from now on! Thanks E, hugs right back!

Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Hi, Eliza. Your advice is spot on. I have a question though. Do you write your synopsis early in the process or at the end?

Robin Kaye said...

Great post, Eliza! Synopses are the bane of my existence and it seem as if I'm writing them constantly--6 in the last couple of months. They are getting easier, but I still hate them. (grin)

I love the excerpt--now I have to wait until the 22nd to read the rest? least I'll have something to take with me to the dentist!

Eliza Knight said...

Glad to help Lizzie!

Thanks Dawn :) I write it early in the process, usually at the beginning, or maybe when I'm about 1/3 of the way through and I know the story better. It is good to get into the habit of doing it early, so when your career is established you can sell on proposal.

Thanks Robin! I know it was a teaser eh? lol about reading it the dentist! I would be banging my head against the computer if I'd had to write 6 in the last couple of months... ugh!!!