Synopsis Tips from an Expert

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Dec 04 2014
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
-Jessica Alvarez

Melissa’s Top Tips for
Synopsis Writing
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
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
fiancé call it quits and flee the altar.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
& Noble:


11 responses to “Synopsis Tips from an Expert”

  1. Avatar Cassi Carver says:

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

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

  3. 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!

  4. Avatar Kimberlyindy says:

    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!

  5. Avatar Rachael D says:

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

  6. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    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.

  7. Avatar Lori Sjoberg says:

    Wow, great tips, and what a wonderful synopsis!

  8. Avatar DLM says:

    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!

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

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  11. 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.