Ally Blake Romance Author - Blog

Latest news from Australian romance author Ally Blake, writer of fun, fresh flirty romance novels.

Wednesday 5 July 2006

craft: the dreaded synopsis

Trish Wylie has been blogging about writing synopses, and how they can be your toe in the door to being published.

    I for one believe it should be forever more called the dreaded synopsis as I find them soooo hard to do! The very idea brings me out in a cold sweat. Especially since I am a writer who flies into the mist. I usually have the hero's and heroine's names, a couple of pictures of people who I think look a bit like them, and nothing else. I often don't know their occupation, their character type, anything about their families or backgrounds until I start to write. And then that first line from each of their mouths can so often set the tone. So when I am asked to provide an outline of a book in progress, where can I possibly begin?

    Well, I had to find a way that works for me. Using the small threads and tiny ideas about what might happen next, and using my strengths - character and setting - I build a world in two pages which hopefully will give my editor enough to go on when deciding if it might be the kind of story she would want to read.

    So, I have below the layout that I always use when sending through an outline to my editor. It is for my December Silhouette Romance release A MOTHER FOR HIS DAUGHTER.

    You can see it isn't a classic two page stream of consciousness, and I couldn't even make myself call it a synopsis for fear my fingers would simply freeze on the keyboard. And so far I've never been told to do any different!

    I have highlighted important notes to hit such as goal, motivation and conflict in colour.

      So here goes...

        LOVE, ITALIAN STYLE: outline (released as A MOTHER FOR HIS DAUGHTER)


          Rome & Tuscany in April/May


            With her glossy dark hair and porcelain skin Gracie Lane looks like Snow White; until she opens her mouth! A fabulous flirt who tells it like it is, Gracie spends more time fending off marriage proposals from oil barons than dealing cards in her job as a croupier in Crown Casino's high rollers room.

            Luca Siracusa is a gorgeous widower raising a four-year-old girl, Mila, alone in his huge Tuscan villa since his wife’s tragic death a year before.


            Gracie’s mother had a brief affair when in Rome years before and Gracie was the end result. Her mum left Italy, remarried and had two blonde Aussie kids and never looked back. After her mother dies in a car crash, Gracie flees to Rome to search out the father she never knew.

            On her last dollar and last shred of hope, she stumbles upon a lost little girl, Mila, at the Trevi Fountain. Luca takes her to lunch to thank her for returning his daughter to his arms. Seeing how happy Mila is in her company, how quickly Mila has taken to her, he invites her to his Villa to be his daughter’s English tutor and offers to help her find her father.


            Never having felt that she belonged to her family Gracie is looking for a connection, for someone to love her unconditionally as she never felt she was loved by her mother, and she feels like her last hope of finding this is by finding her father. But when she moves into Luca's beautiful home, and is treated with such respect and kindness by his whole family, she finds herself settling into life there all too comfortably. Her search for her father takes a back seat to her growing feelings for Luca. This gives her a wake up call as the last thing she wants is to repeat the same mistake her mother made.

            Luca wants only what is best for Mila. He adores his little girl, but his relationship with her mother had never been built on trust and he still carries those scars. Yet everything Gracie does effortlessly earns this trust. She is fun, fresh, feisty and treats Mila firmly yet fairly, where he hasn't been able to stop from simply spoiling her rotten. Can he fall for a woman who is has every intention of leaving as soon as her father is found? When it will only break his daughter’s heart to have another mother figure leave?

            Or would it solve all their problems if he made her an offer she can’t refuse, a way for her to stay and a way for him to give Mila the continutiy she needs? A marriage proposal...

            KEY SCENES:...

            • Gracie leaps into the river to save Mila's toy horse from drowning before meeting the rest of Luca's family wet and bedraggled
            • Luca finds Gracie and Mila asleep together in Mila's bed and his heart doubles in size
            • Luca's brother Dominic returns home, flirts like mad with Gracie which sends Luca into a grump and drops a bombshell which draws Gracie closer to Luca than she ever meant to be
            • Luca overhears Gracie talking to Mila about losing her own mother
            • While Gracie seems to almost forget her original goal of finding her father, Luca can tell she is sad, so he pulls in every favour under the sun to find him for her
            • Scared that she will leave now that her goal has come true, Luca offers Gracie marriage
            • Gracie calls her best friends Kelly (from MARRIAGE MAKE-OVER and Cara from HOW TO MARRY A BILLIONAIRE) to ask their advice and they kid her about being in lurve - but the last thing she ever wanted was to fall for an Italian as her mother did
            • Luca wakes up the next morning to hear that Gracie has gone to the airport...

            I listed way more key scenes that occur in the book. (I won't write what I had here or it will give away the whole book - lots of twists and turns in this book that I hope you won't see coming!) But the chosen moments I highlighted were moments of transition, or changes in awareness, romantic scenes, moving scenes, funny scenes, and scenes that I think will be memorable ones. And I showed what happens in the end, the hard choices they made to be together.

            So my final advice when writing a synopsis:

              1) Play to your strengths

              2) Give the synopsis the same emphasis on drama or fun as your book has, make sure the voice in the book and the voice in the synopsis are one and the same

              3) Don't be too cheeky - let the editor know how the book ends and how the conflicts are resolved
              4) Don't be too flowery - you only have two pages! So be concise and clear.

              5) Don't hold your punches! This is your one big chance to show an editor the kind of story you can write

                For more about how the inspiration behind this book, check out my article Inspiration Is All Around.

                  And for more about writing the dreaded synopsis, Trish Wylie and Natasha Oakley have blogged about their process as well! As will Nicola Marsh when she gets over her cold!