Romance Writers of Australia online course – The Synopsis

You’ve written a stand-out story and now it’s time for (gasp) submission. Eek! You know if you don’t get this part right, the agent or publisher won’t even get to that manuscript you’ve just spent the last year (or ten) slaving over. Oh, the pressure!

Relax. Breathe. It’s OK.

Most writers know they need to provide a “book package” that varies slightly from publisher to publisher, but will inevitably contain a synopsis, cover letter, author bio and perhaps blurb. The good news is you can prepare a kick-arse package that’s ready to go, and tweak it to suit the individual specifications of your intended submittee.

When I was starting out some years ago, I thought whoever devised the concept of the synopsis must be a complete sadist. I mean, what kind of cruel and unusual torture involves reducing 400 pages of novel to two 1.5 spaced standard A4s?! This task necessarily means you have to leave stuff out. Lots of stuff. So what parts do you leave out, what bits do you leave in, and how should you write the darned thing? Just what makes a good synopsis that will hook your ideal agent or publisher and MAKE them pick up your amazing manuscript?

I asked all these questions and more of the many mentors I’ve had and I can thankfully report that, with some examples, an explanation of the theory behind the synopsis and other tools, it’s not the hand-wringing task it at first appears. Which brings me to the OWL I’m teaching in September called “Synopsis, blurb, cover letter, bio — your book selling tools”.

I work best when I understand the purpose of a thing, and have good examples to work from, so that’s the approach I’ve taken with this OWL. I’ve included lots of theory and I’ve called upon my network of writer pals to provide me with examples of their materials. You’ll get to see what different types of synopsises, cover letters, author bio’s and blurbs have worked for a variety of published authors. I’ve also strong-armed my longstanding mentor and editor, Robb Grindstaff ( into providing a bit of assistance, and he’s going to be available on our forum to answer your questions — many of Robb’s clients have landed agent and publishing deals, so make good use of him!

Also, because I teach in the Professional Writing stream at TAFE, I’ve seen first-hand that one-on-one feedback is often the most useful part of a course. So I’m also offering all participants the opportunity to submit their synopsis to me in week four (after we’ve covered the theory, done some exercises, and seen examples, of course) for individual feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Feedback can pickpocket Dear Writer of their blind spots which is always helpful, not necessarily painless, but I do promise to be gentle! For this reason, I’ve capped the number of participants or I may drown under a sea of synopsises — yet another reason they are instruments of torture — so book in quick!

If you want to book, you can do so here:

Hope to see you in September!

Winter Heat chic lit anthology

It’s wild weather up here in the Adelaide Hills at the moment. We’ve even seen snow at Mt Lofty, and plenty of hail and frost everywhere! So what better excuse than to curl up with some hot romance? Seasoned with Romance, my virtual writer’s group has just released its latest anthology of bite-sized, chic lit treats – perfect for heating you up in this cold, cold weather.

Winter Heat

Download your free copy here: Winter Heat

Here’s what you can expect:

Wish Upon a Star by Sarah Belle
Abby can’t wait to marry her gorgeous fiancé, Xander – until she realises they’ve never had an argument. How can she expect their marriage to weather life’s storms when their relationship has never truly been tested?

A Friend in Need by Laura Greaves
When her best friend announces that it’s not possible for people in committed relationships to have single friends of the opposite sex, Megan is determined to prove her wrong. But are her feelings for her boyfriend’s best mate, Rye, purely friendly – or is Megan playing with fire?

The Reject Club by Carla Caruso
Tired of being rejected in both her personal and professional lives, Maya has retreated to her grandmother’s seaside cottage to clear her head. The last thing she needs is a man to complicate matters – especially one as alluring as Garrett…

The Getaway by Vanessa Stubbs
When Dominique heads to the Tasmanian wilderness with husband Ricky, it’s a make-or-break weekend for their struggling marriage. Is Ricky the same man she fell in love with – or is rugged Cal what she really needs?

Bad Things Come in Threes by Belinda Williams
First her marriage collapsed. Then she lost her job. Wynter isn’t sure whether she can cope with another disaster. And when Marty enters her life, she doesn’t know whether he’s the best thing to happen to her – or the very worst.

by Samantha Bond
Washed-up pop star George would do anything for another crack at the big time, and when he discovers talented young singer Annabella he sees his chance. There’s just one problem: Annabella’s feisty mother, Catherine.

Make me write!!

Hi there all you writerly types!

As both a writer, and a writing teacher, I encounter cases of ‘bum glue-itis’ regularly. That, dear people, is the inability to stick one’s bottom to the chair and just write. There’s always other distractions and demands, tasks that seem more achievable and ‘important’ than sitting down to do what we love – writing.

In my teaching gig, students tell me one of the most helpful things about our mentoring relationship is that they’re accountable to deliver material to me and meet their deadlines. So I thought, ‘Why not set up an accountability system that all writers can access?’ My question to you, then, is would you be interested in belonging to a closed Facebook group which exists to make you write? You’ll pay a nominal monthly fee to be a member, and the amount of work you email to me is up to you  – it could be a chapter a month, it could be ten. Your call. Meet your deadline, you get half your money back. Don’t meet it, slap on the wrist for you! (Yes, carrots and sticks do work and have their place).

I’ll also provide you with individual feedback on your submitted work and the FB group would meet live once per month for a general chat with all members about what’s working for them, and how I can assist you to be more productive. Fellow writer, Carla Caruso, will be involved as an experienced published author to provide her expertise also.

This is a thought bubble at the moment, so I’d love to hear from anyone who likes the idea. The purpose is motivation to write, assisting you to be accountable, achieve your goals and to just write!

Over to you…:)



What is point of view in writing, and why does it matter?

The following is a basic overview. If you want more detailed analysis of the various techniques a writer can use in POV, leave a comment and I’ll post more later.

Firstly, what is point of view (POV)? Essentially,  it is the person telling the story, and the way the story is conveyed. It can be the character within the story, a narrator observing and reporting on events from a distance, or you, the author. There can be multiple POVs within the one story.

Most writerly types will be aware of the 3 main POVs commonly used . These are first, second and third person POV. But what are they, and why are they important?

First Person

This is the ‘I’ voice:

 ‘I went to the shops.’

‘I am so in love with him.’

‘I don’t want to go to school today.’

The ‘I’ that is speaking, is the character. The reader more or less inhabits the consciousness of the character and experiences the story as the character does. For this reason, the first person POV is restricted in the information it can convey – it can only reveal information the character knows, observes, thinks etc. It can’t reveal information that is known only to another character.  Janet Evanovich writes her Stephanie Plum series in first person POV – the ‘I’ voice is Stephanie’s, and the reader can only know as much as Stephanie does.  As Stephanie solves the mystery, the reader does too.

Third Person

This is the ‘he/she’ voice.

‘He walked away from the crash unhurt.’

‘She put on her blue dress.’

‘He was late for work.’

Restricted third person POV is almost identical to first person POV – characters can still only convey what they know, and do not have access to the thoughts of other characters. Third person omniscient POV widens the writer’s options. This POV is really the writer’s POV. It sees all, it knows all. It can step inside the minds of other characters, look behind closed doors, and generally allow the reader to know more than the protagonist. It’s not commonly used in modern fiction.

Second Person

This POV is also not commonly used. It is the ‘you’ voice.

 ‘You said you were going to get a job.’

‘You don’t love me.’

‘You are an egomaniac.’

It has an accusatory tone, and can be uncomfortable to read in long works such as a novel. One writer who employs it to great effect is Nikki Gemmel, author of ‘The Bride Stripped Bare.’ The first line of her novel ‘With my body’ reads:

“You think about sleeping with every man you meet.”

My reaction to that is ‘No I don’t. Really, I don’t!’ The whole novel is written in the second person POV, which makes for an intense read. See why it’s not a popular one and why most authors stick to first or third person POV?

Why is POV important?

POV affects the whole story. Imagine you have a story about a marriage breakdown. The wife has been loyal, she’s raised the couple’s 4 kids and keeps the house in great shape. Her husband has cheated and now it’s all over. She’s devastated. This story is told from wifey’s POV. Poor, poor hard done by wifey.

Now, imagine it’s told from cheating husband’s POV. Suppose his wife is too busy looking after their 4 kids and house to pay him any attention. Suppose he’s lonely and feels unloved and thinks all he is to her is a pay check. It now becomes quite a different story.

POV affects the slant of the entire story because it will be coloured by the perceptions and beliefs of the character telling it.

POV slips

One thing beginning writers often do, myself included, is make POV slips. No matter which POV you choose to write in, you need to maintain consistency. Never forget that you are in the head of the character, and you can only convey what they can (unless you’re using omnipotent POV). What I often see in work sent to me for editing, is a slip in POV – suddenly it is the author speaking, not the character. Here is a recent example I saw on Facebook last week.  A friend  has been writing chapters about his attraction to a girl at work as though it were a novel:

In a random moment of serendipity, Cute Woolies Girl walked past at the exact moment I walked out of the café. She was helping an elderly customer with their groceries and, as our eyes met, she smiled warmly. There was a flicker of her eyebrows, a cheerful two-handed wave and an ever-present twinkle in her expression.

In return, I looked like a rabbit in headlights. This was unexpected and as a result, I was stumped. Luckily, I just about managed to smile and sputtered out a clumsy “Hi, hi, how are you” before she passed me by. I stopped, turned and let my eyes follow her slender figure out the Mall doors and into the car park.

The authorial POV slip here is this:

In return, I looked like a rabbit in headlights.

The character can’t see his own face and therefore can’t know what he looks like (unless simultaneously looking in the mirror!). This is the author speaking. The character could, however,  feel like a rabbit in headlights. Or some version of that.

The reason authorial slips are bad is because they shatter the illusion that the character is a living, breathing being, and remind the reader that there’s actually a writer behind the scenes working the puppet strings. You don’t want that.

There are also lots of reasons why you might choose first person over third, or even second, but that’s another thousand or so words, so I’ll address that next time. Tense also makes a big difference and I’ll explain that too.


Here’s some exercises for you to try:

1. Grab a few books and open to a random page. Identify the POV character and whether first, second or third person POV is being used.

2. Take a paragraph of your own writing. Identify the POV, then rewrite it using a different POV. So, if you have a paragraph written in first person POV, try rewriting it in third person or even second person POV. See the difference it makes?

Happy writing.