How to Write a Synopsis

This post is for anyone signed up for Plot Chat at Storymakers 2019, but it might be useful for anyone looking to write a synopsis for querying/publishing.

The purpose of a synopsis is to give a solid idea of what your story is about. You should tell the whole story–don’t withhold plot twists or the ending. Basically, it’s a moderately detailed summary (I say moderately because I like it to be no more than two pages). This will help whoever reads it get a feel for your story.

My personal method is to write the synopsis without worrying about length and then cut out details, starting with things that are least important to the understanding of the story’s main plot. You *will* lose some things that feel important in a synopsis this short, but it’s really just about giving the highlights.

Here’s how I format my synopses for my agent and for publishers:

  • Times New Roman 12 point font
  • 1 inch margins
  • Single spaced paragraphs with a full line of white space between each one (like you’d write a business letter)
  • NO indent at the beginning of paragraphs
  • 1-2 pages
  • The first time a character’s name appears, it should be ALL CAPS. After that, just write it normally

Not everyone formats their synopses this way, but I’ve found that it looks neat, and no one has ever complained that I do it wrong. 🙂

Good luck!

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Sexual and Romantic Tension Class

You love romance, right?

Image result for the princess bride kiss

Come on. You love romance. And kissing. Kissing is the best!

If you do love kissing and romance, you should know that the Utah RWA has asked me to teach a four-week online class about how to write sexual and romantic tension! Yay! I taught this class at the LDStorymakers conference in 2015 and it went extremely well. Here’s the description:

Great stories can be written without romance, but for goodness’ sake, why? Romance transcends genre boundaries, adding sparks to everything from epic fantasy to gritty thrillers. One of the keys to a breathtaking love story is sexual tension, but writers often find themselves at a loss when deciding how much is too much (or too little). In this class, learn about the different levels of sexual and romantic tension and how to write it so readers root for your characters’ relationships and fan themselves with the pages of your novel.

This isn’t just for romance writers, it will work for anyone who wants to beef up the romance or sexual tension in their writing! Adult or Young Adult, fantasy/sci-fi to thrillers, it applies across the board.

The class is $20 for RWA members and $25 for non-RWA members, and that’s for an entire month! Well, four weeks. Still, compared to the price of attending a writing conference or taking a college course, it’s a pretty great deal. Plus it’s online, so you can participate in your sweatpants from the comfort of your own home! I’m working hard to make sure everyone can get something from the course, from beginners to experienced, published authors. The class is independent study, so there won’t be a set time that you have to drop everything and attend (though I am toying with the idea of doing a few live videos so we can interact).

If you aren’t familiar with my and my qualifications, my name is Caitlyn McFarland. I’ve been reading romance novels since I was thirteen. Also, I have three fantasy/romance novels published with Carina Press, an imprint of Harlequin (you know, those people who publish the romances with Fabio on the cover). You can find those here and everywhere else ebooks are sold.

If you like the sound of me and my class, you can register here!

Do it. For the kissing.

Image result for romeo + juliet kiss

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Some Shakespeare Sunday

A little bit of Shakespeare for all of my creative friends, who work so hard to capture the enormity of life in the small mirrors of page, stage, or other medium. Happy Easter!

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Prologue, King Henry the Fifth

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Author Truths

I posted a medium-sized writing rant on Facebook and my friend asked me to post it here, so I did. I tweaked it. And I added gifs. Because that’s what I do. Enjoy!

I get asked writing and publishing advice on a pretty regular basis. I love to help where I can. Really. Helping other writers is one of my favorite things. But I can’t count the number of times someone has asked for advice and then shrugged it off. I write books for money (not a lot, but I’m working on it). I have a literary agent. I’m traditionally published. If you ask for my advice, listen!

But because they won’t, the burden falls, my hapless readers, on you. Here are a few truths about writing and publishing people don’t love to hear:

1) Most authors don’t make enough money to quit their day jobs.

meme artist crying money poor

2) You aren’t just going to write a novel with no training/practice and make money. In fact, the odds are slim that you’ll make money at all. See #1. Writing fiction will NOT make you rich quick.

3) Your first novel will likely not be published, because your first novel is terrible.

tv excited good computer new girl

No it isn’t, Nick. No it isn’t.

Sorry, fact of life. If you have an idea for a story you just know will be your magnum opus, write something else first so you have some clue what the heck you’re doing. Or two or three something elses.

4) You MUST read. If you don’t take the time to read, both in and out of your genre, both classics and new releases, your writing will be out of touch and/or out of date and/or your story concept will have been done a million times. Which you would know. If you read.

book read beauty and the beast

5) Research fiction writing before/during/after you write your book. In fact, never stop. Keep learning. Just because you can write papers for school does not mean you can put together a coherent piece of fiction, let alone a compelling one. So take a class or start Googling.

6) Your spouse/mom/bff is great for encouragement, but is not going to give you adequate feedback on a professional level. You need to meet other writers.

7) Go to writing conferences. I’m not kidding. Yes, they cost money. But take it from someone who understands money struggles: the cost is worth it.

8) If you want to be a professional writer, you MUST master basic grammar.

meryl streep writing english grammar bane of my existence

Your story might be fantastic, but there are a lot of people out there who have good grammar AND write fantastic stories. Agents would rather represent those people. Editors would rather buy books from those people. Be one of those people.

9) Don’t take too long to write your story.


Authors who actually support themselves generally write one or more books per year.

10) If you want to be published by a large publisher, you need a literary agent. Large publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless it’s sent to them by an agent. Small publishers will, but it’s also a good idea to have a literary agent when you work with them to make sure you don’t get screwed. If you’ve made it this far into this post, are interested in publishing, and don’t know about agents, you get them through a process called querying. Google it.

If you have any questions about writing or publishing that I haven’t covered here, feel free to ask.

rant end rant rant over

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Romance, Fun, and Princesses

So, I should be writing right now. Really. I need to write. But I was cruising Twitter, as one does when one is staggering beneath the weight of a quickly-closing deadline, and I saw a tweet that basically said this:

“Heroes in romantic stories are wealthier than their girlfriends because if the girl is self-reliant she could dump her man and people who read romance have smallish minds and like it when women are dependent on men.”

RealityTVGIFs snl saturday night live drinking real housewives

That’s not what the tweet said, obviously. Too many characters. But that’s what it said to me, and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. I’ve actually been thinking about this lately: common tropes in romance, why they exist, and why people think it makes them look enlightened to make fun of them.

I mean, it’s 2017, right? Women can be powerful and wealthy. Women can fulfill themselves. Women can save themselves! You won’t find any damsels here, sir. As you can see, I am clearly wearing pants. And I am wearing them well.

flip trick pants

This is not an all-encompassing post about society’s current relationship with romance readers and the tropes they love. But I feel like the writer of this tweet is missing the point of this particular idea, and I wanted to address it.

Giving a female character a wealthy love interest isn’t about her self-actualization or independence, and it definitely isn’t about female readers not wanting those things. Women don’t read and write books with scrappy working-class heroines and wealthy men because we have tiny minds and can only imagine ourselves as the barnacle on some rich dude’s yacht of life. We read them because we’re scrappy working-class heroines, and it’s fun to take a couple of hours and imagine how nice it would be to fall for someone who showers us with paid bills and financial security.

That’s it. There is no deeper meaning.

Image result for no diving sign

For me, this relates strongly to the cultural movement that has declared heroines in fairy tales stupid and useless in the sense that, for some reason, we don’t think of princesses as strong, independent, capable women. “Don’t be the princess, be the hero.” First of all, I won’t even address what that says about devaluing femininity because it will make me angry. Second, those princesses are the heroes, that’s why the stories are named after them. No one had a problem with them also being heroes until someone pretended those words were mutually exclusive.Third, you know what women in fairy tales did? Whatever the heck it took to get them out of that nasty scullery. And they succeeded. Wildly.  Because back when these stories were written, there was no option for, “And then she got the promotion to Senior VP of Marketing and lived happily ever after the end.”

movies deal with it sunglasses the devil wears prada business woman

An ending for the ages.

Relative to most women, princesses and queens held positions of power, authority, and respect. Fairy tale heroines literally climbed the quality-of-life ladder to its top rung (or climbed back up after being knocked to the bottom, in the case of the ones born royal). Don’t try to tell me they were hauled up there by the prince just because they were pretty. I’ve owned a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales since I was eight. They went through hell first. Nobody in those stories is happy until they’ve suffered. Those princesses earned their happy ending. Are the cultural values that made marriage to a powerful man the only way to improve their lives problematic? Yes. But that sounds like society’s problem, not the problem of women who pwned society and took their power anyway.

John Williams Waterhouse, “Lancelot and Guinevere”

It’s kind of twisted, when you think about it. Princesses (aka the epitome of femininity) have been made a joke and a scapegoat. Can we not? Because it’s possible to be feminine and all the other things we want to be: intelligent, hardworking, creative, assertive, and wealthy enough to never need the financial support of a man.


Tropes in romance and fairy tales aren’t evidence that people who enjoy them are backwards or small-minded. They’re evidence that everyone needs an escape from a hard life. They’re evidence that those stories–the stories where the characters aren’t financially secure, no matter how hard they try–are stories a lot of women can see themselves in, and have seen themselves in for hundreds of years. They’re evidence that, hey, most people would be cool if their financial burdens were suddenly lifted by someone sexy who loves them.

Personally, I don’t find it enlightened to mock women (or men) who enjoy this trope. Then again, the bandwagon of intellectual smugness has never been my favorite ride.

Life is hard. It’s okay to dream the dreams that make you happy in your downtime. It’s okay for some things to just be fun.

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Speed Write Your Novel

Today I taught a class  called “Speed Write Your Novel” at LTUE, and a few people requested the slides. Here you go! Personal use only, please. Thank you to everyone who attended! This is the third class I’ve taught on writing and I really loved it.

In class, we had some great ideas for sites/apps/etc. people use to help them be accountable, increase their word count, or keep their inspiration handy. If you didn’t get to comment in class or you know of a really great website/app/community (or have anything else helpful to add) please include it in a comment on this post.

Talking to you today inspired me to finish my own WIP, so I’m going to go write!

Best of luck, everyone!

Image result for may the odds be ever in your favor katniss


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Cover Reveal! “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King

Hey! It’s been a while. A long, long while. But one of my goals for 2017 is to get back in touch with the internet, and what better way to kick it off than with the cover reveal for a book you’ll all want to read?

The Hundredth Queen, the debut of my agency sister, Emily R. King, will hit virtual shelves on June 1st of this year. If you like YA fantasy, you’re not going to want to miss it! Check out the back cover copy:

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda’s only hope for escape lies in an arcane, forbidden power that’s buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

Sounds good, yes? And it comes in such a pretty package!



Congrats, Emily! I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and I’m excited to see what you do next!


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