Monday, June 23, 2014

A Novel Synopsis

Patty here...

While sorting through some paperwork, I came across this early draft of the synopsis of my first novel written around 2003. I had never written one before and while I had researched the process, I didn't exactly know what I was doing. At the time, I didn't have an agent or a book contract. A friend of mine who knew Kate Miciak, a well-regarded editor at Bantam, asked her if she would read and critique the synopsis. To my surprise, she said yes. I'm not holding this up as the best synopsis ever written but Kate's edits were instructive to me and I hope they will be to you, as well.

In Kate’s cover note, she said: “…it is, alas, the nature of the publishing universe these days that few agents will consider a one-shot project. Does this book stand alone? Or is it intended to be the first of a series? I would suggest that you draft something that addresses that concern. And your cover letter should probably let the agent know the audience for which this mystery is intended: Sue Grafton’s? Janet Evanovich’s?—your call, but it helps immensely to position the project immediately. Again, it is a sorry fact of the industry that books sell if they can be quickly compared to something else that is selling.”

Based on her comments, I added a note that the book was the first in a series. I have used italics to indicate Kate’s suggested additions and lined through Kate’s suggested deletions.


FALSE PROFITS is a fast-paced mystery novel featuring Tucker Sinclair, a business woman on the fast track to partner at the prestigious downtown L.A. management consulting firm of Aames & Associates, who is wrongly accused of fraud. When people who should care distance themselves from the situation, Tucker vows to find out why. As she searches for answers, she must expose a scam and find a murderer. In the end, she makes the most painful discovery of all—that only a friend can betray you.

In the world of buttoned down business types, thirty-one-year-old Tucker does her own thing, and she gets away with it. Her unorthodox approach to business problems has put her on the fast track to partner in the prestigious downtown Los Angles management consulting firm of Aames & Associates. 

The hardcover cover from Mysterious Press
Things look rosy in Tucker’s life, and adding to her buoyant mood is her appointment as team leader for a major project in Amsterdam, as well as her hopes that the firm will soon be awarded a lucrative consulting contract from a wealthy philanthropist by the name of Nelson Covington. So when she is summoned to the office of her boss, Gordon Aames, she thinks, What could go wrong?

Just about everything, it seems. Gordon Aames, a fifty-six-year-old man with a savvy business sense and a nervous stomach, has been is shaken by a letter he has just received regarding a business plan Tucker recently completed. This letter accuses her Tucker of defrauding investors by inflating a company’s profit projections, and threatens a lawsuit against her, her client, and the firm. When Tucker checks the plan included with the letter, she is alarmed to find that someone has altered her report.

The one piece of evidence that proves Tucker’s innocence is missing has vanished, and so has her client, Dr. Milton Polk. Then Polk turns up dead, and in quick succession her Tucker’s secretary becomes a victim of downsizing; her nemesis, Bart Marish, seizes her position replaces her in Amsterdam; and Tucker discovers that someone is using her name in an insurance billing scam. To top it off, terrified by fearing the pending federal investigation, the partners unanimously vote to suspend her from Aames & Associates.

Suddenly, Tucker is on her own. She must locate the missing evidence in one week (Kate: Why one week? Who set this clock?) or find herself out of a job and into a jail cell. But instead of answers, she uncovers more questions like—

The paperback from Warner Books
Why is the grieving widow not grieving? (Kate advised me to italicize the questions but just so I don't confuse anyone, I'll just use another font.) Mona Polk is an attractive woman in her forties with the blonde curly hair of a Nordic Betty Boop. She is also the attractive beneficiary of Polk’s half-million dollar life insurance policy. Did Mona and her constant companion, the studmuffin Armando, do Polk in for the insurance money, or is Armando just a friend helping her Mona work through her grief?

Why isn’t wealthy philanthropist Nelson Covington surprised when Tucker tells him that Dr. Polk is dead? Is Covington a do-gooder, as many believe? Or is he a snake who killed to cover up more than his plastic surgery scars?

Why is Kenny Chalmers, the husband of Polk’s office manager, Francine, so antagonistic toward the dead man doctor? Is it because his wife goes goo-goo-eyed at the mention of Polk’s name? Or is it because Kenny, a notorious tightwad, finds out learns that Francine has loaned Polk a sizable amount of cash that he can’t repay? Kenny is definitely a guy with a bad temper, a fierce grudge against the doctor Polk…and a very serious alibi problem.

As Tucker unravels the dark secrets of Milton Polk’s past and the circumstances of his death, she stumbles across something that not only leads her to the truth, but also to a rendezvous with a killer. (Kate notes: “This needs to be set up better. We need to have a sense that, in addition to poking into the alibis & motives of the suspects, some questions have been raised about the dead man himself?)

FALSE PROFITS features a cast of quirky vivid characters including: Pookie Kravitz, Tucker’s mother, an working actor who is into aromatherapy and exploring her shamanic powers; Venus Corday, Tucker’s friend and co-worker, who makes up for her bad taste in men with exquisite taste in chocolate. Joe Deegan, an LAPD detective with spiky brown hair and killer blue-gray eyes, who thinks Tucker is a riot, but not the good kind; and Eugene Barstok, Tucker’s twenty-something secretary who has anxiety issues and a talent for knitting snoods.

Accompanied by her sidekicks, Tucker takes sweeps the reader on an adventure filled with suspense, intrigue, and laughter. Along the way, she confronts her own goals and motivations and must answer the age-old question: Is the thing she wants most worth the price she must pay to get it? (Kate’s note: “Good”)

Was this helpful? Interesting?



  1. Both interesting AND helpful (I'm going to share with the Guppies). Great example of what a second set of eyes--especially those in the industry--can see. I loved this book!

    1. Ah, Diane, thank you. It was so kind of Kate to offer this sort of input. I will forever be grateful. Now I'm always on the lookout for insipid verbs, which I ax for more vibrant ones.

  2. Definitely, on both scores (interesting and helpful). Plus, it made me want to read the book. Thank you for sharing such valuable feedback.

    1. Thanks, Sheila. I'm always amazed at the kindness of strangers.

  3. Fascinating! Kate Miciak was my editor on all my Bantam books. Both Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord. First rate and an expert on the genre.

    1. I remembered that, Paul. You were fortunate to have worked with her.

  4. from Jacqueline: Patty, thank you so much for sharing this "exchange." You were lucky to have the counsel of Kate Miciak - she is highly regarded in the publishing industry. We'll all learn a lot from this! Maybe that's a project for us - The Naked Authors' Guide to Getting Published!

  5. James O. Born6/23/2014 5:01 PM

    Thanks for the post , Patty

    I intend to do a blog on synopsises ??? synopi?? on the Thursday writing blog sometime in the future.

    1. Excellent! I haven't had to write one in a while but they're always a mystery to me. Do you reveal the killer or leave 'em hanging?

  6. Great post ... most helpful ...

  7. Great post, Patty! Love the active verbs she used and the well-chosen adjectives. This gets bookmarked....

  8. Great post Patty, thank you for sharing and giving insight into the biggest mystery facing any writer - the dreaded synopsis!