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Feedback on synopsis of my first finished novel, please.

Hello Everyone. I'm new to Jericho Writers and to this Townhouse. However, I just finished my novel and I'm trying to craft a good, coherent 500-word synopsis. It's harder than I thought to condense what I wrote into one paragraph. I would be so grateful to hear your thoughts. Does it make you go, hmmm? Would you be interested in reading the story? If not, could you share what you believe I'm missing? Thank you so much.

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Replies (13)
  • Hi Yvonne, and welcome,

    I thought it sound intriguing but I wondered if you could highlight in the synopsis why Mia had a change of heart and discovered she did love Josh.  Otherwise, I thought it was good and something I’d like to read... maybe, a very small point, but the Dr WHO saved his life, not that, at least in UK English. Good luck with your novel.

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    • Thank you. I’ll make that change immediately.

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    • Congratulations, Vonne, on completing a novel. That's no mean feat.

      Of course, writing a good synopsis can be as challenging as weaving together the full scope of 80-odd thousand words.

      Now, I'll admit this isn't a genre I would usually look at, so I can't comment on the story itself - though you have clearly put good thought into that side of things. (There are clues in your synopsis that there is a good story there.)

      What i will comment on is the structure you've used.

      You open with scene-setting. The first 28 words are pure scenery. They are an attempt to be scinematic. (Aside: this suggests you've probably done the same in the manuscript, not getting to the action fast enough.) Then, after the shark attack, you spend almost 150 words giving Josh's backstory. It is, in effect, fluffy.

      Here's my take on rewriting the first 200 of your synopsis (obviously not your voice):

      Prodigal scion of an Australian industrialist family, JOSH BRENNER embraces professional surfing as his vehicle for success and personal validation. In San Diego to compete, he suffers a brutal - career-crippling - shark attack. DR. MIA DE LA CRUZ, a young trauma surgeon at a nearby hospital, is first on the scene, administering first aid until an ambulance arrives, and later seeing Josh in her professional capacity.

      That's 65 words, leaving more space to develop the struggles of your story. Also, you don't need to aim to hit 500 words; you should only think of it as an upper limit. Less, as they say, is more.

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      • Thank you. This gets right to the point! I agonized 2 days trying to cut it down and then build it back up to 500 words! I appreciate your help.

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        • Two days… Ah, you're just getting started. 😉

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        • Hi Yvonne congratulations. The start reads very much like "writing" I'd use something like this to be punchier, save words and draw attention to the big points. I'm no expert. Others will say it better. 

          In San Diego, a brutal shark attack on Australian Pro Surfer JOSH BRENNER interrupts the morning run for DR. MIA DE LA CRUZ, a young trauma surgeon. She administers lifesaving procedures until he can be transported to the nearest hospital where she works. The attack shatters his career. 



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          • Thank you for your thoughts. I feel much more confident with this shorter and more direct approach. 

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          • Hi Yvonne, you have all the ingredients in there and it promises to be an exciting novel, but I wonder if you should clarify things: maybe separating the two characters' stories into separate paragraphs rather than switch from one to the other, then have other paragraphs showing how their lives entwine, then separate out again. For the opening: I think you have such a great hook, smash us on the head with it (ie: cut the preamble about the weather, tourists and the beach) and give us the shark! Great stuff though.

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            • Good points! Thank you for your help, Cassandra. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. 

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            • Hi Yvonne. Others have made brilliant points so I won't repeat what they've said. There's some really helpful advice on synopsis writing on JW https://jerichowriters.com/synopsis/

              And if you're a member, your can download a synopsis builder that gives you point by point guidance - they say it's about getting your structure in place then filling some emotional responses in afterwards.

              This is definitely one of the toughest things to do - I've just had to write one myself and they're painful! Keep at it, you'll get them

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              • You've had some fabulous feedback, Yvonne. Opening straightaway with the shark attack is a great idea and pulls the reader/agent in. 

                I was a little surprised towards the end of the synopsis to hear that Josh cared about green issues. I don't know how this evolves in your novel but I would expect that to come in somewhere earlier in the synopsis. Does he care about the ocean because of his love of surfing? The link if there was one was unclear for me. Just my two pennies worth. Good luck and congratulations with having finished the novel and getting ready to pitch to agents 👍 

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                • Thank you Angela, this is an important issue in the story. I appreciate you pointing this out & thank you for your feedback.


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                  • Hi Yvonne,

                    I was just pottering around Townhouse when I came across your synopsis. I have not much to add to the excellent comments already made, and I think Rick's example above shows the right tone & style for a synopsis. This tone (tight summary) would be more interesting for me and show me straight away what the story is about, without any surplus info. In the end, a synopsis is a summary of a story, so I agree with others about going straight to the inciting incident: the shark attack.

                    Another thing I noticed is that this synopsis starts with more on Josh than Mia. We get to know a lot about him before learning about her. It's almost as if he is the MC. No problem, but if you are writing women's fiction, you must have a female heroine as MC. On that note, you may need to show / present Mia as the center of the story.

                    Hope this is helpful. Use or refuse.

                    All my very best wishes...


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