The synopsis

5 08 2013

If I could fit my story into a page I wouldn’t have needed the other 300+ would I? A synopsis! Bah humbug. How the hell does anyone craft a synopsis for the first time?

It’s never that hard actually. I always rant at the request but then fall back on reality.  It should be the easiest thing in the world because most authors explain their latest pet to anyone who will listen – friends, at family gatherings, at parties. Just writing down that normal patter had a synopsis ready to go in half an hour. The elevator pitch!

It wasn’t that hard – but nor was it that easy. The premise is fine, one paragraph, one edit and done. But an author never tells random people the ending. Never reveals the key twists, the characters’ difficult relationships. But a publisher only wants to read three full chapters and then expects to know how the rest of the book develops in only one page more. Completely. Utterly. Conclusively.

That’s usually more tricky. Five pages long. First edit down to four. Then three (and a half, unfortunately).

I mentioned my professional life in a previous blog. Another role with writing at its heart. Reports, reviews, succinct summaries of complex issues for the time-poor. I’d been so busy focussing on my writing life I felt like a Homer ‘Doh!’ moment was appropriate. I stopped looking at my synopsis as a book and saw it as a report to be summarised. Extraneous text vanished, pared to the bone. Whole paragraphs fell beneath my professional sword.

And there it was. A story on a page.

I noticed in my research that one agent was only expecting a paragraph of synopsis. ONE paragraph!

Bah humbug!





Writer’s CV

3 08 2013

I need to be creative. Focused and creative. It’s strange, but I thought this would be easy. I’ve never been asked before but for an upcoming event they want my “writer’s CV”. They asked in the expectation I would have it ready to hand. But I don’t. I’ve never had to do one before.

I remember when I was in the job market, a salary-man, I could craft a mean CV. My friends’ job interview hit rates improved massively when I let my English teacher skills loose to roam across the job experience of the under-qualified.  But this is different. This is about the inner me.

I’ve done it – written it. An unfinished symphony. My writing life (to date only, I hope) on a page. Long on writing experience, long on life experience.

But I ask myself – how would someone short on both fill even a single page? Tell me, dear reader, what makes you interested in reading a new book? Which snippets of a life will draw you beyond the first words of the blurb?

Would their job do it? That the writer has the swearword ‘banker’ on the CV or would you prefer a crusty marine archaeologist or a youthful ballet dancer? Do you laugh out loud and take the book to the till just because the author’s young son amusingly shouted – out of the blue at the swimming pool, say – that he no longer wanted to grow up to be an ice-cream man, but instead an author?

That’s your problem to solve. I think my CV reads well. I’d give me an interview!





That first manuscript

31 07 2013

Then it happens.  Years have passed, hours of solitude beyond measure, living in your own head.  You have tied off the final loose end, your (anti) heroine has achieved her aims, the final fact has been checked against more than one reference source. It’s finished.  A full draft of your first book.  You’ve proof read it again and again and it looks fine.  You know there will be oodles more typos to spot but this is it.  Add the header detail and page numbers, do a final spell check, open the window and set preferences.

Then. Press. Print.

Go boil a kettle – your home printer always takes longer than the one at work or down at the printers.

Then you have it in your hand. Your first manuscript. What the hell do you do now?

I remember doing all that. I printed it. It just sat there on the table I used as a desk back then, with a bulldog clip holding it together.  It was bigger than I’d expected and that was before I printed it single sided for sending off my publisher. I remembered exactly how I felt.

I ignored it. So I could pretend it wasn’t there I put a copy of the newspaper over it. It became a newsprint lump to try to ignore. I was pretending I didn’t have a piece of life, of mind hiding in those pages.

Who to read it first? I didn’t let anyone see it, not even a page. A big part of me was tempted to send it off before I even let my friends read it – is it right that I should prefer scorn and rejection from a stranger than from those closest to me?

But it wasn’t mine any more. That’s the point. Give birth and let it find its own place in the world. It really was an education, long sought.





Pigeonholing

29 07 2013

Take a book.  A new book by an untried author.  I read one the other day – I won’t give away the title now because it still needs a bit of work – let’s give it a pen-name “ GW”. GW is a book that could be slotted into a number of different genres, sitting in the gray borders of thriller, crime, psychological suspense.  But for an agent or a publisher it is useful to package it up for a specific market.  Should a new author be worried about this?  Should he (for it is a he) look at the finished whole and think it needs improving so it better fits into the world’s view or, more to the point, finds the right shelf in Waterstones?

If he is writing just for fun, for himself, then no!  If he’s written the book he wanted to write then the world can like it or lump it!  However, if he is writing for profit, for recognition, for accolades then he should listen to all the professional advice he can get.  The key word there is professional.  He’s been hot-housed with that novel for years, he’s pruned it, nurtured it, loved it as much as any pigeon-fancier has his birds. Can he see what an outsider sees, does he have the experience to see what else can be done to give it a better start in life? 

Professionally recommended edits do not detract from his worth as a writer.  Yes, the book may be different as a result but it will hit the audience harder from a clearer direction and achieve its results.  If he wants to retain a ‘director’s cut’ in his cloud he can always do a retrospective on the 20th anniversary of publication but for now he should be grateful that there’s airspace for his pet to thrive within.