A Bio, A Synopsis and The Danger of Distraction

Back at Nursery Today

Back at Nursery Today

My son went back to nursery today (hurrah!) and I was able to get back to work. Unfortunately a night of broken sleep has left me a little dazed and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. So, rather dangerously, I decided to do something different. I’ve just read Julie Duffy’s guest post on Charlotte Rains Dixon’s blog, about 15 Fixes for Your Worst Writer’s Block (worth a read!) I decided to combine ‘Work On A Different Part Of The Project’ and ‘Change Projects’. So today I’ve been working on the extra stuff I need to enter my WIP in the Independent’s children’s novel competition – the bio and synopsis – and I got out an old manuscript that I want to work on next.

It was a shock looking at the old manuscript and realising I started writing it in 2008, before my daughter was born. That’s five and a half years ago! Where did the time go? It’s also tough reading something that you remember as being quite good and realising your writing has come on some way since then. Which is of course fantastic – I’d hate to think my writing had got worse – but as I wrote the manuscript whilst also studying a Creative Writing degree course with the Open University, I kind of assumed it might be okay. Actually the writing might be – I didn’t get much chance to go into it – but the formatting and grammar are awful!

I spent the morning roughly reformatting it because I’ve programmed myself to write ready-to-publish documents, after doing Two-Hundred Steps Home last year, when everything had to be ready to publish at the end of each month. Formatting and layout, styles and chapter headings, all have to be to Smashwords standards (easy enough to convert to Kindle formatting). It did mean that I noticed things like how many bits of dialogue start with, “So…” Which is how I speak, but no longer how I write fiction. It’s nice to know I have grown a bit as a writer in half a decade.

I had to quickly put the manuscript away before it dragged me further in. It’s probably a blessing that it needs so much work: I’m not tempted to start that particular challenge when I have two big deadlines looming: finishing this children’s book by the end of next week, and getting Class Act out by the end of June.

So I wrote my Author Biography (see! I started another sentence with ‘so’!) It was rather gratifying. I was able to put:

Amanda Martin is a self-published author and blogger, with a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Her blog, Writermummy, has accumulated 550 posts in two years, and she has published four novels. Amanda’s women’s fiction novel Two-Hundred Steps Home was written in daily instalments and published in monthly volumes in 2013 as part of a challenge on her blog. A section of the novel has been selected to appear in a Cambridge University Press study book. Amanda’s Young Adult novel, Dragon Wraiths, was long-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel award in 2013. George and the Magic Arch is her first Middle Grade novel, although MG fiction is her favourite genre.

All of which should hopefully be true by the time I put in the competition entry, or at least by the time someone comes to read it! It’s nice to feel I’ve been doing something with my time at home these last five years.  I even managed to write a one-page synopsis which, although it will need tweaking, takes a weight off my mind. I hate writing synopses (if that’s the correct plural?)

Anyway, distraction time is over. As the children have been off sick this week I’m marginally behind on my 15,000 word target, although it’s still in sights. I definitely do better working to a target. I must remember that.

Hurrah for the web!

Sometimes all you need is a nudge in the right direction.

After panicking and dreading the writing of my synopsis, and after writing a couple of terrible, long-winded drafts that broke every rule in terms of length, style, content and readability, all I really needed was a nice step by step guide. And I found it here.

http://mslexia.co.uk/getpublished/pub_wkshop3.php

Following each step described here, I now have a basic synopsis that just needs tightening and shortening slightly.

The same website has also yielded some great advice on titles – http://mslexia.co.uk/getpublished/pub_wkshop1.php  – causing me to change mine from the boring/abstract Pictures of Love to the more specific (if still a bit predictable) Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes.

Now I just need to work on my first chapter. I am certain it wouldn’t pass Miss Snark’s Crap-o-meter, discovered at another great (and sadly discontinued) blog:

http://misssnark.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Crapometer-first%20pages

Miss Snark has also done a Crap-o-meter on synopsis writing, so I can check the quality of mine against an agent’s idea of excellent (or crap!).

Finally I found some lovely words of advice and encouragement on Billie Jo’s blog, here:

http://usaukwoods.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/synopsis-writing-ugh/

Hurrah for the web.

Writing a Synopsis

I spent last night searching the Internet for agents that accept email submissions (I don’t mind being rejected, but I’d rather not use a tree’s worth of paper doing it).

During my search, I came cross a great page of tips on the 3 Seas Literary Agency website, which included this advice for improving your manuscript’s chances:

Write a Great Synopsis

  • The synopsis for fiction works should include the beginning, the conflicts, the resolutions and the ending.
  • It must be written in the present tense.
  • A synopsis represents you and your work. Take your time, make it interesting, read it out loud, and wherever necessary, improve…improve…improve it, until you are happy with the final result.

(There are also great tips on writing a query letter, which I should also have followed!)

I’m sure there are other sites offering more detailed help. In fact, I’m sure I taught a lesson covering the same stuff. It’s not rocket science, but I particularly valued point three, the reminder to “improve… improve… improve.”

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget the basics, in a rush of blood to the head. I spent six months carefully crafting and re-crafting my novel. When I finally decided to be brave and send it to an agent, I spent about 90 minutes writing a cover letter and synopsis.

This wasn’t just the usual laziness, lack of time or child intervention. I found writing the synopsis harder than writing the novel. Also, foolishly, I didn’t see it as that important: after all, the agent has my first 3 chapters, surely if they’re hooked they’ll want to read more and if they’re not, what difference would a good synopsis make?

Silly really.

After all those weeks pouring heart and soul into my novel, surely I could afford to spend more than an hour or two trying to sell it? That’s when I realised the problem: I find it impossible to sell myself or anything I have created.

Before commencing my life as writermummy, I worked as an abstract artist – leaving my “proper job” to paint full-time. After six months, I had to return to the real world to earn a living, because I couldn’t sell my work to strangers. It turns out there is only so much art you can sell to friends (even lovely friends with a farmhouse in Luxembourg!)

Now I face the same barrier. I have to sell something I have created.

So my challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to find some objectivity and learn how to sell my own novel. If I can’t convince you, or an agent, or a publisher, to read it, then I may as well not have bothered writing it in the first place.

Any Synopsis-writing Tips gratefully received.