Archive for December, 2006

Why I’m never writing a single page synopsis again

The other day I was driving behind a green Mini that brandished two noteworthy items: a learner driver’s plate, and a bumper sticker that simply stated ‘Examine your Assumptions’.

Up until this week, I had always assumed that a synopsis sent to an agent should be one page, no more. Why? Firstly, because agents do not like synopses to be too long. It makes for quicker processing of the slushpile, I suppose. Secondly, if you are constrained to describe your novel in one page, then the synopsis really stretches your writing prowess, and so is a quick way for the agent to judge your capabilities as a writer before deciding whether it is worth spending time reading sample chapters. The purpose of the covering letter is to get the agent to read the synopsis; the purpose of the synopsis is to get the agent to read the sample chapters; the purpose of the sample chapters is to get the agent to request the full manuscript. Or at least, that is what I thought, until this week.

I had managed to deliver all this to an agent, successfully enough to be asked for the manuscript. (Note: Agents will not be identified, nor will any be harmed in the making of this blog.) When the manuscript was rejected it left me examining my assumptions about the length and content of a synopsis. It’s all very well to ‘hook’ an agent into requesting your manuscript, but then you incur cost of postage and the risk that the synopsis is not detailed enough to give the agent a reasonable expectation of where the full story goes. The agent then incurs the return posted also. From now on, I think I would rather ensure that the synopsis has enough detail to give the agent a sufficient knowledge of the story so that there are no big (and bad) surprises in store, even if that does mean soiling a precious second page with ink.

So while this thought was running through my mind, the philosophical Mini that invited me to examine my assumptions veered sharply to the right on the narrow road and hit the brakes. Slamming on my own brakes to avoid careering into the back of the learner driver, I managed to stop safely only to see the driver indicate a right turn. So while I sat there, examining my assumptions about learner drivers, I found myself thinking that perhaps ‘Indicate your Intentions’ would be a better philosophical motif for that particular learner driver to adopt. 

It is a good motif, perhaps, for learner authors also.

Add comment December 22nd, 2006

I’m a 69.0% bestseller

“The title ‘Broken Evolution’ has a 69.0% chance of being a bestselling title!” 

Yay! It must be true — the Internet told me.

Add comment December 16th, 2006

Business is Business

Although I might be drawn toward the writing business by passion, or obstinacy, or whatever, I need always to keep in mind that it *is* a business. Like any business, it has its own rules and I ignore them at my peril.

A point in case: I just received another cold hard slap in the chops this week – a submission rejection. This time it was with some feedback, because it was for a requested (full) manuscript. 

In the back of my own mind, I knew that the novel could still be improved. I suppose all novels could be improved, even at the time of going to press, but improvement is most critical for a writer trying to break in. A debut novel needs strong impact; I now know that I can write a good query letter and synopsis, and that the concept for the novel is intriguing enough to be requested by the third agent it was submitted to, but the novel needs to lead where the proposal points.

Feedback is a rare thing in the time-starved working day of any publisher or agent.  Now I could get dispondant (and a short period of grief is only natural after any rejection), but that won’t get the book published. Rather, I choose to pick myself up, dust myself off, and — most important of all — take onboard the feedback of someone who knows the business ,and then do something with it.  Taking that advice on board may require a radical re-focussing effort on my part, but in the long run it might proove necessary to break into the business. On the positive side, I now know my writing style, characterization, level of research, and ability to pace the story are commendable (by at least one person); I proceed from that.

I am reminded of something Mark Twain said: opportunity eludes most people, because it is disguised as hard work (paraphrased).

I’ll be doing a lot of reading, thinking, and typing over Christmas.

Add comment December 13th, 2006

So it begins…

Hello. My name is Brendan Cody and I’m an aspiring novelist.

It sounds like an introduction more suited to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than to a writing blog, but they do have more in common than you might think. Let me share a secret with you: writing fiction is not a career; it is a vocation. To decide to write a novel and enter the foray of the publishing world is an insane, obsessive thing, because the odds that you will ever earn a living from it are stacked firmly against you. If you doubt me, simply read this for a harsh dose of reality. Fiction writing is a capricious and mercurial career choice.

So why do it?

Because a writer must write. It is as essential to his existence as breathing. It is an addiction that compels you to tap and keep tapping until you have a novel, and then another, and another. It is passion for a good story, the best you can make. Only that passion to write will carry you across the rough waters of doubt, publisher rejections, your own fears, and bring you onto the sun-kissed island where you can create your own worlds, mould stories, determine fates, and learn to know and love your characters as intimately as if they were your very own children.

The hope that you can earn a living from doing what you love is always there. And that addictive dream, more powerful than alcohol or any drug, is what drives that passion to create. But a dream it is nonetheless. In the words of one of my characters from the final pages:

“Evaluate your dream carefully before you embark on the journey to achieve it, because dreams cost, sometimes dearly.”

I can only hope that, for me, reality will not imitate that particular piece of art in some cynically prophetic way. It is a journey that I have decided to share with you, in case you too are an aspiring writer. Perhaps you can find some useful perspective in here. For my part, I only hope it will not scare you off. After all, what alcoholic, knowing what was ahead of them, would have taken their first sup from the poisoned chalice?

Add comment December 1st, 2006


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