Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No....It's a bloody synopsis!!

Morning all.

Just a warning to anyone who may read this.  Today's post will not be a witty, enlightened piece of written genius (We can all dream can't we?)

Noooo, today's piece is going to be an all out rant.

'What' I hear you gasp.  'Pip having a rant, never!  Then tell us O Wise One (Hey!  It's my blog, I can be wise...sometimes) what has irked you so?'

Okay here goes. 

It's a single word, one that I imagine is only whispered in the darkest of corners by those of us who one day hope to achieve the mantle, writer.  This word holds incredible, dark power.  So terrible is this word that I know it has the ability to drown any and all elated sensations that I hope every writer feels when they have finished a piece and thinks that it might be ready for an agent to read. 

So savage is this creature of torture, because if this word was a 'being' it would be a foul, contemptible thing indeed, that it has the ability to take your perfectly lovely day, you know the one, your sat in your favourite chair, enjoying the calm serenity that comes from knowing you can pat yourself on the back for all those month's you have spent, locked away, writing your masterpiece (as far as I'm concerned my work is always a masterpiece, so why shouldn't it be the same for everyone else), when out of nowhere it starts stalking you and whilst you try to ignore it, it's to late, because you can both feel and hear it.

At first it's low, barely even noticeable, but that's okay, because this vile menace is nothing if not patient.  Then it starts, and like the solitary echo of dripping water, it lets you know that you should be afraid.  It gains momentum.  You try to ignore it but that persistent dripping quickly picks up speed and then without warning transforms itself to something even more ominous, a single, lowly drum beat. 


The drum gets louder and louder, you start to run, but the harder you try to ignore it, the louder and quicker the sound becomes, and now there are hundreds of drums, thundering around you, all playing together at the same time and tempo.  You try to run from it, but you simply can't.  It has to be faced, there is no escape.  And then with the power of a tidal wave crashing to the shore you are over powered by the full force of its intensity and in the eerie silence that follows you are left with a single word...
Okay, that was ridiculously over dramatic, but in my defence this is how writing a synopsis makes me feel, plus it gave me a chance to practice my suspense, spooky, scary writing techniques.  Pretty good huh?  Probably best if you don't answer that.
I have to be honest, I am really struggling with this particular aspect of the writing process.  If you are new to writing, like I am really, but if you are just starting out, then do not read this, not yet, I wish you the best of luck with your writing and hope to see you on the other side when you have finished your first piece, but don't look at the big word above, it could possibly put you right off.
I have read every blog and website I can get my hands on regarding 'Writing a Synopsis'.  I have had help from a top guy called Chris Salch who helped with one of my early versions massively and eventually with his help I managed to get my original seven page synopsis down to two pages.
Hurrah!  I hear you cry, so what's the problem? 
I am so close to sending my stuff to agents that I can see it, but now some of the agents that I hope might like my stuff and who I would like to send my stuff to are asking for a synopsis of '1 page' and I don't think I can do it.  It took me approximately 18 months to write my story/book and most of it was a pleasure, I really enjoyed it.  So far I have spent the better part of 3 months writing and re-writing my synopsis, desperately squeezing every inch of space in to those two pages and now, just as I think I am done, the goal posts move again.
I don't think I can do it.  I honestly don't think I can possibly fit my book into a one page synopsis.  I realise that if I was more experienced and had more knowledge and was maybe a professional editor I could probably summarise my story/book in to a paragraph or even a single sentence, but as it stands at the moment, with the tools I have...
I have read everything I can on the subject, I reckon I could probably give a pretty good lecture on how to write a synopsis, but please can someone tell me how I am supposed to squeeze approx. 166,000 words on to a single page and still make it sound even vaguely interesting enough for someone to think 'Oooh that's sounds good, I think I might like to read a bit more about this'.
Over the last three months I have often wondered if writing a synopsis is some kind of terrible test or a ridiculous riddle that you have to solve to get in to the writing world, but once you have cracked it, your in, one of the elite.  If that is the case, please could I have a different test.  Pretty much anything else would do, I would even take on the standing in a bath of water whilst having a car battery attached to my nipples test than face the 'synopsis'.  It would be far less painful.
So here is today's questions -
  • Is there a magic formula?  An idiot's guide to how to?  A way that explains the process in such a way that I get it and understand that I was probably worrying unnecessarily over nothing really?
  • Does anyone have this much trouble with writing the aforementioned?  If so, what did you do to get passed it.  I would love to read a synopsis that has been accepted and passed, just so I know what one looks like.
  • And if an agent requests a 1 page synopsis, is it okay to send them 2 pages and explain in the letter that proceeded it why you have sent two pages?  To be honest this is a stupid question to ask, I know the answer.  No, it's not okay, but I am at a loss as to what to do. 
Well that's it for today.  Apologies for the waffling on, but remember this is a diary, not a helpful and informative blog that helps and advises, sorry.  I'm just a bloke trying to understand how his head works.  Anyway, I have to go, I hear the beat of the drum calling and I am running out of places to hide.
Stay cool
Pip  x

Monday, 18 November 2013

My Mission Statement! When in Doubt, Read this Out!


I've been thinking a lot recently about writing, more specifically I have been thinking why is it I feel the need to be a writer.  Last week I was introduced to someone who told me that I was both selfish and arrogant for wanting to be a writer.  Apparently the time I spend writing could and would be used better 'Doing something more constructive'.  'I'm wasting my time' I was informed and 'There was absolutely no chance that I would get anywhere with it'. 

I'll be honest I was to shocked to react immediately, I didn't know what to do or say to this unexpected outburst and by the time I had figured out something witty to respond with, the conversation was several hours dead and I was surprised to find myself in bed.  Once I had gotten over the initial shock, laid in the dark, staring at my bedroom ceiling, my first reaction was anger.  If I was to be honest I was fucking furious, who the hell was this person to tell me these things.  I never introduce myself as Pip Connor, Writer.  I don't feel that I have the right to call myself a writer, not yet anyway.  I was so angry I got out of bed and reached for the secret stash of cigarettes my wife has hidden in the coffee pot in our kitchen.  She doesn't know I know they're there as I don't drink coffee or tea.  I haven't had one of those terrible yet ever-so-tempting cancerous sticks in almost 3 weeks as I am trying desperately to give the habit the kick, but at the time all I wanted to do was smoke and scream and smoke and swear and smoke and cry.  So there I was stood in my back garden, unlit cigarette in hand, staring up at a miserable November pre-dawn sky, wearing nothing more than my comfy crocs, boxer shorts and a hoodie, when I realised why I was so angry .  This small minded person (prick) who felt the need to express these points to me hadn't told me anything I didn't already know.  I must say them to myself at least a dozen times a week.  It's okay for me think these things, but when a complete stranger (wanker) says them out loud without even asking Why?  Who?  What? and Where? it hurts.  It made all my fears and insecurities regarding my writing very real.  I didn't light the cigarette, I put it in the bin and instantly wished that I had smoked it.  And then I booted up the old laptop at 03:38 and started to write until my little girls woke up at 07:30.

At the moment I don't have a job, I was made redundant a few months ago, but my wife and I discussed it and she convinced me to take some time off.  I've worked all my life and with a lot of persuading from my better half decided that perhaps a 6 month break from the rat race would be nice.  We've saved a couple of quid, not what you would call a fortune, but enough for me to take to the end of the year off, so that's what I'm doing so that I can focus on my writing, as prior to losing my job I had finished my first story/book so why not spend a few months polishing it and seeing if I could do something with it.  Well now I'm at the point where I am looking to send it to an agent and at the moment every time I sit down to re-write my synopsis, or spend hours I should be sleeping researching for the right agent, I always think the following -

  • The story is shit!
  • The writing is shit!
  • Who the hell are you to think you could actually do this?
  • How many hundreds of hours have you spent writing this dribble and for what?
  • People will laugh at you!
  • No one will take you seriously!
  • No one will like it!
  • The story is shit!
  • The writing is shit!
  • ...etc.

And every time these thoughts attack me (And they do, a lot) I force myself to ignore them by saying to myself that at least I'm giving it a go.  I'm not hurting anyone, I make sure that my wife and two girls have my full attention 100% of the time and then when I know they are fine, (more often than not it's when they are sleeping), it's then I spend the early hours looking at that screen. 

It's the need to write that drives me, but it's the fear that often inspires me. 

So I have decided to write what I Shall call 'My Mission Statement'.  Something to read and memorise and then say out loud when I feel doubt.  When the days come and all I seem to get is rejection after rejection I shall stare at the words below and know that it will be okay.  When the flashing cursor is mocking me I shall stand up tall and shout loudly and proudly my mission statement until all doubt, all fear has gone.  (Okay that might be a little melodramatic, but you get the point).

My Mission Statement

I want to write the kind of books that are difficult to put in a box and tricky to categorise. I want to, have to and need to write stories that place as much value on feeling as thought. I want to prove intelligence does not need to be compromised in order to entertain. I want to be a storyteller – one who believes in beginnings, middles and endings. I want to provoke physical responses – laughter, tears, heart palpitations. I want to take people to another world in order for them to see the one they live in with new eyes. I want my books to come up with new truths so obvious they sound like clichés. I want to fill my books with love and hope and possibility. I want to ignore the rules that say you can’t have happy endings or clichés or adverbs or jokes (if it is good enough for life it's good enough for a book). I want to be a tour guide of the imagination.
Question of the Week
Does anyone else out there feel the same? 
Do you have something that keeps you writing even when it seems that there isn't any point?
When those days come and you start to doubt yourself, what do you do to push past that feeling?
It would really help hearing that it isn't just me who feels like this a lot of the time.
Anyway, time to go.  Look after yourselves people but above all, stay cool.
Pip  x