I’ve been to Chelmsford today to hear my husband play the cathedral organ. As it was such a beautiful sunny day, and Starbucks shut at 4.30, I wrote the first draft of this blog post sitting in the grounds of the diocesan offices – hence the picture, which is not mine, by the way.
Those of you who have ‘known’ me online over the last few years will know that I have been writing a novel for a very long time – since 2008, in fact. In my first post on this blog (which I bet you don’t remember), I reported that I had stopped writing The Novel for the time being because it was losing its punch. This was always a tactical withdrawal, not a defeat. When I discussed picking it up again with my amazing online mentor, Anne, I was expecting to be asked for a plan, the very thought of which terrified me. But no, she wanted a synopsis. (“Really, Anne, are you sure? I mean, I’m not going to be sending it to any publishers or agents for a very long time.”) Oh yes, she was sure.
I once blagged on an online writing forum that it should be possible to summarise a short story in one sentence – two, at a pinch – so, therefore, I ought to be able to run through my novel in 400 words, oughtn’t I? Well, Dear Reader, I sweated blood. The problem – or the beauty of it, depending how you look at it – is that, when stripped down to synopsis size, every inconsistency and slightly dodgy bit in the plot stand out like sore thumbs. Over and over again, I had to explain that mc did something because… then she met an obstacle… which she resolved… like this… in a way that made sense and sounded convincing in a few sentences. Oh, and what is it about her character that makes her interesting? She’s motor mouth, isn’t she – but can she conquer it?
Composing that 400 words took me three evenings, with the largest part written late on Thursday evening when, suddenly, everything started to fall into place. It’s not perfect yet by any means, but I feel more confident about doing a rewrite than I have done for a long time. So, if you are about to start a novel, do write the synopsis first.
Meanwhile I’m really enjoying ‘One Pair of Feet’ by Monica Dickens. For several months, I had been looking for a book about servants in the early part of the twentieth century, as part of research for a story about women who ‘take in washing’. So thank you very much, Fiction Fan, for pointing me towards this one.