What! You too?

From the words of C.S.Lewis

‘Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”‘

This afternoon I had a visit I had been both looking forward to – and dreading. For some while I knew a fellow writer was going to call. Someone who set out about the same time as I did, who is talented and committed, and who wanted to talk about writing.


By Guaderel Guitarist Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial No Derivative Works 3.0-License.

The gap of time allowed my maungy, sad little twin demons of envy and fear to whisper at me. They blew sleet-cold worries down my neck.

I bet he’ll have been published already.

You’ll have to admit you’ve got nowhere yet.

How will you feel when he gets out a book with his name on?

What exactly have you got to show for over four years’ effort?

It didn’t help that it’s close to my least favourite time of year – Mothering Sunday – when I always feel insecure and vulnerable. Nor that I am waiting to hear if any agents are interested in my Selkie novel. It took some arm twisting from my Chi-SCBWI friends to put it out there again.

My unarmoured head feels so exposed above the ramparts.Close up a battered ancient helmet

He came. And over time and coffee, his honesty dissolved my mask, just as surely as his daughter’s marshmallows disappeared from her little cup in the cafe. I could see the same kind-ness of hard-won understanding in his face. The empathy of time served and mutual frustration.

No need for me to hide. We’re more siblings than rivals.

That broke me open, let the old warmth out and sent the two stony nasties back into their cave. And what rolled the boulder across their threshold was his absolute need to write. The imperative, regardless of sense and logic and all the will-it-make-a-living questions to get the stories down. How the breath of his ideas filled his canvas, blew him onwards.

I hope my friend reads this.

It’s not ‘you will get there‘ I want to engrave on maps of the future, surrounded by mermen and whales. There is no need when you have already left land and certainty.

But we already have successes to share – and there will be more.GoldLaurelWreath_CC

We are both writers.

The Joy of …Synopses

Most writers I know would regard that title as a complete oxymoron. They would greet the word ‘synopsis’ with a moan or at least a frown. I absolutely understand that – for me it was fear.

I didn’t know what to do. So I did what I usually do and bought lots of how-to books. There are a good half dozen on my study shelves. (I would heartily recommend Nicola Morgan’s Write to be Published  and the e-book by the way). But they didn’t stop the fear.

I wondered why synopses gave me the jitters – and came up with two main reasons;

  1. that writing down what actually occurred in my story pinned it down. It could be that thing and no other. I liked wandering the wide open tundra of different possibilities.
  2. that it put me on the spot. It made me declare what was going on in the story – and I could be wrong.

Now, on my last Arvon sojourn ( a wonderful Retreat at Lumb Bank with Steve Voake, N. M. Browne and a slew of talented fellow children’s authors) I was grilled.

N. M. Browne by her own admission is the Queen of Awkward Questions. It’s not always comfortable to be interrogated about your story by someone so intelligent and incisive – but it is good. There was no point in me resisting – it was so worthwhile to be made to think harder about my ropey first draft.

I see writing a synopsis as akin to that salutary process.

Options are for first drafts – wander all over that prairie of ideas when you’re creating by all means – but when it comes to editing, the synopsis is your friend.

I use YWriter5. It’s a no-frills way of organising your work created by a writer. One salient feature is the use of chapter descriptions and scene summaries. You don’t have to fill them in, of course – but if you do, they create a synopsis for you.

The crucial point is the way it makes you look at your work – whichever way you tackle your synopsis. You have to focus and analyse:

  • what is your intention for each scene?
  • is it actually doing that?

If you can’t decide what you want each scene to do, how on earth can you get it across to the reader?

So I would say view the writing of your synopsis as a good thing. It makes you understand the anatomy of your story like nothing else. Dissections aren’t pretty – but just ask an artist how essential it is to know the form beneath.

Leonardo da Vinci - Superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck (recto) - Google Art Project

All wound up

This will be a short post. I am off to Seahouses, Northumberland at silly o’clock tomorrow morning.

Seahouses Harbour by Simon Swales

As you may remember*, I was long-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition back in October.  In theory I should hear tomorrow if I’ve been short-listed – but I will be on a plane. Then I will be singing with the Unthanks – maybe in Bamburgh Castle if I’m lucky.

Bamburgh Castle by David Dawson

It has astonished me how nervy I’ve been about this. Jittery even. I don’t mean the singing  -I’m hoping that might help. Not the best frame of mind when attempting to edit an 86k fantasy. I am all editorial fingers-and-thumbs.

Editing is like sorting these out! (Image by Glenda Sims)

Does everyone else get all jumpy about such things – or is it just me?

*Brownie point if you did.