Synopses vs Gardening: Which do I hate more?

Monday, August 27, 2007, 7:16 PM

That's a tough question. Some people don't mind writing synopses, and some people actually like gardening. I say they're crazy (and yes, Betsy, I mean you! :P ). But, as much as I despise these activities, I had to do both today.

At least with gardening, there's an easy solution: concrete. I'm seriously considering just covering the whole bloody lot up so I don't ever have to look at it again. I can't do that with synopses.

But, there is light on the horizon. My synopsis is down to about 850 words, or four pages at 12pt Courier double spaced. Unless agents specifically require their synopses to be shorter or longer, I think I can live with that. And I think it reads reasonably well.

Given that while I was heaving greenery from my weedbeds (I don't have flowerbeds, I have weedbeds) I was itching to get back to the computer, I suppose gardening tops synopses in the hate stakes.

At least I don't get attacked by ants when I write a synopsis. Usually.

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Mac's Armagh Cider!

Sunday, August 26, 2007, 5:32 PM

I've been having a great weekend, the best I've had for a while. Nina Armstrong and I played two gigs this weekend, one kind of strange, the other fabulous.

On Friday night we played at an upmarket restaurant. This gig was organised by a local promoter and I really don't know what they were thinking. I know if I was having a meal with friends, the last thing I'd want is someone crooning in the corner while we try to talk, no matter how good they were. An unfortunate quartet of geriatrics were seated right under our noses, and Nina and I did our best not to annoy them while they shovelled potatoes between their dentures. Nevertheless, they asked to be moved to another table. I don't blame them.

The gig wasn't a total loss, though, 'cause afterwards I got to hang out with an ex-girlfriend I haven't seen in a while. She's still good company and she still looks hot enough to fry eggs on.


Anyway, yesterday was a much better gig. One of the most fun we've ever done, in fact. It was at a green living festival in Castlewellan Forest Park on a bright and sunny day, and it was great to be in the outdoors, getting sunburned for the first time this year. There were lots of organic food stalls, with all sorts of delicious things. The highlight was Mac's Armagh Cider. I've never come across this brew before, and to be honest, I think Mac (whoever he is) cooks it up in a big bucket, or a bathtub, or a paddling pool, or something like that. It's naturally made from Armagh grown Bramley apples, and by God, it's lethal stuff. Nina's partner James and I had a half litre bottle each, and we were both pissed as farts before we finished them. Later in the day we went back to the stall and bought the little that was left of the stock.

And today has been equally good because I just finished the third draft (and I think final before submissions) of the WIP. Betsy, if you're reading, this is probably winging its way through the ether to you right now. So, it's back to the horrific trials of synopsis writing. Sigh.

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Aaaargh! Synopsis!

Friday, August 17, 2007, 8:13 PM

I took a day off today to catch up with some stuff, including reading SS@S's rather excellent novel, Hinterland. I'm enjoying it a great deal.

I also took an hour or two out to do one of the things all writers, would-be or otherwise, dread. I started working on the synopsis. I did one of these bloody things for the last novel, and I can tell you, it was no fun. I hate writing synopses almost as much as I hate gardening. And that's a lot of hate.

To get the ball rolling, I sat down and summarised every plot point in sequential order from beginning to end. In essence, that's what a synopsis is, except you need to jazz it up a bit so it has some style about it. So, my sequence of events, when formatted with Courier 12pt double spaced, comes out at eight pages and 1559 words. Which is way, way, way too long. I need to get that condensed down to two or three pages,and still make it sound exciting.

I hate synopses.

On a brighter note, there have been some success stories among some of my blogging friends and acquaintances. Chris F Holm (there's a link just over to the left) has been signed with the Donald Maass Agency by Jennifer Jackson. That's pretty major. Also, one time Crapometer regular Sha'el Princess of Pixies (I think she might actually be a pixie...) has secured a publishing deal. Congratulations to them both. Stephen Parrish, who I was recently introduced to by SS@S, tells me he has also bagged agency representation. Just goes to show, for all the scary odds, it can happen. :)

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USPS - Worst. Website. Ever.

Sunday, August 12, 2007, 6:56 PM

As I near the agent querying stage, I've been looking at my first-round list of people I'll be submitting my WIP to, and it's a mixture of UK and USA agencies. Many agents prefer to be queried by snail mail, rather than email, and they have good reasons for this, so no problem. That's fair enough, and I want to make the submission process as convenient for them as I possibly can. Problem is, when including the SASE for the rejection slip (assuming they need it - I can dream, can't I?) for the USA agents, it needs to have USA postage stamps attached or it won't get returned. Again, fair enough. Thankfully, as a few agents have pointed out in their blogs, you can go to the United States Postal Service and order international stamps online. Great, problem solved!

Except the USPS website is a mess.

I've just spent an agonising 90 minutes or so wading through its impenetrable navigation, trying to find international stamps and order them. I eventually found them by using a search box (they can't be found by following links, at least as far as I can see). Of course, that was after a considerable amount of time digging to find which stamps I need in the first place. Seriously, see how long it takes to find out the postage rates to the United Kingdom (which isn't after United Arab Emirates, as you might expect, but in the G's. Yeah, for Great Britain. But it's listed as United Kingdom. Go figure.)

Anyway, when I finally found the stamps and added a sheet of 20 to my shopping cart, I clicked on 'Checkout', at which point the site crashed due to some dodgy JavaScript. It took three goes to get past that stage and finally give it my card number.

Bloody hell! I think the USPS website was designed by this guy...

Well, it's done now. Let's just hope I never get one of those stamps coming back through my letter box with a rejection slip attached. :)

A year to the day (almost)

Sunday, August 05, 2007, 11:43 AM

A couple of days ago I checked the creation date on the first piece of writing I did when I started this current phase. Its date was July 31st 2006. So, it's almost exactly a year since I started writing seriously. And what have I achieved in that time? Quite a lot, I think.

In the last twelve months I have written two complete novels and several short stories, as well as the early pages of four more books which I may pick up again in the future (two of them I definitely will). I've sold a story, so I have a legitimate pub cred to my name, and I've made a few new online friends whose encouragement and guidance have been key to getting this far (you know who you are).

There have been ups and downs. The ups were those bitter-sweet moments when you type the last few words of a novel (just proving to myself I could do it is pretty major), and the aforementioned short story sale, plus those wonderful ego boosts when a piece of writing has gone down well with readers. The downs? There was the awful realisation that my first completed novel (the eponymous Conduit) just didn't cut it even after all the work that went into it. There's the personal sacrifice it takes to write at the same time as running a business (a diminished social life and a less than spotless house!). Those downs, however, are far outweighed by the ups.

Now, the rewrite of the WIP. It's nearly done. I'm down to the final sequence, which doesn't need that much tweaking, so I hope to be finished today. That means I can spend a couple of days with SS@S's book before giving it another once over, and then we'll see where we are with it.

After that comes the daunting part. Sending it out there...

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