This week I am to submit the work I have produced, on the Unthank School’s ‘How to Write a Novel’ course, for their appraisal.
With the 5000 word narration from the novel I have been working on with the tutor, I am asked to attach an evaluation of my writing. A synopsis is optional. Writing a synopsis is horrible. There is no other word for it, to reduce your slaved-over manuscript to a thousand words or maybe less. To write slick prose which will capture the eager eye of an agent or editor or, more likely these days, of the proprietor of an independent publisher. I have written one which will do, which I will, no doubt, alter before it goes anywhere else. A synopsis inevitably fails in its task, to sell your book on a single idea.
The evaluation, however, is a challenge, one to be taken seriously. After all, I have paid for this course, I have developed my writing as a result of this course and I need to satisfy myself the time and money spent was worthwhile.
If that sounds mingy, it is. It is mingy of me to reduce the enjoyment I have had from following the course, the challenge I have met in doing my best to complete every one of the four exercises set each week – hands up time, this last week, I have failed by one – and the enlightenment I have experienced in reading the lectures, learning from them and putting the principles into practice.
It’s not the first time I’d read about both the 3 and 5 Act structure for a novel. About the mind-boggling 36 dramatic situations some guy called George Polti constructed, about the 20 master plots developed by Ronald B Tobias and about Aristotle’s theory of drama. I have a copy, on my bookshelves, of Christopher Booker’s volume The Seven Basic Plots. But had I ever evaluated them, made notes about them, analysed them or applied them to my novel? I had not. But now I have.
I had not heard of Field’s character questionnaire but had fun filling it in, getting to know my characters. I have written a time-line for my novel, three possible opening chapters, the inciting incident for the climax of the novel and the final chapter. I have changed the choice of the narrator’s voice. I have made that much progress.
In response to one exercise, I wrote a piece called The Writer’s Walk which you can read in a blog on this site.
What I have not yet done is to assemble my 5000 words for the evaluation. There’s always tomorrow.
Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. Winston Churchill.