The Writer’s Life

To begin on a positive note – cos I’m working towards writing about the dreaded synopsis – earlier this month I had a story in a short list of 6 writers in a competition run by Henshaw Press. That heart-stopping moment when you see your name on the screen is one every writer deserves to experience just once. The story didn’t win a prize so won’t be published on screen but, hey, that means it’s still mine to resubmit when an opportunity comes along.

Another bright day was when I met for coffee with a writer and academic whom I met at the Chiswick Book Fest in September. She wanted to talk about writing personal history and how I dealt with opposition in my family to my memoir, The Baby Box. As it happens, I had hardly any dissent, except for one member who said he was present at a particular scene in the book but he wasn’t there on the page. No comment. It’s not his memoir, it’s mine.

An interesting evening was spent at a book launch of a memoir – or was autobiography, social history or even part novel? An aspect of writing which must be decided upon – what am I writing, for whom?

Which brings me to the dreaded synopsis. I am re-writing the novel I began during my Creative Writing MA, which I followed with Chichester University.    

I have 3 narrators, giving different pictures of events, varying memories of the same event and, eventually, different attitudes to the finale. I also use both present and past tenses, which John Mullan calls ‘divided tenses’, and varying viewpoints, either first or third person. I am experimenting, testing myself to see if I can make this narrative work. › english › people › john-mullan

I have found someone to work with on this project, Emma Darwin. I have heard her speak on writing several times, I like her direct manner and she has the time to read my work. Perfect. › blog

But, as well as a 6K submission to start this off, Emma has asked for a synopsis. As might be expected. I’m assuming this is not just a pitch to an agent, but a full synopsis, giving the characters and their relationship to each other, development of the story line with flashbacks if appropriate, a clear indication of the story arc and the Three-Act Structure leading to the crisis and resolution. I know what I should do. But with a narrative in Chapter 1 switching from the first voice in today’s present (date unidentified) to 1957 in the same voice, jumping back in history (WWII) with the second voice, and then the next chapter introducing the third new voice in a scene from 1946, and then back to the first voice in 1957 … well, I said I was experimenting.

I go back to the book From Pitch to Publication by the late and much missed agent Carol Blake. Next week I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.

3 thoughts on “The Writer’s Life

  1. judehayland says:

    Synopses- surely every writer’s dread! Somehow ideas that seem vibrant in ones head suddenly sound prosaically dull when reduced to a synopsis- and what to leave in and what leave out – a nightmare!


  2. Maria Laptev says:

    Jane: your writing is so open and direct and brings the reader right in. I am now questioning an approach I have been considering and the last thing I had in mind was starting with a synopsis. Surely you can start with an idea of where you want to get to and see what works with the filling in the middle ? You have however always talked of construct …


    • janehaywardwriter says:

      I’m re-writing so not starting with the synopses. I have to do this now – although it won’t be perfect – as an editor of any kind always asks for one. Emma will want to know where the novel is going or she can’t help with how I’m getting there. Every writer works differently but, at the end of the day, there has to be a synopsis so I might as well give it a go! Jane


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