I’m about to start writing book two. The characters are churning in my subconscious and I’m storing up real-life personalities and moments to be regurgitated later.
My story’s come from sticking two ideas together – one, taken from a newspaper cutting, the other, something that a friend is going through. The subjects fascinate me and have the potential to keep me gripped for the year it’s going to take to write the book.
A year?! Who am I kidding, right? My first novel, The Maid’s Room, has taken me five years to finish – (it was abandoned on the laptop for a lot of that time, mind you). Three weeks ago, I started submitting it again. (Fingers, toes and other relevant parts of anatomy are well and truly crossed.)
One of the reasons my first novel took so long to write is that I was a greenhorn – I had no idea what my writing style was. And when a helpful literary agent met up with me and said, ‘You need to show not tell,’ I replied, ‘Oh, of course!’ a disguise of a smile wiped across my face; I hadn’t the foggiest what she was talking about.
I’m no expert now, but I do know more.
And one mistake I’m not going to repeat is leaving the synopsis to the end. I’ve already written it for my second novel. I know I’ll veer off it, that I’ll change my mind about things. But setting the story within the framework of a synopsis is a reassurance that this new book might just work.
It contains the following three features that are essential for any book:
1 The story starts in the right place.
Put your characters in an inciting incident in your opening scenes. That way, you’ll reduce the chances of a literary agent telling you, ‘I didn’t fall into your narrative.’ Writer: Take hold of the agent’s ear and drag her over the story’s precipice.
2 Characters have arcs.
By the end of your novel, your main characters should have gone through a change. They should be different at the end to the way they were at the beginning.
3 Characters are at risk.
How are your characters in jeopardy? Show how great the risks are. Don’t let the tension and drive go slack.