Synopsi are evil
There's been an almighty row over the Jade Pagoda, although internecine war seems to be its default state these days, about what makes a good Doctor Who synopsis. One of these days I'll get around to putting the one I submitted for H101 online: it's a lot shorter than I remember but that's in part because WS had a very long one with a lot of detail and, as always with me, footnotes.
Mid-week I got an email from a writery friend about the Waterstones competition to find a new novelist. It has to be teen fiction (8-12 or 12-15) and you have to have been previously unpublished. So it is of little use to me. However, not one but two RL friends have drafts there or nearly-there and could go for it. Except neither had a novel synopsis for their work and the deadline is tomorrow. So last night, I dusted off my red pen of critiquing and hastily went through the first drafts of the synopsi. As I said to one, I apologise for possibly stomping on the butterflies instead of dancing about them tactfully as I normally try to do but time is tight and, as you're a RL friend, I'm fairly sure you will forgive me. Even so, I have certain rules of feedback which I learnt back in my fanfic days and which stood me in good stead when working in a hurry:
- Say positive overall things first.
- Say what doesn't work, why it doesn't and offer potential solutions.
- Point out stupid punctuation and grammar.
If this stage is longer than stage 2, tell them to buy some standard books on the use of English. I always suggest Bill Bryson's Troublesome Words.
- Say positive things again.
It's the step which requires the most tact as you are treading on their butterflies but it's also the step I enjoy the most. Not because of the dream-stomping (which hopefully I managed to avoid even doing two synopsi in haste) but because it teaches me things: I see something which doesn't quite work, I see why and I think of solutions. If I'm to improve then these are skills which I need to keep sharpening and other peoples' work is a great knife-grinder.
So, hopefully, these two novels will go through to shortlisting (where even if they don't win the nice competition contract with f&f they may get picked up anway).