Monday, 28 July 2008

Play to Your Strengths Part Two!

Why is it that I spend 30 minutes writing this blog only to lose the whole thing before it gets posted or it posts it before I’ve finished? I’ve come to the conclusion I’m some kind of technophobe. I should have listened to my husband, who told me only last week to write my blog in Word, then copy and paste. With our dodgy internet connection, it’s a necessity.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, playing to one’s strengths. Technology and computers certainly aren’t mine. Editing, reading critically and being creative are more in my line. I don’t see anything wrong with admitting one’s weaknesses and handing over to someone who knows better (see Part One above!).

I am currently judging a competition called Novel Beginnings. Entrants were asked to write a synopsis and first chapter of a novel. This is more difficult than it first appears. It’s so easy to find fault with other’s work and less so with one’s own. Most of the synopses I’ve been reading are flawed. They certainly wouldn’t make an editor want to buy the novel. They’re just not arresting or interesting enough. The plots sound clichéd and the characters nondescript. There’s no mention of a sub-plot. Good things like active verbs, thumbnail character sketches, flavour of the writing style, not too many characters, clarity of purpose are missing. Bad things like waffle, generalisations, not enough action and muddled/convoluted plot are in abundance. And the first chapters? They aren’t much better. There’s often a lack of narrative tension; lack of attention to detail; no hook; lack of arresting use of language. They’re all a bit too ordinary and banal. I’m struggling. I’ve read most of the entries now and I haven’t found anything worthy of a prize. It’s quite depressing! The optimist in me is hoping to find a gem in the last three or four entries.

Finally, a note to those who have submitted work to The Yellow Room. What with all this judging and kid-type stuff I haven’t had a chance to read or make decisions on the ever-growing pile of manuscripts I have here. I’m so sorry, as I know how frustrating it can be for writers who want to send their work out elsewhere if it isn’t suitable. Please be patient and I hope to clear the backlog before September.

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