Switching the novel to sustainable energy

You know that feeling when you just make it to a socket at the last moment before your laptop dies? That’s how I felt crossing the threshold of the Irish Writers’ Centre on Monday. It’s going to be OK.

This novel that provided its own fuel for the first year has been draining me since then and needs to be switched to sustainable energy. What better source than the positive energy of fellow writers? I want to get the manuscript into the best possible shape and send it on its way to make room for the next book. This course is the boost I’ve been looking for.

Somewhat dishevelled from the blustery walk up O’Connell Street, I held my paper cup of tea and looked around in excitement and wonder. These people, I realised, are just like me and finally we have come out of the woodwork. We’ve been squirrelling away words for months or years, storing up the stories we want to tell. Now is our chance.

I had the experience of reading out the opening of the book to a group for the first time and it went well. My relationship to the work is different now that it’s been exposed a little. That feeling of working in a vacuum is gone and I can see more clearly now what needs to be done. The feedback was encouraging and useful, under the kind and expert guidance of Conor Kostick.

Even though I didn’t have to use my one-line pitch last night, here is what I have come with. I realise I have two lines here but surely the concept is not that literal? It’s also possible that I have veered towards writing the blurb rather than the pitch. Do they necessarily have to differ?

Set in boom-time Ireland, this is a story about people, what they bring to our lives and what they take away. Haunted by the disappearance of her brother years before, when Laura is caught up in an emotional and professional disaster, she has to find new faith in family, friendship and love.

I may have to go back to the drawing board on this one.

6 thoughts on “Switching the novel to sustainable energy

  1. As I’ve said on Twitter, lovely analogy.
    Now, in unpicking your pitch, I’m half thinking aloud about learning to do the equivalent for myself.
    1. How about switching the two sentences round so you kick-off with the specifics of the story and then branch out to its generalisations?
    2. Have you got the right balance overall between the general and specific? Can you say what Laura’s crisis was, even if – presumably – you wouldn’t have space to outline in detail?
    3. Aren’t most stories about people? How about this is about what relationships bring to our lives and what they take away?
    Still, sounds my kind of novel. Good luck!

    1. This is great Anne, thanks for the input. So I end up with something like this:

      Haunted by the disappearance of her brother, Laura treads carefully in life until she is caught up in an embezzlement scandal involving her boss and lover which will test her faith in family, friendship and love. Set in boom-time Ireland, this is a story about relationships, what they bring to our lives and what they take away.

      Too much?

  2. Nice blog, Clare. I wish you well with the course at the Irish Writers Centre – sounds great. I think your second version is better and you could indeed lose the second sentence from the pitch, but certainly keep it in the blurb. (The only thing I’d change is ‘will test’ to ‘tests’.)

    1. Thanks Safia, appreciate your opinion. I found it really hard to distill the whole idea of the book down and I’m still not convinced this is the best representation of what I have written. It’s testing my faith in a lot of things too!

      1. I’ve realised that I have to do better with my query letter, so you are not alone. I think the summer break away from it gave me a new, tougher perspective on the whole thing and I’m editing brutally right now (excuse the adverb!)

  3. Just seen your revised version and I love it (although agree with Safia about tests and whether you keep the second sentence will depend on how economical you need to be in that particular situation)

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