Sep 26, 2010

Short and Bitter

Oh god, the pain.

I know I said I just whizzed through the synopsis last month and ended up with a brilliant first draft sure to make the most cynical literary agent weep but, well, I just read over that draft and I was wrong.

It was terrible.  Filled with clichés, completely un-specific, and just plain bad writing.

So I started over.  And although I am now several hairs greyer and have long, bleeding scratches on my face from trying to rip it off in frustration, I don't think this damn synopsis has gotten any better.

But why is this so hard?  We all wrote book reports in high school, right?  This should be just like that.  Not rocket science.  (Come to think of it, maybe I should hire a 10th grader to write my synopsis for me).  And yet there are entire blogs devoted to how bloody difficult it is to write a half-decent synopsis (for a strong espresso dose of cruelty, see Miss Snark's contribution to making writers feel bad about themselves).

One page.  One page to sell the story, and tell the story.  But not the whole story.  Just the salient bits.  But enough so it's completely understandable.  And exciting.  Even if your novel is character, as opposed to plot-driven.  One page to show the agent how marketable your novel is.  But without sounding like flap copy.  One page of sharp, clear writing.  One page to determine whether or not you will become a published author or a pathetic failure.

Say it with me people.


And then there's the query letter...

Sep 24, 2010

All For One

You'll probably recall that, when I was going through the first rewrite, I handled it with - well, let's just say poise and grace would not be the two words used to describe how I coped during those three months.  So it would have been safe to assume that I would do no better on the second go-around.

Which is why I'm as shocked as you are to hear myself tell you how much I am loving working on the third draft of the novel.  Maybe it's because I no longer need to stress about finding a job once I'm done.  Maybe it's because I know now that the novel isn't completely nauseatingly bad, at least according to a Dozen or so friends.  But mostly I think it's because I'm working on the third draft based on input from others.

From a completely solitary project, the novel has now evolved into a team effort.  Each and every reader who came back to me with comments is adding his or her imprint to the finished product.  And it's making it better, so much better than I would have done on my own.  There's a pretty deep moral to the story there, but I won't bore you with its unbearable cheesiness here.

I'll just say thanks, team.

Sep 22, 2010

Absolutely Fabulous

"It's like watching 'Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous.'"

Dixit my father.  About me.

Yes, at first I was confused too.  Granted, I did write a Novel (she says, in a nasal drawl, waving around one of those long cigarette holders and flinging back a corner of her mink coat) and a entire Dozen of People have read it, but I wouldn't call myself Rich per se.

But it turns out Mr. Res Senior had a point.  What he was referring to was My Evening With Stephen Fry.

Drumroll please.

It all began this past Monday afternoon, when I boarded the Eurostar and promptly proceeded to sleep throughout the entire journey (much partying had been had over the weekend).  Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I was in London.  I had a couple hours to kill so I strolled down Sloane Avenue and popped in for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a Belgravia watering hole with an unpronounceable name (I believe Rachel Weisz was sitting next to me, or at least someone who looked very much like her - with fabulous shoes).  Until it was time to make my way to the Royal Albert Hall, sit my behind in the fourth row and gawk at my intellectual idol for two and a half hours.  And go home the next morning.

That's right, I hopped over to London for a show.  Not just any show, of course; the legendary Stephen Fry is completely worth that kind of extravagance.  But still.  Even as I was doing it, I couldn't help but have a small giggle.  I desperately wanted to wave off someone with a "ta ta, dahling, I'm off to catch Steve."

As for the show, well, it was just grand.  But would you expect anything less of Mr. Fry?  Part lecture, part reading, part stand-up comedy - it was a fine evening of wit, charm, provocation and exhortation.  Bravo, I say.

Besides the sneaky picture my companion managed to capture at my urging (below), I also scored fifty UK stamps during my outing.  Fifty stamps that will soon adorn the multitude of self-addressed envelopes I will be sending to agents, along with sample chapters, a synopsis, and a letter offering my first-born or my soul or both if they would only agree to find me a publisher.

Stay tuned.

Sep 15, 2010

New day, new life, new clothes

Today is a new day.  The sun is shining, Paris is beautiful, I'm so over that whole ex-boyfriend getting married thing.  And all it took was my magic keyboard and the mind-numbing pain of a 14km run.

Now, all I can think about is buying an entirely new wardrobe for my entirely new life.  That's right!  I made the decision - I will be moving to Switzerland in one month to start my job at... No, I won't tell you, suffice it to say it's pretty cool.

So I need some clothes that say "I'm an elegant Parisian chick, but I'm not above talking to you strange-sounding Swiss people" as well as "I'm your boss, and yet also effortlessly cool" - and of course "I'm indescribably sexy and still potential long-term relationship material."

This shopping trip is going to go down in history, my friends.

Sep 14, 2010

Second best

So the man (Wentworth, to you faithful readers) who left me rather suddenly nine months back because he was "afraid of commitment" (his words, not mine) just announced his engagement.

Add that to the Boy's earnest, heart-warming desire for us to be friends, and sprinkle on top the most recent boyfriend's decision to cancel our romantic weekend to go on holiday with some bikini-clad chick he met in Ibiza, and I'm starting to wonder whether it isn't time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and finally accept that maybe, just maybe, it isn't them.  It's me.

This will be one of those posts that leads concerned friends and family members to wonder whether it's entirely appropriate to be quite this personal on such a public forum.  And my answer to that is, well, it probably isn't.

But if there's a small chance that writing things down will make me feel better about the fact that I keep falling for guys who think I'm just swell but who'd rather be with the leggy blonde, then I'm going to take it.  Writing isn't Harry Potter-esque magic, but it's the closest thing I know to it.  A way to feel the pain and tragedy of humiliating disappointment, have a good moan, and let it go, into the abstract, not-quite-there ether of the internet.


Is it gone yet?

[Longer pause]

Could someone please hurry over with the Nutella?

Sep 8, 2010

If You Were Me

On the basis that the wisdom of many trumps the wisdom of, well, me, I'm going to run something past you and see if you can't help me make sense of my present conundrum.

So, way back when, in the days when I was feeling brave enough to change, if not the world, then at least myself, I made an important decision.  I was going to be a writer and, because one needs to eat, find some kind of job that paid me a decent wage but, more importantly, left me lots of time to write, run, and be merry.

Then I finished the novel and this job in Switzerland came up.  Career-wise, it's very exciting.  In fact, it's about as glamorous as you can get when you're a lawyer with a business degree and can't do properly glamorous things like launch your own fashion line or fly to the moon or something.  It means defining my own role, hiring and managing my own team, and watching men drool when I tell them who I work for.  It means working with people from all over the place with accents as confusing as mine.  But it's not in Paris, it's in Switzerland.  And it may not leave me very much time for writing, running, or being terribly merry, what with not actually knowing anyone in that particular city.

Last week another possible job landed on my horizon.  It's not a bad job, but it's not something to gush over either.  It's for a very French company, where I am likely to be viewed at worst as a threatening martian or at best, as an amusing play-thing.  But the hours will be good, and I wouldn't have to move.

So what do I do?  Stick to the original plan, take the job in Paris and write novel number 2?  Or move on to something new and fly off to the next adventure to see what happens?

Of course, this may all be cart before horse talk.  I may not actually get either job - which would have the advantage of not requiring me to make a decision.

There's something strangely blissful about that.

Book Quickie

I read this one so quickly that it didn't make it onto the blog's bookshelf (the advantage of attempting to fly back to France on a general strike day - lots of time to read).  But it was wonderful.

Called "The Other Hand" in the UK and "Little Bee" in the US (I fail to understand why the difference), by Chris Cleave, it's my recommendation of the week.

Go forth and enjoy.

Sep 2, 2010

You Are What You Wear

Honey!  I'm home!

And jet lagged.  But never mind, it means I've been able to feel relatively guilt-free about doing nothing but watch season 2 of Mad Men over the past couple of days.  I still don't know what I think of Mad Men, actually.  It's esthetically pleasing, certainly, but very slow.  And yet completely addictive.  Like the thousands of cigarettes smoked per episode.

There was a minor storyline in this season that amused me, though.  If you don't know the show, it features Elisabeth Moss (a.k.a. Zoey Bartlet) playing Peggy Olson, an advertising "natural" who gets promoted from secretary to copywriter by the lead character, Don Draper, in a rare moment of progressive thinking (which doesn't mean he's going to let his wife wear a bikini - the slut).

But Peggy has a few problems.  She's a woman.  She's young.  She's not terribly attractive.  She used to be fat.  She lives in Brooklyn.  She's a Catholic.  But worst of all - she could be a candidate on "What Not To Wear".

Apparently, the reason she isn't getting the respect she deserves comes down solely to the fact that she doesn't Dress The Part.  White cotton shirt, long skirt and a ponytail?  Shock horror!  How is anyone going to take her seriously looking like that? Fortunately for her, she's able to pull out a whole new wardrobe's worth of brown suits, her gay friend cuts her hair to a bob and voilà!  She's a business woman!

This got me thinking.  I love clothes, I believe in appropriate attire (I'm required to by birth), but I'm also a little bit kooky.  Especially when it comes to work clothes.  For example, yesterday I walked past Paul & Joe and spotted a yellow Bambi T-shirt in the window and thought "Hey!  That would look great with a black trouser suit!"  (and no, it's not a fashion term for something else, I do actually mean a yellow T-shirt with a picture of Bambi on it - the Disney character, not Michael Jackson).  But seriously, couldn't you just see it?

So the other day, when I had to fly to Switzerland for an interview, it seemed entirely normal for me to lay out the said black suit with a blue, skin-tight, V-neck T-shirt.  Until the Montmartoise asked what I was wearing and almost choked on her cupcake when I told her.

Yes, I know, you're supposed to make an impression at an interview.  And that includes what you wear.  Dark suit.  White blouse.  Low heels.  Not too much make-up.  Discreet jewelry.  Blah blah blah.  But really, isn't the only impression you're giving people with that outfit the impression that you're really boring?  No?  Am I being childish about this?  Do people really not want to employ senior management executives that wear yellow Disney shirts to the office?  Don't you think work would be much more fun if they did?

But I will yield and conform.  The final round is next week and I'll be wearing black and grey.