I’ve mentioned Martin Amis before on this blog. I’m not a big fan. But one thing I heard him say once in an interview has stuck in my mind ever since. The interviewer asked him what Time’s Arrow was about and his response, whilst typically pretentious, struck a chord with me. He said – and I am paraphrasing slightly – “it took me two hundred and something pages to explain what it was about, so I can’t really answer that. Go and read it”. Or words to that effect.
I’m currently trying to write a decent synopsis for my novel Hinterland. It’s far from finished but by virtue of the fact I made the final of Pulp Idol a few months back the first chapter is due to appear in a competition anthology. The synposis has to be fifty words. A piece of piss then you might think – I’ve just churned out over a hundred on this post without even really trying. Except I’m finding it the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m getting nowhere with it.
I had the same problem with the synposis for my thesis. I wrote and rewrote it about twenty times and it still wasn’t very good. For Oblivious I think I just quoted some bits of the text and then had a few lines cheekily mentioning Raymond Carver as an influence and then a brief summary of a few stories. Synopses are absolutely the thing I’m worst at writing (if you exclude poetry – I’m pretty shit at that too).
Do you think I’ll get away with something that takes the Martin Amis approach? “Hey, you, read the fucking thing and then tell me what it’s about”? No, I thought not. I might try something completely random as a standalone bit of free-floating text. I think I might have to. Trying to describe the story inevitably makes it sound crap. Maybe that’s because it is crap? I’ve probably said before (and if I haven’t I certainly meant to) that I don’t refer to myself in any circles as ‘a writer’. Because I’m not. I write stuff, I enjoy writing stuff, but I don’t make a living out of it, I’m not recognised in any way in particular. But one thing’s for sure – I’m much more of a writer than a goddamn marketing person. I can’t pitch to save my life.
“Hinterland – imagine Apocalypse Now crossed with High School Musical”. Well, for one thing, it’s nothing like that. But even if it was it would sound shit right? “It’s a post-punk Jim Thompson set in England”. Closer, but my god, I’d sound like a wanker if I said that.
On the plus side, my fifty word bio went a bit better:
“I am an IT consultant and PhD student, currently editing a thesis on American author Richard Brautigan. I have primarily been writing short fiction for about ten years and self-published an ebook collection called Oblivious in 2010. It has sold literally tens of copies and was recently shortlisted for obscurity.”