I decided a couple of months ago to have a go at entering for the Northern Writers Awards this year. These are awards of between £500 and £5,000 for emerging or established writers living in the north of England. The idea is to use the money to buy time off work, pay for childcare, or a retreat, in order to progress and finish your work. I don’t need childcare these days, but a month off work and a cottage in NW Scotland (where much of my novel is set) could be just the boost I need to get from nearly-finished first draft to completion.
What I need to enter for the award is the first 5,000 words of the novel and a synopsis, biography and personal statement. Being within spitting distance of the end of the first draft, a synopsis is definitely due. I like to write my first draft with just a broad idea of the structure, allowing my characters and the story to develop as I go along. I am not unhappy with much of the content, but there are plotting issues stacking up and I need to get a sense of the novel as a whole, to look at the arc of the story and the progression of the characters through the story. Getting the plot right will also determine the redrafting of the first 5,000 words and will set me up for the rest of the second draft. So it feels like a good thing to have a deadline to get things moving, regardless of whether I win an award.
The deadline is Friday 17th January. I’ve booked that week off work and the idea was to have finished the first draft by Christmas so I could launch into the synopsis now. I didn’t quite make it, but the end doesn’t have to be written now, I just have to know what happens. Which I don’t exactly. The other thing I still don’t have is a title or a central image.
Still, it’s a win-win if it makes me get on with tackling these issues and I’ve been looking at advice on writing synopses. I’m going to start by reading through the first draft and making a short summary of the main events of each chapter, alongside the mood, thoughts and state of awareness of the main characters. This should help me to map the main structural plot points and characters’ progression through the story and to make any necessary changes. Hopefully I’ll work out the ending and a bonus would be to find that elusive title and central image. That’ll be a start!