Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Become A Published Author **Guaranteed**

Some discussion on The Forum Formerly Known as Outpost Gallifrey about 'the Challenge'.


The 'challenge' is, as I say there, the challenge I faced, writing the book. If people want to try taking on the challenge, please feel free. But I'm not asking people to write a whole novel in six months.

It would be a fun exercise for people reading this to try writing the 1000 word synopsis now, though. Better still, when this blog ends on Boxing Day, it might be fun to try again. Hopefully you'll do a much better job second time around because of all the wonderful things you've learned.

I think a week to ten days is a perfectly sensible timescale for those 1000 words. So ... if you're going to try, try getting it finished sometime next week.

Now ... what I've done here is lay out the guidelines I was given. There were no sealed orders to be kept away from the eyes of muggles or whatever. You've been told what I was told.

I already know what most people will get wrong. The guidelines are very simple, but people will ignore one or more of them. I've said, for the purpose of the exercise, that you use Donna as a companion. Someone, somewhere has decided they don't like Donna, so they'll use Martha. Well ... send that into Justin, he'd reject it out of hand. Or, if he was feeling kind, ask you to rewrite it for Donna. Someone's decided that they're doing it for fun, so they've put the Daleks in it ... well, again, instant rejection. Or, if the idea's great, a very swift email saying 'try doing the same story, but with new monsters'. If it was a good Dalek story, that should be almost impossible.

The rules are transparent. The things I set out in The Challenge post are the non-negotiables. If you find yourself negotiating with them, you're doing something wrong.

Writing a novel isn't a thought experiment. It's a series of concrete choices. You decide to do one thing, not to do ten others. The end result isn't a vague set of ideas about what your story should be, it's the story.

Which is great ... because the great enemy of the writer is the idea that writing is what you are, not what you do. You wouldn't call yourself a plumber if you had vague ambitions one day to do some plumbing. You're a writer if you write.

These days, it's never been easier to be a writer. Hell, I'm being a writer just now by typing away. Here's my gift to everyone here: reply to this post and become a published writer. Assuming I don't moderate the comment, so try not to libel any comics creators.

What's more difficult is to be read.

Over at www.despair.com there's a great T-Shirt reading 'More People Have Read This Shirt Than Your Blog'. It is probably true of most blogs. Oh, and they also sell this, http://www.despair.com/pessimistsmug.html,, which is great.

I'm hoping to offer some really useful tips to improve your writing and storytelling. But above all, I hope to be able to show that the real art is in being read.


Iceduck said...

Since your last post, I've read a lot of the articles in 101reasonstostopwriting.com, as linked to in a comment to an older entry. I think this entry sums up the point nicely - writing professionally is an occupation.

I read a thread recently about writing for Doctor Who on TV. I think the overall moral of the story was that people who never want to write anything other than Doctor Who will never write anything at all.

That Neil Guy said...

Ha! Now I'm a writer! Lance said so!

Oaky, actually I just wanted to thank you, Senor Parkin, for the blog. I've been enjoying it so far and look forward to reading it for the rest of the year.

Mark Clapham said...

Still no kittens? FAIL.

Lance Parkin said...

Exactly - writing professionally is a job. When you send in a synopsis or sample chapters or whatever ... it's a job interview. You can turn up unprepared, evade the questions, if you're set a task you can ignore the instructions ... but it's not usually the best way to get the job.

Ultimately, the best thing about being a writer is also the scariest - you're judged solely on your work. The stuff about how long an author took to toil over a book, how he struggled with it, how he got on with other writers ... it's gossip, that's all.

James Moran - much more successful than me - has a blog about writing and there's a nice entry at


And the best advice there is that a writer is judged on the quality of the work.

A large part of the work is the writing ... another big part of it is knowing what the publisher or producer wants. There's no point handing in a beautifully-crafted Doctor Who script that's an hour and ten minutes long if Doctor Who has fifty minute episodes. They can't use it. They can ask you to cut it down, of course, but ... they're more likely to just hire someone who can count.

(Um ... I should probably declare that my script for Davros ended up very long indeed. I timed it, but it ended up a lot longer in performance and it had to be cut down in editing. Which is a very bad thing indeed).

Fridaydalek said...

The great thing about Lance's blog (and writers' blogs in general) is that they're so well written. No txt spk, no "OMG!!!"...

You can actually read the thing.

Mark Clapham said...

There's another good bit on writing from Paul Cornell at the SFX site:



Anonymous said...

Hmm. Enough of this guff about writing. More kittens!

Andrew Hawnt said...

Thanks for putting these posts up. As someone writing a novel (and blogs and articles etc as an occupation), I need all the synopsis writing practice I can get. Doctor Who is a huge passion of mine, and I've enjoyed the books of yours I've read (Especially 'Father Time' and 'The Gallifrey Chronicles'). The challenge of writing a Doctor Who synopsis is too good to pass up, and I have just about enough time before the 'deadline'.

Best of luck with 'The Eyeless' btw.

That Neil Guy said...

So. About this 1000 word synopsis. How close do you end up sticking to it? Walker Percy, I believe, made a comment once (seriously paraphrasing here) about writing being no fun if you already know in advance where it's going. But most folks, I think, benefit from having an ending in mind. But, anyway, all that being said, I'm curious about how much you end up drifting from your initial synopsis over the course of writing the novel. I suspect it differs from project to project, but I also wonder if you're contractually bound to follow the synopsis you've delivered. Thanks for your thoughts!

Iceduck said...

In response to That Neil Guy - in my experience, a detailed synopsis means you rarely deviate that much from it. I tend to consider a synopsis or detailed breakdown of a story "draft one", since if you can't make the story work in a thousand word synopsis, you can't expect it to hold up to scrutiny when it's novella-length.

In my most recent major project (a 50,000 word Welsh-language novella for a competition), I think about four out of twenty chapters were different to the initial guidelines, and three of those were towards the end. You have more freedom towards the end with an initial draft, I find, since the set-up's already there. You can't risk dramatically changing the beginning unless you still have a functional ending intact.

But it'd be interesting to hear Lance's comments on this - I wonder whether the synopsis has to be more accurate considering that it needs to be okeyed by editors when it's a brand.

Andrew Hawnt said...

Hi Lance, here's my entry:


I had a blast writing this, and stuck to the guidelines. It was fun, and I'm very tempted to write the whole thing now anyway, just for myself if nothing else! I write for a living as it is, and this is great practice. Cheers for putting the challenge up.