"Once upon a time, in a far away land, where the streets were paved with gold, there lived a lady writer called Amelia. Her cat, Puss in Boots had made friends with the local Emperor, who liked to walk naked through the town. Her best friend Rapunzel had been imprisoned in a nearby tower and lived her life waiting for a faithful prince to come and rescue her. In the garden of Amelia's house, the house she had bought from Jack's mother, a cutting of a beanstalk leading towards the sky often echoed with the sound of overhead giants.
It's a given that fairy tales have a happy ending. It's more or less understood in chick lit that the girl will get her man and in a tale of good versus evil that good will win out. So spinning a yarn on paper, should be simple. Easy peasy.
The reality is that we writers have many moments of being in the horrors. Days, weeks, spent wondering what the hell we are doing.Times when we doubt ourselves, tell ourselves to stop this madness and move on - do something else with our time. If I had a pound for every time I felt those feelings, it would provide (at least) a part time income. If I had a pound for everyone who looked blankly at me saying 'You're a writer, have I heard of something you've written?' only to follow it up (before I've had a chance to reply) with 'I've thought about writing a book, they say everyone's got one in them, don't they?'
Yes. 'They' frigging do.
So it must be a cinch really, this writing lark. After all, everyone's got a book in them.
Well I've had three actually. All of them pretty steep learning curves in this apprenticeship. But if I'm honest, I can now see their faults clearly and before/if I embark on another novel, I'm determined to try one extra thing I haven't previously done - What’s that? Answer in one to three lines what the story is about... I now believe every novel should have a succinct elevator pitch - saying exactly what the story core is. A pared back pitch from which everything else hangs, the bones without the meat - you get the picture. What is the book REALLY about?
For example, in the case of my opening paragraph:
Rapunzel – A beautiful young woman is trapped, then, realises she already holds the means of her escape in her hands.
The Emperors New Clothes - A vain powerful man is conned by people who know his weakness.
It's easier to do with fairy-tales and of course it can always be done after you've read a novel you love. It is however not easy to do before you write one, or even during the structured writing process. It's different to ‘theme.’ You have to pare the layers away to get to the story core. I could write a book about love, identity and healing friendship - all wonderful themes, but if asked to elevator pitch it to Steven Spielberg in one line, I'd probably say 'It's about a friendly alien who lands on earth and needs to find a way home'.
So what's your current WIP really about? Be it a short story, a poem, a novel, could you have that short succinct reply ready if you met Le Spielberg in an elevator and he asked you that question. Or, despite what I now think, does it even matter?