Thinking Out Loud 18: My Work Defies Description

THINKING OUT LOUD is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column in which we talk about creative process and what might be holding back that voice of yours – whatever form it might take. Send your questions to:

Dear Drooly Dog:
I write fiction. I mean, I write many thousands of words. Whole books. So you would think that I could tell people what my books are about. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth.
The fact is, I am dreadful at describing my work to other human beings. Whenever I attempt to summarize my books, it comes out like a garbled mess. And then I apologize. And it’s a total failure.
You can imagine how awful this is when I have to provide a synopsis to a publisher or even write a blurb. But it’s also a problem for my own bio, and any other attempt I make to tell anyone anything about my writing. Publicity is pretty much a non-starter as well.
For example the other day I was at a friend’s house, and someone else was visiting that I had never met, and we were standing in the kitchen and they said, “So, what is your book about?” I must have rambled on for ten minutes. I could see her eyes glaze over.
What do I do? I’m never going to sell a single book if I can’t even describe them. Maybe I can’t because the books are too lame to be described.
– Sincerely, Sadly Speechless

Dearest Speechless,
Isn’t it strange that after writing a whole novel we can have a hard time putting together a paragraph. I too have written many a blurb only to hit that delete key repeatedly and then bang my head on the keyboard.
Here’s the thing: You are too close to your work. And, you may not be aware of what exactly readers connect with most. But that information can in fact be very useful to you.
In my first novel I focused on a particular character, but readers really got into these shape-shifting nemeses called the Tromindox. Like, a lot. So, I wrote about them. And drew them. And had a lot of interesting conversations about them.
All your new readers need is a hook or two, they don’t have to understand the whole novel (that’s the point of reading it I’m pretty sure). That hook might vary. Your job is to find the hooks and throw ’em out there.
So: I suggest you do a survey among those who have read your book(s). Ask them what stands out the most. Ask them to describe the story and the characters. And then use that information to write short hooks.
Then, try them out. Splat them around. See what sticks, what gets clicked on. Don’t be too precious about it.
And, when standing in the kitchen, try different one-liners and see what lights up people’s faces. You’ll be able to tell. It will be the opposite of that glazed look.
Go for it!
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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