Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's it all about?

I had a moment today. I know--had is not too strong a verb--but believe me, the moment gave me a ton of happiness.

I'm used to writing non-fiction. I think of a theme and then I recall a time in my life that examplifies that theme. I plot it out and color in the details.

Now I admit to being somewhat new to writing fiction. I'm still learning but I have gone and written three books already. The other day, a visiting friend asked me what my latest was about.

I paused. You know the feeling. We writers should be prepared to give that answer in three sentences or less--not recite the plot--but the main theme.

Until today, I thought I knew my theme but if I had, I probably could have given a satisfactory answer to my friend. I didn't. I fumbled all over myself trying not to sound like others who have talked on and on and never made a point.

You know how it goes:
It's a romance about two people; it's a story about a woman who wants to
be a writer, it's about a young widow who is struggling to support her

All plot and not what the book is really about.

But this morning, the moment came to me as I woke up. I could finally put into words what my book is saying. The information had always been there; I just couldn't spell it out.

So maybe I went about this whole thing backwards but I knew the story I needed to write and did. Now I can tell others what it's about in two sentences or less.

How about you? Can you tell the main idea of your book without reciting the whole plot?


T. Anne said...

That's something we should be able to do in theory, right? ;)

Andrea said...

GOD doesn't always work in the "worlds" order. You were given those two sentences when HE was ready for you to have them.
GOD BLESS, andrea

Kathryn Magendie said...

I still babble sometimes, although with TG it's a little easier because the publishers came up with a short blurb and I tend to use that a lot :) but before that, oh, how I HATED people asking me "what is your book about"

So glad you woke up with clarity - I love when that happens.

Kristen Painter said...

I think the theme of the series I'm writing now revolves around redemption. Definitely for the hero. He has a lot to redeem himself for.

Lily said...

I'll have to practice.

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Hi, Terri! It's nice to meet you!

I definitely have that problem, but I think I finally figured it out--after my manuscript was completed and I finally wrote a proposal. That helped a lot in helping me say what my story was actually about in just a few words. Next time I might try to write the proposal first, just for myself, so I can have a clue where I'm going as I write!

Lazy Writer said...

When I was writing my first ms, I thought I knew what it was about and answered accordingly, but it changed over time. In the end, what I told people in the beginning was not at all what I told them when it was finished. It's a great thing to think about!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Yes, I've boiled the ms plot down to a few snappy blurbs...just in case I'm ever in an elevator with some famous agent and only have a few seconds with him/her. :)

Jessica said...

I can now, thank goodness.
About two years ago I was driving my dad to the airport and he asked me what my book was about.
Big Mistake.
I was rambling, trying to explain, and I missed the exit. Grrr... Poor daddy was late and had to catch a different flight. I was super embarrassed and decided I'd better learn how to explain it in a sentence or two.
Congrats to you!!! I'm glad you had that breakthrough. :-)

Yolanda said...

I'm simply thinking about how we make things so hard and God desires for things to be easy. Lovingly, Yolanda

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Same type of thing happened to me for book #1. The message/pitch came to me in the shower. I swear, showering or mind kicks into creative mode. :D
I'm glad the clouds cleared for you.

~ Wendy

Janna Qualman said...

I think about it often, and still fumble when asked for a run-down, but know it's coming together in this writing process, and will have a great answer when it's done. Is that too late, you think?

Jody Hedlund said...

That's definitely something I need to practice too! I think I'd hem and haw and butcher the book! But it's great to be prepared to share!

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

I'm glad you were able to think of the theme. I always have problems with titles. If I can think of the theme of my story, then the title seems to fall into place. Great posting.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Bells going off! Lightbulbs flashing! The theme! Duh!

All this time, I've been trying to boil a 96,000-word book down when all I had to do was give the theme. This is a defining moment.

Thank you, my friend.

Susan :) :) :) (I'm very happy.)

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Terri wrote: “But this morning, the moment came to me as I woke up. I could finally put into words what my book is saying. The information had always been there; I just couldn't spell it out.”

Yes, Girl, AND THAT IS?????….Man, I got the buildup, I’m all excited to learn the answer, but…Terri keeps it a secret. I’m sittin’ right down here and not leaving until I get the answer.

In other news, if you can actually do this…synthesize you book in two sentences—I will pay you untold riches if you’ll do the same for my drivel. Yes, you’d have to read it, but, hey, there’s big money in it for you.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

And? The sentences are?...

Yes, the point. As I prepare my heart and my pen for yet another "lengthy write" (my writing goal for the school year), I've thought a lot about it, even as I've jotted ideas for months now. I like to say it's been writing me for a season, and now I'm ready to move on it.

I'll be looking for those sentences...


sarah said...

Yikes. Not there yet.

Pat's Place said...

That is a great distinction. Thanks for spelling it out--although I am not yet brave enough to think about a novel. Mercy!

AnooCre8ion said...

I'm not at that stage yet, but it's something to think about.
Good job Terri. Congrats!


Diane said...

I laughed at this post, because I struggle with the same thing! I'm happy for your breakthrough!

jinksy said...

Luckily for me, writing poetry is less complicated!

Rose Mary said...

I'm glad you 'got it'~always takes me a while to break my story down into just two sentences!