Monday, November 9, 2009

Do any other writers have this problem?

I have a problem.  And if I don't fix it, it could end up major one.

It's my tongue.  I can't seem to use it to form coherent sentences when asked about Project Jane.

Before I continue, let me tell you a little bit more about me:
  • Public speaking? No problem.  Let me prepare a speech and I can give it comfortably, with few nerves... (Or give me some alcohol and watch what happens... I become hilarious - it's true, I swear.)
  • Quick thinking?  Again - no real problem.  I can solve math problems like a pro. (I did used to teach it after all.)  And don't get me started on the amazing lies I told in high school, at the drop of many a dime, to get out of trouble... pretty much on a weekly basis.
  • Project Jane? I am in love.  I love my story and am really proud of what I've created.
  • Synopses (that's plural for synopsis, btw)? Also no biggie.  Ask me to write a description about the story in a clear and concise manner?  I gotcha.
  • Conversations? Granted, I'm nowhere near my husband who can talk the paint off a wall - but I can hold my own, for sure.
But, my goodness, it seems that I cannot combine the above factors to form a single, interesting sentence.  Or even a group of sentences.  I think a good portion of it is based on in the fact that I have very few friends who like to read fantasy.  So I always am slightly uncomfortable using the "F" word - yet it's definitely a part of what I'm writing.  It's just that... people's eyes really do kind of glaze over at the word.

There's more though.  I don't know what it is that keeps me incoherent when speaking about Project Jane.  Is it that I love it too much - and I worry about any negative remarks?  I don't think that's it... I can handle criticism.  Is it that I don't have a clear idea regarding what the story is about?  NO! I know this baby inside and out.  Maybe I know it too well?  IDK (my BFF Jill) (I just had to add that last part, ha - remember the commercial?

Maybe it's the blonde in me.  (I can say that - I'm a natural blonde... well - not naturally as blonde as the current color, but still.)  Maybe I should just memorize the hook from my query and repeat it to people...

In any case, I have to get it together.  What if I actually get picked up - published even?  I'll have to be able to speak about it - in ways that make other people as excited about the book as I am.  Too bad you can't go to a reading and just hand out note cards instead of verbally answering people's questions.  OH. Or I could just speak in haiku... Sigh.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  If so, how do YOU handle it?

♥ me


  1. I definitely know what you're talking about, that was a big issue for me with my first novel. I hated telling people what it was about because - although I could boil it down to a couple of concise sentences - I thought the plot sounded really juvenile and STUPID when it was condensed like that. And I don't think it actually was stupid at all. Genre can run that risk too, like you said. If you say 'fantasy' or 'YA', lots of people are going just not going to get it.

    I think you're best off using your blurb, more or less, as your explanation when you want to tell someone what you're writing, but I also think you should feel pressure to explain what you're writing, especially in the early stages. Sometimes I think talking about it when you're still in the formative part of the writing can be detrimental. You're much more vulnerable to people's reactions and more easily influenced when you're still finding your way through a first draft. There's plenty of time for that later. The only person I've given a detailed explanation to of my current draft is my mom, because I can't resist her when she asks me about it. Next to her, you know the most of anyone else in the world!

  2. Ack, you should NOT feel pressure to explain your book early on is what I meant to say. Proofreading is your friend.

  3. I think it's b/c you don't want to come across as smug, arrogant, or conceited. You know you've written something wonderful, but how do you tell your FRIENDS how wonderful it is w/out sounding starry-eyed and dreamy? That seems to be the problem I have.

  4. Cristin - I definitely feel the pressure... though it's self-imposed more than anything. Maybe I will just start carrying around the blurb in my back pocket and whip it out for anyone who asks about the book, haha.

    Tamara - don't think less of me for saying this, but right now - I'd rather be seen as smug than as an incompetent idiot. Sad, but true. I've talked myself into too deep of confusing holes while trying to give simple explanations. (Even my husband teased me the other night, comparing me to a fish floundering out of water. Of course I called him a jerkface for not HELPING me, since he knows almost as much about my story as I do.)

  5. Yeah, only now, nearly a month after finishing the edits of my manuscript, am I telling anyone what it's about. Seriously. And only a few days ago, I actually told someone the title. For me, it's in large part insecurity. It's my baby and people can be really insensitive--especially if it's not already published, and especially if it's not something that sounds literary. That's why I love talking to other YA authors who GET it like u :) I think we're just protective of our work until we get some sort of official validation (i.e.agent/publication)

    And, too, it's like trying to talk to people about how beautiful your kids are. You KNOW it's true, but they're like, "Uh-huh. oh yeah. very pretty," and the second you turn around they roll their eyes. Or at least that's what I'm afraid it will be like, so I tend to keep it to myself. I'm only now getting the 3rrd part of my ms to my mom!

  6. Ha, just get some business cards printed up and hand one to anyone who asks about the book. "Here's my blurb. Please take me and my book seriously. We're awesome."

  7. Hahaha I do that, too. I can't describe anything I've written to save my life. And I somehow make EVERYTHING I say into a question. "Um... well, it's fantasy? For... teenagers?" Lol it's so bad.

  8. I take it a step further. I hardly tell anyone that I write AT ALL because I don't know how to answer any of the inevitable questions (when do you do it? what do you write about? should I write, too? when is your book coming out? why does publishing take so long? how much money will you make? and on and on and on). Maybe I'll be able to talk about it once I'm published (like you said, at that point you really have no choice) but for now I just can't.

    Except with other writers, of course. :)

  9. Yes, I have this problem (though I am also cursed with horrible synopsis skills). It just seems to go against the way my brain works. I discovered the issue in film school. They made us pitch five ideas before we started our scripts (USC was hardcore) and I always got "eh" responses. Then, when they finally read my pages they'd actually say, "Oh, so this is good. I was worried about you!" (And I'm not even kidding about that). I'm not shy, I'm not afraid of public speaking or talking to strangers, and I love my book--I just can't figure out how to make it SOUND good. I really wish I could just hand out the first chapter and say here, just give me a chance. *Sighs*

    Anyway, if you figure out the secret solution, please--DO TELL! :)

  10. Oh yeah, I have this problem. For a long time, I didn't tell anyone I was a writer. I planned to just wait until my book was published to tell anyone, including my mom.
    These days, people know I write, and I find I can only talk about my story in the most vague terms possible. "Well, um, it's, um, a sort of, um, fantasy for teens. Um. Yeah." Once I went so far as to tell someone it was inspired/based on a story in the Bible, and I almost hyperventilated.

    There's just this mental block when it comes to talking about it. But it's so much easier to talk about it with other writers. We don't look at each other like we're crazy. Maybe when I have an agent it will be better??? (If I can manage to tell an agent what it's about...sigh)

  11. When people ask me what my book is about I say, "it's a magical love story." That usually shuts the guys up and makes the girls smile.
    Then I pretend I'm texting someone important to avoid further questions.

  12. Try writing a sample book jacket--maybe that will help you form your fantastic plot into words that will excite even the biggest "F" word haters...

    PS I love you and will love anything you write!

  13. I can finally sleep soundly. Up until reading this post, I thought I was the only one who couldn't string a sentence together regarding my novel. Normally I mumble into my hand or pray the phone will ring when someone askes, 'So what's your book about?'

    Greatly relieved.

  14. Carolina - I couldn’t agree more... finding other YA authors to speak with has been an absolute Godsend. It really is so nice to converse with people who actually understand what it’s all about! PLUS, I only type back and forth with most of you - so I have tons of time to word out my explanations, haha.

    Cristin - I LOVE THE BUSINESS CARD IDEA! I laughed really hard at your last comment 

    Alexandra - that is so me... pretty much word for word. Maybe this is why we all choose to write - it’s easier to mold the words the way you want them to be read!

    Jenni - You’ve got willpower! I tell EVERYONE that I write because it keeps me motivated to succeed. When I get those questions, I usually play the “IDK, I’m so new to the field” card.

    Shannon - the whole “this is actually good - I was worried about you” concept SO happened to me recently. Not with my current WIP, but for a poem I turned in to my creative writing workshop. Apparently (as another student told me during the critique about why they were surprised at the depth of the language) I come across as ditzy and shallow. Maybe I should just never open my mouth and write everything down, haha.
    sherrah - don’t worry - when you get to the place where you’re telling an agent what it’s about, you’ll WRITE it in the query (or synopsis). It’s so much easier than speaking about it!

    Karen - I am so stealing your “it’s a magical love story” line. I’m not joking. That’s exactly the phrase I’ll be using, I hope that’s okay. You are awesome. And I’m an old trick at the faux texting, haha.

    Hot Blonde - I love you too, duh. Your shower was super fun this weekend! And you’re right - but that’s JUST the thing! I can write about it - I have written something similar to the book jacket. But ask me to say it to you, without a script? Bah. Nothing. I become the least eloquent speaker ever to utter a word.

    Q, isn’t it always nice to find out that other writers have the same problems that you do? I just wish I had a solution to offer! The closest thing I can offer is - instead of praying for the phone to ring, try faux texting (see Karen’s comment above).

    My gosh guys - with all these comments I feel SO much better to know I'm not alone in this! Seriously, thanks :-)

  15. I'm right there with you. I know my story inside and out, but I can't get one complete sentence out without stumbling over my words. And mine's a little worse than fantasy...I'm writing a YA sci/fi dystopian. Talk about the eye rolls! That's why I don't even mention that I write now except to all the wonderful people I've met online.

  16. I'm right there with you. I'm working on my third back cover blurb to help with things, but I'm pretty sure I'm 100% in getting people's eyes to glaze over during my craptastic verbal presentation. Thanks for the post!

  17. I totally have this problem! Everything I come up with sounds lame. I figure it will be just as bad when I reach the query stage. It doesn't help that since I write YA, I always feel stupid telling an adult what my book is about. It's funny because when I talk about screenplays I'm writing I have no problem at all. I suppose it's a confidence issue. I'm just not sure yet if I'm any good so I would rather not mention it at all! Great post!


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