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November 7, 2011

“Read Me!”

by hmsnow1

Speaking of contributing to the noise, today I’m wrapping up the process of putting another novella on Kindle. It has occurred to me that creative writing courses might be considered negligent for not dealing with the business side of writing. At least, none that I took in college said a blessed peep about the subject.

So here am I, wrestling over the wording of marketing copy. This too is a form of writing. It happens to be the only sort I genuinely and wholeheartedly loathe. The dreaded blurb must say “Read me!” without sounding pathetic by actually saying “Read me!” It must summarize a 33,000 word novella in fewer than 150, and do so in such a way that it tells just enough about the plot but not too much. The prospective reader must be left with the conviction that the risk of disappointment is at least worth the purchase price.

I ought to enjoy the challenge. In any other realm, I probably would. It’s a form of communication that requires a good deal more skill than usual. Strategy—that’s the word I’m after. It contains elements of a primeval “thrill of the hunt” mentality that normally would be very congenial to one of my outlook. (Yes, I know, that isn’t considered very feminine, but take a look at any bargain-hunting housewife or trolling mantrap and try to tell me that that isn’t the exact same instinct concealed behind a veneer of lipstick and powder.)

I digress. Contemplating the matter from this angle, I ask myself why this is such a hindrance. It shouldn’t be. Just, when I start to ask myself why people should read my work, I so often come up totally blank. With little or no effort, I can think of a dozen reasons why they shouldn’t. True, I enjoy rereading what I’ve written, but that’s because I write for my own entertainment. My work isn’t terrible, but neither is it earthshaking in either quality or content. It could be so much better.

Next: I’ve been told quite often that my vocabulary can be a little dizzying to someone looking for a quick, light read. No matter how much I try to scale it back, most of the time I’m not aware that I’m doing it—I mean, since I’ve been using most of these words since early grade school, I start to assume that most adults ought to know them. Some of it I catch in later revisions, but at a certain point my stubbornness kicks in and says, Pick up a dictionary and learn something new, people.

And again: The speculative fiction stigma has seeped into me deeply enough that I find myself apologetic because my work is “just fantasy.” Mind you, I would be far more embarrassed to admit that I wrote in the inspirational or romance genres, so I know that I’m far from immune to literary snobbery myself.

Ah, now I’ve depressed myself. If my work sold well, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so insecure about it. Friends and family aside, however, no one ever seems very interested. Even some of my blood relations, once they realized their chances of reflected glory were pretty slim since I’m not on a fast track to the New York Times bestseller lists, lost all interest in my work. I find that people are more than willing to admire what I do, provided they don’t have to lay out any money to acquire it. My grandmother, I’m given to understand, does a brisk trade in book-lending whenever I come out with a new book.

So why do I keep at it? To put it simply, I do it because I can’t stop doing it. Writing is an integral part of me. True, I do have days when I feel like it wouldn’t matter a whit if I stopped sharing what I write. At times like that, I have a select few supporters who correct me with a metaphorical swift kick in the pants. They want me to keep trying, and eventually I go back to my previous willingness to keep trying, and onward the cycle goes. I don’t know what I would do without that select group.

Meanwhile, I should go back to work on my Kindle release. Of course, it probably wouldn’t put me too far behind schedule if I went on YouTube and looked up a clip of the fish-slapping dance from Monty Python. I don’t know why, but that always cheers me up a bit. This too shall pass…

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