Since I began admitting to people that I was working on a novel, the same question has inevitably come up a number of times.
“So, what’s it about?”
Which brings me to today’s post. Some days, I can answer this question smoothly, like butter. Other days, I stumble over it so badly I need someone to kick start my mouth to help me get going. There’s even a third type of day, when I can find the words but can’t filter them, and end up spending two-three minutes on an answer that someone really wanted in two-three sentences.
To my fellow writers who have a hard time summarizing your works of art: You are not alone! We should all start a support group, for which I’ll make us some cute membership cards.
Anyway, because I lose my verbal communication skills when asked about my work, two weekends ago at the Southern California Writers Conference, I attended a “practice your pitch” session. Not so much because I was ready to pitch my novel to agents, but because I figured that if I knew how to pitch it, I knew how to talk about it.
The best piece of advice that came from the session was to highlight what makes the story different. I had been guilty of using generic, clichéd language to describe my protagonist’s journey (“coming of age” “character driven”, blah blah blah) when I was failing to mention why my version of this story is any different than the other coming-of-age books, movies, and TV shows that have hit the market. Are there aliens? Ex-lovers in Florida? Leprechauns? All of the above? I promise I will share with you one of these days. That’s a different post.
Anyway, aren’t the differences what people are really asking for? Less of “so, what’s it about?” and more of “so, what makes it interesting?” I sure hope so…it’s a lot more fun to talk about than the similarities. I plan to keep doing it.
Lastly, as a side note, I keep trying to stare pensively out the window at Panera, while this guy on his laptop next to the glass clearly thinks I’m looking at him. Oops. I know that none of you are here to laugh with me, but it’s funny, trust me.