Monday, September 3, 2012

Hooks, Crooks, and Liars.

One of the toughest skills I've yet to master is answering the question: "What's your book about?"

Should be easy, right? After all, I've spent HUNDREDS of hours on the project; know my characters' motives, thoughts, gestures better than my own; have the plot laid out in a clear, systematic time line on a whiteboard above the desk.

So why can't I distill the story into a single exciting sentence?

With my first book (which I lovingly call a Dysfunctional Romance) I test-drove hooks like, "Boy meets girl. All hell breaks loose," and "Female veterinarian discovers fame comes at a price." After dozens of attempts I calculated the average time to eyes-glazing-over at 0.8 seconds.

Then I hit on a winner: "Lady veterinarian gets accused of murdering a horse in her practice."

"Ooh, sounds interesting," they'd say. "Love to read it." Sweet music to a writer's ears.

Except that's not really what the book is about. It's a complex love story that touches on themes of control, sexual trauma, and self-acceptance. (Try turning THAT into a catchy sentence!)

So I settled for a great hook--and a small lie.

Then I stumbled upon a hilarious website called Book-A-Minute, where great works ranging from GOLDILOCKS to FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS are condensed into twenty words or less. Notably absent: Adjectives and adverbs.

So I applied the formula to a different (as yet unwritten) project and came up with: "Defense contractor's wife gets abducted, falls for kidnapper, fools everyone and comes out on top." The best part is that the pared-down version captures the essence of the story (and might even give too much away.)

So next time we see each other, go ahead and ask what my book is about.

I'm ready.

Cheers...and happy writing!



  1. I will do just that - Can't wait.

  2. Ha! You're signing up to be a test-drive victim! Thanks for your support, Sista!


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