The One With The Proper Writer
Hey beautiful people. I just wanted to share with you the fact that I have finally reached the seminal moment my whole life has been pointing towards . . . I am now a 'proper writer'.
Now I don't know what lockdown has done to you, but it has dragged me kicking and screaming through an existential free-for-all as exhibited by my gargantuan mood swings, my kids cowering in a corner (not really) and my shivering, quivering, wreck of an Amazon shopping basket. But I am willing to take it ALL if it means I have also become a 'proper writer'.
That doesn't mean I've been knocking out novels left, right and centre, that I've been turning my existential free-for-all into epic poetry or reams of genius literature worthy of the next Pulitzer. Nope. Far from it. In fact, I've been trying to write a tag-line.
What is a tag-line, I hear you ask? Well, it's a catchphrase for a book or a movie that sucks the reader in. It usually evokes some emotion and is the idea behind the book, aka: the hook. Here are some fab ones you might recognise:
You might have read my debut novel, Life Is Yours, which is a kind of chick-lit, romance, self-help type of affair. The tagline for that is 'From heartbreak to heart awake'. One liner. It rhymes. AND it suggests the subject matter. Now I don't know what Angel of Inspiration blessed me on the particular day that I came up with that little hottie, but it's an angel who obviously cut and run. I have not seen her since.
Because the next book in the trilogy is due to be released soon, I have been trying to work out a tag-line for that too. The second book is called Destiny Is Yours and will be published by Britain's Next Bestseller by the end of the summer. The whole book takes the main character, Jess, through a month in Turkey where, in the never-ending sunshine, she gets up to all kinds of adventures of the heart, the soul and - yes - the body (wink wink).
Now I know this book from cover to cover. I have lived and breathed it for the last few months whilst I got it ready for publication. The 70,000 word count does not scare me. It flowed and I think it flowed well. I'm really proud of my second book and I really hope you'll like it too.
What does frighten the living daylights out of me, however, is writing all the marketing shit that goes with it. Especially when my Angel of Inspiration has possibly been wiped out by Corona. Marketing speak is sooooo different from novel speak and I've never been shown how to do it.
And no, we do not get a whole department to write that stuff for us once we become published. Yes. It was a shocker for me too.
I decided to think about it logically. Amidst all the lockdown crap there was no way I was going to be able to knock this out as if I was Barbara Cartland on speed. I needed time. And post its. And chocolate.
First I tackled the book blurb - that oh-so important description on the back of a book or on its Amazon page where you find out what the story entails, who the characters are and what kinds of conflict or questions will arise. That took me about three days to write. OK, so it came out at less than two hundred words and three days is perhaps a little excessive but at one point I ran out of chocolate and was perpetually knocked sideways by mum guilt. Such is life.
Next up was the log-line which is what gives the gist of the book in a sentence. It's pretty much the stock answer I give when people find out I'm an author and their next question is: "Oh, what's your book about?" I quickly learned that I can't squirm out of answering such questions and instead shove the Amazon page in their face - apparently that isn't socially acceptable. So I figured, ok, one day when TV and radio presenters need to introduce me and my book to their millions-strong audience, they can use this sentence to hook everyone in. For Life Is Yours, it's . . . How one woman unwittingly turns the grief and torment of heartbreak into the most magical time of her life. The Destiny Is Yours log-line took yet another three days but what can I say? The shorter the word count, the harder it gets.
How one woman finally seals the cracks of a broken heart with a trip to Turkey that celebrates friendship, love, self-discovery and the dreams that never left her
Ok, I'm not going to dick about by telling you fibs about how this just came to me like the first one did. The Angel of Inspiration had plenty of opportunity to pay me a visit but instead I was left sadly abandoned. So all in all I have probably been working on this one for a month. Yes. A month.
I probably didn't make things any easier for myself by deciding that it just HAD to rhyme, just like the first one, From heartbreak to heart awake. And anyone who's written anything rhyming before will know that the more we toil and strive, the more it will come off sounding contrived (did you see what I did there?).
The Post-its came out good and proper. The online rhyming dictionaries were well and truly utilised. I couldn't speak to ANYBODY unless they were willing to help me with this creative conundrum and the kids had fish fingers for tea for what felt like all eternity.
Yes, yes I also did a lot of mindful breathing and a shit-load of meditation. But we all know that meditation is not at all about aiming for something particular, rather accepting where we are and being aware of what's going on with us.
Fucking frustration. That's what was going on with me.
And it showed in everything I did. I had no patience with anyone. I carried a pencil and post-its everywhere I went. I wrote any and every shitty tag-line you could possibly think of to do with sunshine and souls and purpose and cocktails and self-help and oceans and starry nights and every other concept squeezed into the pages of Destiny Is Yours. I REALLY bugged one of my oldest friends on WhatsApp who graciously mentored me through my crisis (She's defo earned a place in the acknowledgements).
One day it all became too much and I told my husband (who was unusually off work) that I needed a nap, whereupon I spent the best part of an afternoon tossing and turning in a frenzy of sweat and vexation. My mascara was somehow smeared down my face. My clothes were all twisted and sticky. My limbs hung awkwardly out of the bed and the breeze from the open window did nothing to lull me to sleep. At best I managed a fitful doze which was plagued by children intermittently bursting in and screaming to their Dad, "Why does Mum look like she's fighting with the mattress?"
But in the midst of this, in one alarming jerk, a very particular combination of words slammed into my head and I sat bolt upright. I shouted. "Somebody! Somebody help!"
Little Lad came swooping to my rescue and asked, "What is it Mum? Are you ok?"
"Get me a pen and a bit of paper - quickly! A pen and a bit of paper! Now!"
Bless his little heart, I must have trained him well. He dashed off to get said pen and paper without a whisper of confusion and was back (just) before the words escaped me.
I focused through my bleary eyes, pushed a sweaty strand of hair out of my gaze, drew my quaking knees up to my chest and placed the piece of paper on the knotted duvet. And this is what I wrote . . .
So do you see? Anybody who has taken a whole month to write SEVEN words, who looks like they've been dragged through a hedge backwards (twice), who fights with a mattress, who forgets how to feed her children and screams for a pen and paper as if her life depends on it from the depths of a slovenly bed in the middle of the afternoon, has got to be . . . a proper writer.
Don't you agree?
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post then make sure you sign up to read more of Abigail's stuff, as well as get a FREE hidden prologue to her debut novel, Life Is Yours. Sign up here.
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