Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ego Lessons

We've all seen taglines that just make us cringe. Summaries that makes us roll our eyes and book blurbs that forces us to look away. It's sadly common. I've noticed people tend to see it as arrogance and laziness. They're just not trying hard enough, is the assumption. I agree it certainly comes across that way at first glance. However, having spent time in writers' groups, I've found time again, no matter what the problem happens to be, the underlying cause is always lack of confidence.

Some people get quite defensive when they lack confidence. Others burst into tears and wail. More will hit people over the head, trying to force others to blindly accept whatever they say. And some will retreat into their shell, never to be heard from again. I'm guilty of all of the above.

I started actively writing in 2002 - 2003. Since then, I've learned a lot of humbling lessons about my own ego which allowed me to build up confidence. But what I really want to talk about is summaries.

Learning how to sum up a whole novel is a bitch and a half. Every author struggles with that one. For new independent authors, it can be harrowing. And truth be told, it was really hard for me to learn how to describe my psychological thriller for query letters. I contemplated suicide so I wouldn't have to write anything. I was so frustrated. But I know how to write those kind of letters! It's identical to writing a cover lever for a graphic design job position. I can do this, dammit. I ended up punching my way through it until something made sense and it wasn't longer than a few sentences.

In a recent conversation with authors, a light bulb went off. The answer to why I struggled so much suddenly smacked me in the face. Lack of confidence. Lack of allowing the book to speak for itself. Describing all my influences and ego, instead of describing the story.

That's when I understood yet another humbling lesson. Overcompensating a lack of confidence made the early drafts of my query letter come across as describing my ego instead of my book. I'm not lazy, I put a lot of effort into summary writing. I was trying too hard. Why? I was scared agents would see right through everything and recognize my lack of confidence. Fear of the emperor’s new clothes.

Lack of confidence + trying too hard = a summary of my ego.

So there you have it. The mathematical equation for what not to do. The rest is up to you.

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