It's been awhile, I know. So long, I had to create a new password. But, I tell you, arousing public interest in a book is the most time-consuming, tiring mind/body experience there is. Leaves hardly any energy to just hang out, even on the internet. But after what happened at not one, but two meetings I've had with book clubs this past month, I wanted to share with other writers, who have, perhaps, had a similar experience and can relate.
Even though fiction writing can entail talent combined with a learned craft, reading is a very subjective undertaking. I can't believe that there are many times when a writer can share with readers, on the spot, the sense of accomplishment he or she feels when she realizes how what's learned has refined the talent, and can say, "I got it right. Thank goodness."
A little history first. When I was peddling my book, OUTSIDE CHILD, a couple of years ago, an agent sent back a rejection letter telling me that I needed to be "more evocative." My initial reaction was that my main characters are black in a modern day southern inner city. If I drew a more vivid view of their impressions, the rejection would then accuse me of "whining." If that happened, I would lose the tone as well as the integrity of the story.
But I was determined to get published and to stay true to my main character who was not just black, but a sassy, ambitious woman with issues. My challenge was to write about her so well that a publisher would print it. But even more important, she had to be a person with whom a reader, any reader, could relate. Otherwise, I risked writing a mystery with even more limited appeal. So I couldn't allow my hurt feelings, hung-over anger, or a bad attitude, stop me from pulling out dictionaries, the thesaurus, the synonym finder, a word menu, and looking up the word "evocative." Armed with a better understanding of the word's meaning, but not necessarily an appreciation for the agent's criticism, it became clearer how to use the character's sense of place (New Orleans) to invoke both history and a sense of urgency. How to use the character's relationships to show sensitivity, and passions to stimulate awareness and growth.
On two separate occasions, in two reading groups with a diversity of readers, the meetings began with someone shouting, "I can't stand that Ladonis. She reminds me of Hillary."
That statement, twice said, is a measurement, I believe, that guages the success of my effort. Whether you like my character or not, she surely stirred things up for these readers. How evocative is that?
Until next time.