It took my cousin, my male cousin, to come up with my tagline. And I write contemporary romance. Makes it sound like I'm not a very good writer if I can't produce a short, simple tagline. Those few words have to be poignant, powerful, full of meaning. They have to entice a reader to check out my work. The tagline must sum up the essence of my fiction and convey emotion, romance, drama, and - let's face it - basically accomplish a minor miracle. Not so simple, after all. Mind you, words come easily to me, and I trust I'm not risking anything by stating publicly that I've never suffered from writer's block. Trust me, I understand how blessed I am. Writing a 400-page book? No problem! But composing a tagline of only a few words? Impossible!
Louisa May Alcott, Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain never had to come up with taglines. And don't think for one minute I'm comparing my writing to theirs. Back in their day, all they had to do was write, granted with much more primitive tools of the trade. Of course, these three authors had the most important tools - lively imaginations and a unique way with words. Still, it's fun to ponder the possibilities. Louisa would probably adopt some female-empowering slogan. Ernest would likely say, "I'd rather be fishing," and Mark, "I'd rather be drinking." Wait. Maybe it would be the other way around. In any case, they would undoubtedly view taglines as a colossal waste of time. Then again, they were able to focus on writing and didn't have to worry about what modern-day writers face: marketing, advertising and promotion. But that's a topic for another day.
The irony of my "condition" in not being able to produce a decent tagline does not escape me. I mulled over ideas in my head for a few weeks. At a family dinner, nearly desperate, I finally posed my question. Well, more like begged for their help by tugging on familial ties. "You have to help me!" Everyone around the dinner table stared at me as though I had two heads. One family member even had the nerve to state the obvious, "Well, uh, you're the writer in the family, JoAnn."
Then my helpful cousin, Jamie, said, "How about... Awakening the Spirit of Romance?" He waved his hand in the air with a flourish and broke into a triumphant smile. Bless his generous, creative heart. I repeated the words under my breath, letting them roll over my tongue, savoring each one. I looked around the table to see my otherwise mute family members nodding at one another in smug satisfaction, pleased to be participants in the process. Yes! It was perfect, especially since Awakening is, in fact, the name of my upcoming book.
If I had to "diagnose" my condition, I'd say I'm essentially brevity-challenged. One way I tried to overcome this obstacle was by entering a couple of flash fiction contests. I was forced to write a complete story in only 300 words based on the prompt of a photograph in one and a beginning sentence in the other. Surely it would be torture. Try it sometime. It's downright daunting. My grocery list is longer than that! I wrote, I rewrote, I tossed out words, I wrote again, I edited. I found I actually enjoyed writing short stories in first person. Surprisingly enough, I also found flash fiction to not only be a challenge, but it was really great fun. So, I finally submitted. The first contest, I tied for third. But, imagine my surprise when I actually won the second one! Another fun note: each of my two flash fiction entries came in at exactly 300 words!
It doesn't mean I've mastered brevity, by any means. That will always be one of my greatest challenges. But I have learned the value of each and every word, and to make them all count. That's a great lesson to learn! And it most definitely applies to those pesky tag lines.
What's your personal stumbling block or your greatest challenge in your writing? I'd love to hear from you! Blessings to all, and I hope to meet many of you in Indy in a few short weeks.