Monday, August 30, 2010

Taglines - Beauty or Beast?

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.


  1. WOW -- what a delight to read this post, JoAnn -- partly because I've been struggling with my tagline for ages now. . . I REALLY like yours! Congrats! What do you think of mine? "True tales in fictional form." I have two series of books that I speak about -- historical China novels inspired by my family's experiences there, AND fictional first person story vignettes for reading or dramatization titled, "Women of the Last Supper: We Were There Too."

  2. JoAnn, I giggled throughout this post. I haven't met you in person, but I feel like I know you just from these words. Every writer's nightmare...having to sum something up in a few words. My tagline came naturally once I figured out what I like to write...Romantic Comedy with Amish Flavor.

    Look forward to meeting you at conference!

  3. LOL, Millie. You are such an encouragement to me on the 30th of each month when my blog posts. And I'll pass on the congrats to my cousin, Jamie, who came up with MY tagline. I like yours, but the name of your reading or dramatization a little better, to be perfectly honest. Maybe I should ask Jamie? Let's see if we can't "punch it up" a little using a clever twist on words or something. I'll ponder the possibilities {smile}. Thanks again for your encouragement. It is greatly appreciated. Blessings! JoAnn D.

  4. Getting a decent synopsis.
    If you'd like practice I could e-mail it now!!!


  5. Hey Patti! You probably don't remember, but I wrote you awhile back thinking you live in Indiana (but you're in Illinois, right?). It was about the time I joined ACFW and was checking into becoming a member of the terrific Indiana ACFW! Congrats on your success. You can send me anything anytime you want. LOL. Hope you're coming to the ACFW, too! Blessings to you.

    And Sarah, save me a hug! I'll be praying for you at the banquet when they get around to the Genesis announcements, but do they really make you wait until the END of the evening!! Blessings!

  6. JoAnn,
    Loved your post and just want you to know your condition of "brevity challenged" isn't life threatening! Most of us wish we had it. Exposure?
    Jude Urbanski

  7. I'm with you JoAnn, taglines are difficult. Really loved yours. Wish I had a cousin Jamie

  8. Fun post, JoAnn, and encouraging too! Taglines. Hhhhm. So much easier to come up with taglines for other writers than to come up with my own. I lived on the non-fiction side of the writing world before I ventured over to the "Dark Side," and I have a tagline over there: Motherhood: Perfection Not Required. It encompasses all my ministry, both writing and speaking and even editing for MOPS International.
    Fiction tagline? Still working on it.
    Can I steal yours? Love it!

  9. JoAnn, I'd love a tagline with more punch and a clever twist -- just remember, I want/need it to cover all my books, not just WOLS. . . HEY, a free book to anyone who accomplishes that for me. . . :-)

  10. Thanks, Jude. Good to know my "condition" isn't life-threatening. And Beth, no, you may not steal my tagline. But tell me your favorite flavor of jelly beans, and I might just surprise you with some at the Frasier Awards! Surprises are overrated, anyway, don't you think? I'll let Mary A. do the chocolates, but I love jelly beans, too. And Millie, I'm still thinking. I was going to ask Jamie at choir last night, but it was cancelled due to no A/C in the choir room. And yes, I understand your tag needs to cover all your books. I'm still working on it, and I'll see Jamie on Sunday! LOL to all, and blessings!