One reason the single sentence is so necessary is that you’ll have to talk about your work sooner or later and—of course, and most urgently—to sell it. But there’s another reason it pays to really work this out and that has to do with the day to day.
It’s crazy, I know, but once, for example, when wrestling with a single sentence description of what was on my desk, the entire project shifted into something entirely new.
I had tried for some time to capture the essence of my novel in one neat description but it kept moving on me. A war story, a memoir, a history, a cultural biography, a holocaust tale, a coming of age—all of it was right, and none of it was right. And then, when I finally got down to it—the single line, so accurate, I was willing to own it aloud—I was shocked to realize that my answer bore little resemblance to the work in progress.
I wanted to write a love story. What I had written was not that. And so, I deleted it all. Six hundred pages in the trash—no regrets. I had found freedom. And sure enough, the next ninety came like the wind and ushered in a new age of writing.
Every writer needs to know, for the benefit of his working self and for his public face, the answer to the question: “What are you working on?”
Perhaps, it goes like this:
I’m writing a . . . [a what? A novel/mystery/fairytale/sci-fi thriller/confession . . .?]
It’s about . . . [name your dramatic situation, the conflict you explore. It’s about a woman who raises a lion cub, which she reintroduces into the wild. It’s about a would-be king who forms an unlikely friendship in his struggle to overcome a stutter. It’s about a bum, who washes up on a beach, his memory impaired, and . . . .]
What are you working on? Can you say? Can you put it here, in the comments?
Photo credit: jet stream – Rudecactus; light bulb – J. Burg