Melanie Spiller & Coloratura Consulting
A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
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Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.
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I spent a large portion of the weekend trying to write a synopsis of my novel. It’s a funny thing: If it’s someone else’s work, I can be creative and witty—and brief—but if it’s my own work, I can only be academic and dry. This is strange, because the book I’ve written is only a little academic and not at all dry.

It seems obvious now, but one thing I learned both from my non-historically oriented writers’ group and from the historical novel reading I’ve been doing lately, is that the academic stuff won’t sell books to non-academics. So, in a manner of speaking, I’m “dumbing” my book down.

I wanted to show a 12th century German monastery as a stark contrast to modern perceptions of monasteries and the Middle Ages, and to teach about Hildegard von Bingen’s life without writing yet another book featuring Hildegard as the star. But it turns out that all of that “showing” came out like a bunch of “telling.”

I think the crux of the problem is that much of a nun’s life is internal, and many revelations came through the thoughts of my narrator nun so that it looks like a lot of expository writing on the page before a single word is read. In my second draft, I’m trying to squish a lot of that. My writers’ group told me (in so many words) that it was daunting, even when their own work employed a similar amount of exposition. So it is either my writing that is daunting (gadzooks!) or this is the nature of writing about something completely unfamiliar to an uncontrolled-environment audience.

I’ve decided, then, that in the interest of getting published, even though this one is the nearest and dearest subject matter that I will likely ever write, I’m dumping a LOT of the internal dialogs. They might move over to the memoir/travel guide to things Hildegardian, and they might end up as bits of purple type stored in a “bits and pieces” folder on my hard drive.

Also, through the course of writing a synopsis and a summary of the various chapters, I have discovered that I left out one of Hildegard’s miracles, the curing of a blind child. Go figure. Now there’s a big yellow ADD note appended to the opening of the appropriate chapter awaiting revision. How hideous.

I’ve sent my summary/synopsis to three or four friends to solicit “sharpening” ideas, because—you know—I don’t market myself well. And in at least one case, I’ve done a fair amount of poking around in her work, so I’m pretty clear about her quick wit and clever connection-making. But, um, I haven’t heard from any of them (other than a willingness to do it). So now I’m suffering a crisis of confidence in with all the other angst about dumbing down my book.

Even worse, I’ve run out of closets to clean. No really. The hall is done, the walk-in, all the kitchen cupboards, and the bedroom. Even the refrigerator is clean. I suppose I haven’t done the bathroom, but that should take all of five minutes. I’m going to have to <chokes> work on revising my books, I guess.

Poking at Things