In my relatively limited experience of being a writer, I’ve found that the worst thing about writing a novel (apart from actually sitting down for long enough to write it) is talking to other people about it.
I’m so bad at talking about my work that I try not to mention that I’m writing a novel in conversation. This, in theory, should be fairly easy (it’s not as if people just come out with, “So, written any novels recently?” or anything) but if I’m small-talking with someone I don’t know and they’re asking me about myself, I tell them I want to be a writer and inevitably I come to tell them I’m writing a novel.
I hate telling people what my novel is about: Condensing a 200 page story into one, vaguely interesting summary, is tricky. When I think what my novel is about, I don’t know where to start.
So I either:
1. Stare blankly at the person who asked me. Then I say “er…” lots. Then I blush. Then I say that I don’t really know. Then I laugh nervously. Then I change the subject/run away in the opposite direction.
2. Take a deep breath, and embark on what is possibly the most boring and lengthy description of a book possible, punctuated with many fillers such as “sort of”, “kind of”, “um”, “er”, “if you know what I mean”, “if that makes any sense”. The other person quickly loses the will to live.
When it comes to talking about my novel, I’ve got a ‘fight or flight’ thing going on. Scenario 1 being flight – I know that my attempt to explain the book is going to be a disaster, so I simply abort the conversation entirely. Most of the time, I simply opt to run away, on the basis that I’d rather people think I am a bit crazy than think I’m a non-stop bore festival.
Which brings me to the second scenario, the ‘fight’ reaction, which I’m much less prone to doing because the other person gets this glazed over look on their face about 10 – 15 seconds into my 3000 hour explanation. They stop making eye-contact, they look at the floor, then out of the window, then search for the nearest exit, and after a minute – they’re pretty much checking themselves for a pulse.
When I start explaining what my book is about, I start off okay. I give a quick description of my main character and a rough outline of the story. In my brain, it’s all pretty clear.
But very quickly, my mind floods with a surplus of information. I start thinking about all the minor details, all the sub-stories, all the stuff that no one really needs to know about but I cram it into my synopsis anyway.
I just stand there talking, thinking of more things to include as I go. And then I’m aware of how long I’ve been talking, and how bored the other person looks. But I’ve still got so much more to say and so I accelerate through more book talk, which only really turns what was a boring, convoluted description, into a fast-paced, unfathomable whirlwind of talk that means nothing to anyone, anywhere.
Eventually, once I notice the noose hanging around the neck of the person I’m talking to, I slam on the brakes and finally manage to stop talking.
There’s an awkward pause.
Then, they either run away, or start speaking to someone else.
And every now and again, they ask “So, it’s nothing like Twilight, then?” To which there is a very short answer: no.