People often ask me ‘what’s the hardest thing about being a writer’? To be clear, that isn’t the most common question I get asked, in fact those are;
1/ How do you say your name?
2/ Are you going to buy that pie? You can’t just stand there and ogle it.
3/ Seriously, that’s how you say your name?
4/ Have you seen the packet of biscuits that was just here?
5/ Are you absolutely sure that’s how you say your name?
But number 6 is that question about what’s the hardest thing about being a writer. Prepare to be shocked, but it’s the writing. I know, who could’ve seen that coming? The follow-up question is generally along the lines of ‘which bit of the writing?’
That’s a bit trickier. For me it’s not fight scenes – although my editor did give me a strict ‘one nut shot per novel’ rule, it’s not argument scenes – you should meet my family, and it’s not even love scenes – although to be fair, while there is reference to nookie in my books, I’m far too bashful-lapsed-Catholic to go into what-goes-where details, as I’d imagine is clear from my insistence in referring to sex as ‘nookie’.
No the hardest bit of the book to write isn’t actually even in the book, it is on the back cover. I cannot describe how utterly tortuous it is to write the blurb. It’s not supposed to be a summary, you’ve got to make it sound exciting, it has to capture the spirit of the book, you have to put a question in the reader’s mind that they need answered, you can’t use the word gobshite or certain retailers get upset – it’s an absolute minefield.
In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the worst person to write the blurb for a book is the person who actually wrote the book. You’re simply too close to it. It’s incredibly difficult to boil down what you think is good about it into a few pithy sentences. In all honesty, it’s a bit like trying to write a dating profile for your own partner. Actually, that’d be easier (woman with the patience of a saint seeks nice person for strictly no-nookie relationship who knows how to fix the light in the utility room. No Carls from run club need apply).
Just the thought of writing another blurb is far more intimidating than the idea of writing another 100k word novel. I do wonder if the difficult back-cover ballet is part of the reason for those annoying ‘This is a twisty thriller with a twist that you won’t see coming’ subtitles that seem to have become so popular. With no disrespect to any author who uses them, as clearly they must work, but I can’t be the only person who is turned off by them? I’m really tempted to put a book out with the subtitle ‘It’s got a beginning, a middle and an end, all of which happen where you’d expect but there’s a dog in it that people really like.’ Or perhaps, ‘this is a novel, it’s got a plot and some characters, that’s what a novel is’ or who can forget, ‘the book everyone is talking about, the one that finally reveals once and for all where Wally is.’
My point, dear reader, is that you must respect that we authors are tortured souls and we’re giving blood, sweat and tears all in the hope of entertaining you and of course ‘giving you a shockingly shocking twist that you won’t see coming’. If you take nothing else away from this, please do remember not to judge a book by its back cover and also, Carl from run club is a creep and I don’t trust him. I’m pretty sure he has a twist I do see coming.