Saturday, January 10, 2009

The intro conundrum - on writing

In previous blogs, I've talked about an editor I once called. At the time, I was green to writing. Essentially, I sucked. I had no direction, no concept of powerful writing for an audience, I just spewed out my story and thought it would get eaten up.

The editor left me stuttering. "Why would anyone want to read your book?"

It was a simple enough question. But I didn't have the answer. I wasn't someone famous, like Michael Palin. I wasn't extraordinary in any way, except that I'd done something extraordinary that nobody knew about... or cared about?

What the editor wanted was something I could write on a matchbox that would make her salivate over the book.

I have it now.
A spiritual, against-the-odds African journey, in a broken old Beetle.

I can tweak that here and there. But that's my story.

Spiritual is an aspect I didn't have before. I didn't see myself as a spiritual person. It reflects religion and faith and hope and all the things a practical person like me tries to keep in a box of personal feelings.

But it's what readers want. They want to get in touch with my feelings as I went through this amazing journey. The trick is, keeping it simple. Showing them tidbits of my inner self while not ranting about them. Sharing a deep, honest emotion can often say so much more than a rant can.

One of my many challenges in this book has been writing a catchy intro. I tried a hundred different angles:

My going nowhere bank job before the journey;
A breakup pushing me to travel;
Searching for my inner self; (It sounded cheesy.)
Starting with one of the most intense parts of the book; (but it ruined the later buildup to that part)
A Paul Theroux type overview of the negative of Africa;
A positive outlook on Africa;
A description of Cape Town;
A taxi ride;
My first AFrican journey; (It was confusing)

They were all just okay.

Finally, I was back in Canada just this past summer. I spent a week at the family's old log cabin. While there, I recalled that this was the place I'd first learned to dream. It was a place of inspiration, where I'd read my first African Adventure novel and watched my first movie on Africa.
My inspiring grandmother had gone against the odds and bought the cabin in 1939. It was built during World War One. She too had travelled in her youth, and her stories put the travel bug in me. Put two and two together. And bang, I had my spiritual intro, a dedication to the memory of my wonderful, inspirational grandmother.

It was the deepest. It was the most personal. It was the most honest.

It's done, and I feel good about it.

1 comment:

Andy said...

This was an interesting post, I have been reading a lot of travel posts lately and find writers stytes intriguing. I have found what I know inside me needs to be told to the audience in the who, when, where, what, why and how mode of writing. Then we put these great intros, with some allusions to other idea when we desire to be clever. However, the interogatives opens the window and give a beginning and an end to the plot. Thanks from Andy of Travel Blog and Hotels