It only took me 7 f***ing months to narrow down my entire book to 2 sentences! Creative roadblocks, detours, getting stalled in the middle of no where… no wonder we were having problems finishing this damn thing.
Without further adieu, here it is – the Roger Huerta book in 40 words:
Michelle Lopez, a struggling writer, develops an intense interest in mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, Roger Huerta. Believing he’s the man of her dreams, she sacrifices everything and travels 1200 miles from Denver, CO, to Pharr, TX, to meet him.
- – -
You may have read other versions of this summary, but this particular one above hits the nail on the head (for me at least). These key phrases were missing from some of my previous summaries, which is why they always felt incomplete:
- struggling writer
- intense interest
- man of her dreams
- sacrifices everything
These are critical components to my story.
Now I see the light. Now I can finish my book.
If you’ve ever tried to write a blockbuster book, novel, or screenplay, one of the first things the masters advise is to distill your entire story concept down to 1-2 sentences, or 35-40 words. This is no easy task, but it’s essential and serves 3 purposes:
- It gives you clarity on what you’re doing and why.
- It creates a filter through which all scenes must now pass.
- It keeps you on track.
This exercise may seem “obvious” to the lay person who’s never ventured into the icy depths of his or her own soul (which is really what writing a book is all about) and never experienced the true creative terror of trying to write One’s First Book.
But for the big-minded, wildly creative, highly disorganized writer such as myself, boiling a story down to its essential core can feel like an impossible task. It’s harder than it sounds. I can only hope it gets easier with practice.
Anyway! Whew! I did it! I have my 40-word summary and can now move on with confidence. I can shape these bastardly 500+ pages of crap into something STELLAR, like a finished book.
I really should have listened to Robert McKee’s advice, damn it. He said, “Don’t write a single scene until you have the structure, the why, and the essence nailed down. Just THINKING about these things comprises 80% of the book-writing process. If you write scenes too soon, you’ll probably end up deleting most of them.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
Lesson learned: never go anywhere without a damn map. Don’t succumb to impatience. Always be asking, how can we strip this down to its essential core?