I’m still getting used to telling people that I’m working on a novel without feeling completely ridiculous. But I may never cease to feel anxious about getting the dreaded question: what’s it about? I’m here to tell you that trying to give someone a synopsis of your book while you’re writing the first draft is like telling her about a weird dream you had last night that you only half-remember.
“Oh, well, there’s this girl, and she’s on a ship. I’m not really sure how she gets there. I think it’s the 1890s. She’s holding this slip of paper with an address on it. And there’s a man that comes up to talk to her, and he’s wearing this interesting hat that’s shaped like a banana, and…”
Meanwhile you watch as your manicurist’s eyes glaze over and her grin hardens like curing lacquer.
This is probably not an opportune time to mention that I’m about to tell you about an actual writing-related stress dream I had last night.
It was a dark and snowy night and I was at my writing workshop, about to present a chapter for critique by my classmates. At first there was no one in the room and we were about to cancel, but then a group of strangers showed up. We sat with our chairs in a circle. Everyone stared at me expectantly. I pulled from my bag a stack of stapled pages to pass around, and then reached back in and pulled out a raw steak. Sealed in grocery store wrapping and very bloody, it was a very important part of my reading somehow. But I suddenly realized I really should have cooked the steak and cut it into pieces, because otherwise how was I going to share it around the room? The person next to me offered to let me use HER steak for my reading, but she had made the same error as I had, bringing the meat uncooked and whole.
This is a dream you have when you stayed up really late tweaking a chapter for your first critique by your writing workshop the next day, and you’re afraid the writing is still too rough to have anyone’s eyes on it.
I need to present the pages later today, and hopefully they’ll go over better than raw steak. I’ll be fine as long as no one asks me what the book is about.