What Is My Book About?

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Since announcing to the world I had written a novel, I’ve been asked many times; “What is your book about?” It’s a great question and a natural one, it’s certainly the first question I would ask someone. However every time it is asked I want to scamper away because I haven’t yet formulated an answer. The question is also a reminder that I should sit down and write out my pitch for the novel. How do I answer this question without going into too much detail and accidentally giving the ending away. The first few times I was asked this question I waved my hand and said it is contemporary women’s fiction. My novel does fit into that category, but what book with a female protagonist written post 1950’s doesn’t fit that category. That response doesn’t reveal a single thing about the content of my book only that the main character is female. 

It wasn’t until I began to review the submission guidelines for my first choice in publisher that I started to think more seriously about this question. Firstly, what category does it fit into. If I choose the generic ‘contemporary women’s fiction’ how will my book ever stand out in such a sea of storylines. Besides, my book has a specific theme. It’s a love story. Or perhaps more accurately, love stories. And yet I shudder to say it’s a romance. I read a substantial amount of novels that fall under the category of romance, although it’s not something I openly admit to doing. When I think of romance I don’t think of the novels that capture my heart but the twenty Mills & Boon books I bought for $2 at a country fete while on holidays sometime in my early teenage years. Each one indistinguishable from the next. 

I was asked the question again the other day, wanting to change my response I replied my novel is a romance. The immediate follow up question was; “Like 50 Shades of Grey?” I recoiled. While I would never disregard another artist, and acknowledgment must be given for the enormous success of the trilogy, success most commercial writers dream of, that particular genre of writing, isn’t my cup of tea as granny would say. This was also the response I feared getting which was why I avoided saying romance to begin with. Straight up my book will not have you racing for a cold shower. 

When I was 16 I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice, the book and the mini series with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy (the only adaptation I recognise). I fell in love with that story and since then have fallen in love with love. Call me an optimist, I am. Attack me for wearing rose coloured glasses, but I find it the most enjoyable way to view the world. Label me a hopeless romantic, it fits me well. From where I stand, love makes the world go round and stories of love are some of the oldest and most enduring stories there are. And for almost all of us, tales of love are what we can relate to, both those with happy endings and those without. I am a storyteller of love, a cheer leader for love. My name is Elissa Johnston and I am a writer of love, and proud.

My story? It is a tale of love that spans over two decades. It will take you on a wonderful journey with a strong and endearing protagonist who I hope the reader falls a little in love with. It asks all kinds of questions about love; the search, the falling and love at different stages. And how do we make love fit in with life, how do we marry it with friends, with family, with career, with dreams. How high does love rank among our other desires and what do we do when they seem to conflict. And in the end, does she find love? 

Interested? I hope so and to that I say, watch this space.

Sunday Meditation – Passion

Passion. Those things that immediately spark within our core and summon us to action, that propel us, are our passions. They significantly contribute to our meaning, our mission within ourselves, our families, our communities and our work. They enable us to continue on when change becomes uncomfortable and allows us break through our comfort zones. When we labour on our passions, it is not work, it is pleasure and it drives us towards the visions we have. Life is dull without passion and often when we feel lost and dissatisfied it is because we have drifted away from what makes our heart sing. We know what our passions are, we simply need to cut the noise in the background and focus within and listen. Getting back on track is simple, by taking the smallest action towards our passions we will be reignited and renewed again and ensuring we are living our lives to the fullest.

Sunday Meditation – Hope

Hope. When we reflect on what we haven’t accomplished, on the mistakes made and the things we wished we could change in the past, our focus faces downwards and ensures our journey continues to be painful. Yet with hope, we can look upwards, at the promise of things to come, of our circumstances improving, of passing through our struggles and grasping the dreams we are working towards. Hope enables us to spot the opportunities that linger on our peripheral, and when we reach out for them they pull us up and forward with a force we would not have had otherwise. Hope propels us forward and enables us to tread lighter in the present. Regardless of what has taken place, or where we are in this moment, instilling hope ensures the future will be better, and that future will become our present.

When The Finish Line Vanishes

It is the unknown that keeps people up at night. Pondering how life may look if we did something else, what could have been, perhaps should have been and our fears suppress the actions we would have taken.

It was finished, that idea that sparked a sentence, then a paragraph then many months later an entire manuscript. A vision becoming reality. The bulk of the goal accomplished and now the finish line appeared on the horizon and it called my name. All that was required was an edit or two to polish the piece and go from manuscript to novel. That was 3 months ago. Today, the imminent finish line has vanished.

It was my fault. I thought the writing was close to brilliant. But with my mind in editor mode I saw it was close to rubbish. Then the story changed and I didn’t connect those dots and enveloping those factors was my total underestimation of how much time editing takes. The volume of work required to fix the holes and raise the standard of prose. I am re-writing entire chapters with new scenes and sub plots that didn’t exist in draft one. Is that editing or am I back into the perils of writing.  

Progress is painfully slow. Scenes that took a day to compose are now taking a week. My brain hurts from switching sides; creative to analytical and back to creative again. Procrastination has risen. Writing, once done first thing in the day, the one non negotiable has moved down the list. I’m chasing other things, items that are more measurable. Tasks that can be finished quickly. Anything with visible progress, finish line in sight. I’ll clean, I’ll bake, I’ll do whatever takes me away from the computer. From the tapping of letters on a keyboard followed by mass deletion. 

This is the hard part. Before, what I thought was hard, I realise were easy obstacles. I am now at make or break. It would be easy to stop. I have many excellent reasons for giving up. If I tossed it away and someone asked me why, I could pull out any of those arguments. The other person would nod, they would agree with me that I made the right decision for the justifications I provided and then move the conversation along. But in my heart I would ache and be unable to look at myself in the mirror. My life, like everyone else, a history of decisions. Moments of choosing left instead of right. Selecting A and not B. What if I do stop. But stopping will have me tossing and turning and pondering. I must finish so I know, and knowing isn’t trying it is finishing, and in finishing maybe it will change my life, maybe it won’t. Either way I will have an answer and I can sleep with knowledge. 

I’m tired. The excitement of this venture has gone, it doesn’t exist when I’m in the trenches, trudging along. I didn’t know it would take this long. It feels it’s taken long enough and I’m now doubting I am even halfway. But I’m too far along, there is no going back. This dream has caught me and shackles me. The idea is alive and it has manifested and won’t let me go. Yes you are weary but you are capable it says. So I must push through. Continue to chip away no matter how slow, no matter how much other parts of my life try to derail me. As slow as it is, every sentence kept and moved on from is progress. The finish line may have disappeared from my horizon, yet I know it exists. This is where faith kicks in. In my ability, in my endurance, in my determination. Faith the finish line will appear again and I will cross it. I have faith the finish line has a place for me on the podium and I need to keep going until I’m standing on it. So forward I go. Because once I cross that line that will be the moment I say, thank goodness I persevered. And I will know, what could have been, what should have been. What is.