This marks the 100th Hooptedoodle. If anyone read this, that might mean something. So, since it’s mostly just me talking to myself, recording for posterity, I pat myself on the back. Good job, self.
Now, moving right along.
I’ve begun the query process for the new book, now titled Cursed Blessings. Still not in love with that, but it will work for the time being as it gets across a bit of the story and sounds like a book title. That’s very important–how something sounds–and that importance stretches beyond just what we choose to call our stories.
Tonight, the local elementary school was hosting a “Read Across America” event where parents were invited to bring their kids for games, activities, and, of course, reading in the school library. There was also a movie playing in the gym, which seems a bit counterproductive, but . . . . My son, Nic, picked out a book on Wilma Rudolph, the Olympic track champion from the 1960 Games who overcame polio before achieving greatness. Nic is in kindergarten and is just learning to read, so I told him to read the title before I started telling the story. He struggled with it for a bit, then looked up at me and said, “But, Daddy, I can’t read yet.”
I said, “Do you know your letters?”
“Do you know what sound they make?”
“Yes.” A little sarcastically.
“Okay, then,” I told him. “All you have to do is make the sounds and put them together. That’s all reading is.”
He read: “Wilma Rudolph”.
That’s really all there is to it. Sound. We can complicate it, as is the human way, all we want, can make it seem like the most difficult task in the world, but all there is to reading, or writing for that matter, is making sounds. The letters, the words, are nothing more than symbols we substitute for the sounds they make. My job, as a writer, is not to make a story that looks good, but one that sounds good. Authors like Cormac McCarthy, who deviate so far from the “proper” usage we are taught in school, thrive not because they are rebelling against the rigid structure of the language, but because what they write sounds good. If it sounds good, the images in our mind are clear and resonant. If writing sounds bad, it jags on our mental ear like a piano being dropped down a flight of stairs.
I have a newly-edited, shiny new novel to send on the agent-go-round. Instead of worrying about if my query letter is formatted properly or if my synopsis is the proper length, I plan on focusing on how it all sounds. When I read the query letter aloud, do I want to read the story I’m describing? If not, I need to retool the pitch. When I read the synopsis, does the novel sound like what I wrote and, more importantly, does it sound interesting? If not, again, I need to do more work. The same goes for the novel. Aside from the usual suspects involved in my editing–typos and passive voice and the like–the most numerous changes I make are perfect in the grammatical sense, but just don’t sound right when I reread them.
So, if there is anyone else reading this down the line, particularly someone with ambitions of writing, I recommend keeping it simple. Whatever you write, make sure it sounds good and people will read it.