and have reposted it here because I believe it is worth sharing...
the pen is mightier than the writer
Writing a preface is not necessarily an easy thing to do. You must entice your readers. You must make it interesting so that they will want to continue and read the rest of your book. In many ways, the preface is the book’s mission statement—and one of its major selling points. I don’t know how other authors do it, but I generally write my preface after the book has been finished. And let me tell you, it’s hard. You’ve just finished writing I-don’t-know-how-many pages and are completely saturated. You’re tired. You want to stay away from a computer screen for a while. But you have to move on. You have to squeeze that one last bit of inspiration into your work.
Let me tell you a funny story. It was late February. There I was, first draft in hand, trying to write the preface to my first book, irregular therapy. Although I was saturated and couldn’t wait to finish the entire thing, the view of the white snow contrasting with the beautiful, clear blue sky outside my window was truly inspiring. I sat down and wrote a few pages of what I thought was pretty good “wordsmithing.” Okay, done. Great. The icing on the cake. I read it out loud and liked what I heard. My preface was funny and concise and provided just enough information to tease the reader. Or so I thought.
Satisfied, I was now ready for the next stage. I sent my manuscript to a guy who evaluates books before they are out and checks for their potential. A few days later, he replied. He liked my book very much and thought it would sell, but he had a problem with the preface. In his own words,
“I found the book compelling and easy reading…the sex angle will bring lots of readers, and it feels honest…but there's less evident emotional growth, and unless you told me in response to my questionnaire I wouldn't have known that was the book's purpose. Thus my problem with the preface. It didn't really tell me what I could expect from the book nor why I should read it. To do so it must speak openly with me, the reader. Rather, it kind of wanders around…”
Needless to say, I was kind of disappointed. I mean, I felt great because I was actually getting overall positive feedback from an expert, but I had reached the point where I was just about ready to lay my brain aside and fly to Cancun for a few days. I really could not write another word. Enough already!
But I had no way out. If the preface needed changing, then the preface needed changing. I remained with that uneasy feeling for a couple of days, wondering what to do and waiting for inspiration to strike. How could I make it better? How could I address the issues pointed out by my evaluator? I thought and thought and thought. I changed a few words around. I added new ideas to try to address the missing issues. I tried and tried and tried, but felt I was going nowhere.
Finally, out of sheer disappointment, I ended up relaxing. I gave up trying. Just then, a funny thing happened. I spontaneously started writing about my frustration. I started writing about what the expert guy had said. I started writing about the entire process, just to get it all out of my system.
A few minutes later, after I had written enough to calm me down, I noticed I might have something there! I looked it over and thought the content was bold. I thought the wording was unique. It carried the same tone as the rest of the book—it was honest, fun, and straight to the point—and it addressed my concerns. (Well, it had to, since I was writing about my inability to write about them, and in doing so I was actually writing about them!) I decided to make it my preface. Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t decide anything. I must confess that, much like the rest of irregular therapy, I didn’t write the preface. It just came out. And it came out the way it should. Okay then. After writing those few pages, I realized that that had to be my preface. And this is what came out:
Truth Be Told
Let me take you on a true journey. A man’s journey through the rough seas of relationships. A journey that led him to realize that real change must come from within. A journey with themes so archetypical, so universal, that although it takes place mostly in exotic Brazil, it may as well have happened in your very own neighborhood.
Wait. Hold on. What a load of rubbish. Permission to speak freely...
Shortly before finishing this manuscript, I had it evaluated by a hotshot in the book business. He told me he found it easy reading and compelling. He told me the sex angle would bring lots of readers. He told me the book was nearly ready to go. But he also told me he had a problem with my preface. He told me it kind of wandered around and didn’t really tell him what he could expect from the book or why he should read it. Shit.
You know, I’ve been working on this thing for a couple of years. I’ve reviewed it so many times I’ve almost memorized it. Yeah, you don’t have to tell me. Such is a writer’s life. But the fact is I’m completely saturated and can’t wait to see it published. So when the guy suggested that I rewrite the damned preface, I al- most fell off my chair.
But the hotshot fella’s probably right. And after all, I didn’t pay good money to teach my grandma to suck eggs. So here I go.
Let’s see. Right. I suppose I could dish out the usual plethora of clichés found in prefaces and tell you this is a “coming-of-age book,” a captivating truth-told sexual romp, an honest if not a bit single-minded story of a cure, and blah, blah, blah. Yawn. Boring.
I could possibly try to make you feel some sympathy from the start and say it took me many lost years to get my emotional cards in order or that despite the relentless fun and not too troubling approach, I saw a number of hard-earned lessons, over years, and changed accordingly to display the virtues learning those lessons brought. Well, these things are certainly true for me. But you might not see my story this way, nor do I think you will much care.
I could play shrewd, aim for the masses, and reveal that in spite of the bumps along the way (or maybe because of them), I’ve managed to find my soul mate and, with secret formula in hand, I can show you by example how to attract your own twin flame. Tacky, tacky, tacky.
Perhaps I could anticipate some criticism by posing as the conscientious writer and confessing that although my account may seem rather exploitative, especially from a woman’s point of view, it couldn’t be otherwise if it were to show my gradual emotional growth. Nah. Who am I to know what’s on a woman’s mind.
What if I appeal to your emotions by stating that through my troubled relationships, I’ve learned to respect and understand myself better, as well as others around me. Or that as a result of having had these experiences, I’m now able to see what was self- defeating and greedy and have been able to grow from and past it. Dear God. Too psychological.
Useless. I’m looking for something unique, something different, but the harder I try, the less comes to mind.
I hate to say it, but I feel I’ve run out of fuel. So much for telling you what you can expect from my book and why you should read it. Seems that this should be a simple enough task, but silly me. Trying to boldly write what no man has written before.
This is really getting on my nerves. And I’m going nowhere. Tell you what. If you don’t mind, I’ll just call it a day and you can go ahead and read the book. Deal?
I know you won’t be able to agree or disagree with me unless you read the entire book. But that’s why it’s called a teaser, right?
Inspiration is indeed a funny thing. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But when it comes, it is like a warm feeling, it is almost an enthusiasm. And it always, always surprises you. Inspiration comes when you surrender to your own nothingness. It takes you over and you only become aware of what has hit you after it is gone….
irregular therapy: one man’s struggle to find meaning, money and a soul mate is 256 pages long and can be purchased on my website, www.irregulartherapy.com, in several formats: paperback, ePub, Kindle, or PDF. It can also be found at major online outlets worldwide such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.