Tuesday, October 21, 2008

wall street realities dance with the muse

As a marketer, I can't tell you how many times in the last six months I've had to overtly acknowledge our "complicated economic times" in ad copy, press releases and newsletters. In all the years I've been a hired pen of one sort or another, I don't ever remember the economy of the time dictating content quite so aggressively.

So when I set out to sell my own writing, the market is top of mind. Which is too bad, really. It shouldn't be. The muse should not be reading the business section of the paper as prelude to inspiration.

Alas, as much as I'm determined to continue to chip away at the first draft of my novel, terms like "up-market" and "upscale commercial fiction" often assert themselves. There they are, sitting on the chair benext to me, reminding me not to stray too, too much from plot points in service to character development.

One way that market copywriting has informed my fiction, is that my prose has gotten pretty lean. If I indulge in backstory or rumination on behalf of characterization, I'm pretty stingy, and end up deleting more than I save. At Bread Loaf this summer, Lynn Freed kept harping on "trusting the reader," shrieking out "sink it!"when writers put too much exposition on the page. She was like the dressage instructors of my youth, the ones who made me ride with a long whip behind my elbows in service to posture and form. Or like my current Pilates teacher, Adrienne, Lord love her, correcting any crooked leanings or spinal curve. "Suck in your stomach," she warns. "Ribs in!"

In addition to inching ever further on "The Secret to Love," and the copywriting work that pays my mortgage, I've completed a book proposal for a nonfiction project on boomer relationships that I'm pretty jazzed about. Inspired by my own mid-life path through the murky waters of romance, and its happy ending at a sustained, loving encore marriage, as well as "stories from the minefield of boomer dating," I embarked on some research and uncovered a fascinating plethora of information. Attachment theory, long-term blended family studies, the stages of relationships as they heat up—the past thirty years has offered tremendous advances in unpacking the mysteries of romance and why so many relationships fail. Add to that the explosion of Internet dating sites, the idea of commodifying love and marriage and the expectations of a culture that refuses to age quietly, and there's a lot to write about. At least three books worth, I'm guessing. Or—banking on.

Yup, I'm working on a book with a sure market. So before you all cast me into the Faustian black hole, let me assure you, I've never had so much fun!

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