Excerpt from ‘Title of Your Choice’
Beginnings are damned tedious things.
Seriously, who has ever liked writing beginnings? Enjoyed trying to make that first, all-important sentence pithy enough, shocking enough, interesting enough? My high school English teacher always used to say that the end of a story is like pie—it’s got to fill you up with joy and delight, yet because of its very sweetness leave you desperate for just a little more. But what does that make the beginning of the story? An appetizer? The salad course? Chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts—scrumptious enough on the outside that you decide to take a bite, to take a risk, even though the rest of it might not live up to your expectations?
I never liked Brussels sprouts. And covering them with chocolate is just a tragic waste of a good thing.
So I have decided that this beginning, my beginning, will just bypass all the salads and sprout-y expectations. There will be no rambling prelude to the action, no eye-roll-inducing “These characters are just having a natural conversation, no really, this totally isn’t just a thinly transparent attempt to provide a whole bunch of background information” exchanges, no Shakespearean pronouncements as to the tragedy, romance, and literary profundity that currently await you.
With me so far? Great. Let’s get started.
* * *
Right now you're probably wondering, how the heck is she going to pull this off? She's got to start the story somewhere. If she starts in the middle, that's still a beginning, just in medias res. Lame. If she starts with the ending and then circles back to the beginning, she's just ripping off something that's already been done. Like that melodramatic "I never thought I would die" prologue in Twilight. Even more lame.
So what's a girl to do?
None of the above, of course. Yes, endings are technically the antithesis of beginnings, but as stated above, beginning with the end is so last season.
So I'm going to not-begin-not-end by skipping to something that's not even technically part of the story: the book reviews.
I'll have you know, I did my due diligence when it came time to send my book out to reviewers. I mailed advanced reader copies to Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, William Faulkner (just for kicks--you never know who might decide to come back as a ghost), and a whole slew of budding book bloggers (on the off chance one of them becomes famous, I can totally go on talk shows and do interviews about how I always knew they were going to be a star and mailed them a copy of my book because I recognized their genius before anyone else did).
Not everyone agreed to provide a review, but I did get a few rather good ones. I believe the words "glorious" and "mind-blowing" were mentioned on more than one occasion. Along with "pretentious" and "utter swill," but hey, I never expected Faulkner to give me a GOOD review. I was honestly just happy to get any sort of feedback from him at all.
This one's definitely my favorite, though:
"What the fuck?"—New York Times
Don’t you just love that? They’ve sure got a way with words over there in the Big Apple.
They’ve got a lot of bossiness, too. My editor works there, in a big office with a tiny window and a basil plant that always seems to be just one day away from deciding to throw in the towel and go into that gently beckoning light.
During one of our initial meetings, I asked my editor what she thought about distributing the book in manuscript form: no cover, no dust jacket, just a simple binding to keep the thing together.
“Are you crazy?” my editor asked calmly.
I thought about it for a moment.*
“No,” I said. “But I don’t want a book army.”
A pause. “A book army?”
“You know, when you go into a bookstore and see all the copies of a new release stacked up on a shelf or table? They’ve all got the same gorgeously gowned girl or computer-designed pattern plastered on the cover. Each and every one of them the same color, the same shape, the same everything. Like a uniformed army ready and waiting to go out and conquer the minds of the world’s citizenry.”
“I’m not paranoid. I know they’re not an actual army. But the text itself means something different to each individual reader. Why shouldn’t those readers be able to design their own covers for the book—or just doodle on the title page, whatever floats their boat—so that it truly is their book?”
My editor gave me a look (picture the scowl of your scariest grade school teacher crossed with the expression of a Chihuahua whose owner just entered them in a sheepherding competition). “Because not everyone is an artistic snob. Because no one will buy a book that looks like a sixth-grader’s half finished English project. Because if your books are not covered, they will become ruined in a matter of weeks.”
Like I said. Bossy.
*After the thirty-eighth time someone asked me this question, I realized something important: it’s only polite to spare one moment for genuine reflection when someone seriously, rationally inquires whether or not you’re absolutely bonkers. But no more than that. It’s not like your parents ordered your brain from a catalogue, after all.
Title: Title of Your Choice
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Word Count: In Progress
Age Range: 16-40
Author Name: Sara Deeter
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from Yale University
Bio: I live in Chicago with my rather fat and extremely spoiled Siamese cat. I primarily work as a legal and creative writer, but I also do a bit of freelance writing for a website called Am Reading. I thrive on sarcasm, am hopelessly addicted to coffee, and have already accomplished one life goal by meeting the inimitable Seanan McGuire.
Why My Project: Although I hope that this novel will appeal to a broad range of audiences, my particular aspiration is that it makes an impact on young adult and new adult readers. Over the past few decades, those markets have been flooded with books that place well on best-seller lists but always seem to recycle the same plot devices, characters, and conflicts. In Title of Your Choice, I hope to show young readers that there’s more to an enjoyable book than just dramatic plots and drawn-out love triangles. Using humor as a hook, I present the manipulation of the literary forms and conventions (e.g. narrative framing, footnotes, and bibliographies) that those readers typically see as uninteresting as an area of enjoyment as well as intellectual engagement.