Ruthless.
Wise.
Brave.
True.

These are the four words I have in my mind when I sit down to wrestle with revisions.

I heard back from my agent last week on round three of edits on the proposal. We’re not even talking book yet, I’m still stuck on proposal.

The proposal is used to sell the book to a publishing house. It is essentially 75-100 pages about the book. A lot of this is excerpts, copied and pasted, but a lot of it is not and it is astonishing how much time I can spend on three sentences, or a single paragraph.

I need to boil each chapter down to about two brief paragraphs that describe what the chapter is about, why it is in the book, how it moves the narrative forward. This isn’t an outline of what happens in the chapter so much as it is an overview.

I’m not so good at overviews, at big picture stuff. That’s what I married Tom for, but he isn’t much help here.

I also need to take the entire book and boil it down into a single sentence with fewer than, say, roughly fifteen words. This is called a hook and needs to be so perfect, so powerful, that as soon as you hear it or read it, you simply mustย read this book.

I think I am getting the hang of writing the proposal. My agent is patient and clear. It needs to be better. And I think I can make it better. No, I know I can make it better.

First off, I need to stop reading other blogs written by incredible women with massive followings. Its hard to compete with people who have more followers or hits or book sales or whatever than there are people in this entire country. Envy is probably the number one creativity killer. At least for me.

Second, I came up with those four words.

Ruthless.
Wise.
Brave.
True.

I need to slash and burn sections that are lovely but not right, or not for this book. I need to write with wisdom and insight. I need to be brave enough to face the roiling emotions of the last decade and brave enough to write them down. I need to write what is true, to tell the truth, to be true to me (to not write like others, to not want their stories or their insights).

This is my story. A lady in the desert. An American in Djibouti. A person raised in the Christian west and living in the Muslim east. Someone just trying to figure it all out. I’ll tell it as ruthless, wise, brave, and true as I can.

Anyone have another word for writers?