Wednesday, September 22, 2010


In one of my favorite novels, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, the main character Flora Post announces to her friend Mrs. Smiling, "I mean to write a novel as good as Persuasion by the time I'm fifty."

I say that's a pretty lofty goal.

But that phrase tumbled around in my head for so long (like a clothes dryer with no automatic shut off and I left on vacation with a load of towels in) that eventually I took up the challenge. I failed, naturally, but I did write a novel based on Persuasion, arguably Jane Austen's finest work (and the one supposedly most autobiographical.) It pales, but does that count?

Anyhow, I've spent the past three weeks immersed in a new and foreign (to me) form of writing: persuasive.

Given the choice in college, I signed up for the research writing class, not the persuasive writing class. Then when it came to the sales aspects of the technical writing courses I took, I pretty much stunk. Sigh. It's not my forte. But lately, my completely untrained moment has been thrust upon me. I've had to write the text for a brochure, six persuasive letters, a "convincing" post card, an entire website, several radio ads, and three newspaper ads.


It's a tall building to leap in a single bound. I don't know how the end result looks yet. And I won't know if they're effective for a few more weeks. And a LOT depends on it. In fact, I want to kind of hurl whenever I think about how much the success or failure of these chunks of text actually effects my life.

What I do know about persuasive writing is this: know your audience. Know what matters to them. Know what they want most. Suit your message to your reader. Figure out what will appeal to the reader and play on that. It can be based on fear, or deeply held emotions, or money. (Dang it. None of which I tapped into, I realize now.) It can be based on reason--well reasoned arguments (that's what I was going for). It can appeal to desires. (Avoided that one, too.)

Meanwhile, I'm thinking what I really desire is another dose of Tylenol and another dose of that fantastic Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream Bar by my good friends at the Blue Bell ice cream company. Is there more deliciousness anywhere? I think not. Unless it's in the Buttered Pecan Ice Cream Bar (which I have yet to sample. But my birthday is coming up in a few weeks. Hint. Hint.)

Now that's cold comfort.


  1. I think you're on to something - modeling books after the best around. Dang it, I wrote two books (plus a sequel for the first one) modeled verrrryyyy loosely after best sellers that weren't written so well. The best sellers, that is, I hope.
    Oh, well, they were fun to write and there's always time to write more books, just like there's always room for another scoop of ice cream, even if you have to allow your stomach to settle and make space.

  2. Thanks, Vampire Books. You may be onto something yourself-modeling a book after a popular one, riding the wave and adding to its dimension (with literary grace.) I hope your book is astronomically best selling!
    I don't know if I agree with your statement "there's always time to write more books." I only hope that's true. Life has taken a nasty turn for the "distressingly little time for idleness" around here. My novel languishes!


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