Label Me

I’ve discovered I’m really bad at labels.

You know, like choosing labels for the blog posts. Like on yesterday’s post, I wanted some kind of label that would reference the way I fret over the animals, the small and the weak. I know it’s one of my themes that I revisit, but how do I summarize that in a word or two? That’s why I write the meandering story about the several things coming together. It doesn’t quite gel into a word or two for me.

I mean, scroll down and look at my label list at the bottom of the blog (you don’t have to – it’s a mess). I have hundreds of labels, I’m sure. So much so that I suspect it’s worthless to try to find anything through my labels. Hell, I can’t find what I’m looking for in that enormous label cloud.

I even created a spreadsheet now (you know how I love my spreadsheets) where I put in each post, which photo I use and the labels. Theoretically this should organize me. I’ve tried imposing a moratorium on creating new labels, to try to force myself to stay within the 972 I already created. (No, that’s not an accurate number – I guessed. I’m not counting them.)

Oh, and look, I created a new label today: labels.

It’s like a sickness.

I think of this when I see agents make scathing remarks about how they don’t understand how authors can possibly not know what genre they’re writing. Now, we all know agents specialize in scathing remarks. It’s pretty much a tool of the trade. But it always makes me want to stomp my little foot and whine that it’s really hard.

No, Tawna, I mean difficult.

I totally get why categorizing by genre is important. As a reader, I look for sections in the bookstore. The marketers need to know how to telegraph the story’s promise. Agents use it to target particular editors. I understand that there are genre conventions that establish the contract between the writer and the reader. All of that makes perfect sense.

But ask me to identify genre for a story and I fall apart.

It’s not just my stories, either. I’ve practiced and worked at identifying what genre a book or movie falls into. It rarely clicks for me. It’s like trying to describe a person in one or two words. He’s a Western guy. She’s a New Yorker.

The storyteller in me always wants to take it a few steps farther. He wears a King Ropes ballcap, stopped hunting years ago and carries a dog-eared copy of Napoleon Hill in his pocket. She’d leave New York, even with all its promises of glittering success, if it wouldn’t seem like such a concession to everyone who said the city crushed girls like her.

I suspect what makes a good agent is the ability to condense a story to its key element and target the right market. What makes a good writer is the ability to spin a story, an entire world or universe of people, from something minute.

It’s the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning. Not all of us are good at both.

Dammit, I just created another label.