Monday, December 2, 2013

Write What You Want

A few years ago, I belonged to an online writers’ group where I posted The Claiming Words for critique. For the most part, I received good feedback, but there was one review that really got to me. Good reviews can make you smile all day, but bad reviews tend to revisit you, playing in your head every time you’re feeling insecure. The reviewer criticized my main character for being too Bella-like and then “complimented” me for even attempting to write a YA vampire novel in such an over-saturated market. My mind immediately skipped over the fact that there are no vampires in the book and instead replayed all the negative things he said about the book. Was my character too weak? Was my book totally lame? Nevermind all the nice things reviewers said–I couldn’t stop thinking about the bad review.

Fast forward a couple of years and The Claiming Words is published, though not exactly taking the publishing world by storm. But, that’s okay. There are people who have read and enjoyed it. More importantly, I enjoyed writing it.

Let’s face it–there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like your book. Agents and publishers will reject it. Readers will criticize it. Even your own family members will tell you they don’t want to read it because they don’t read fantasy or young adult or romance or whatever. Someone will always be around to tell you your romance is too drippy, your erotica too smutty, your YA too immature, your fantasy too lame, your science fiction too implausible, and your literary fiction too pretentious.

If you can’t please everyone, you might as well make yourself happy.

Trends come and go, sometimes so quickly it’s hard to keep up. If you’re scrambling to cash in on the latest craze, you’re taking a risk because by the time you’ve finished your novel, teen-vampire-zombie-post-apocalyptic-romance might not be popular any more. Even if it is, your book still might not sell. Some authors say it’s only the lucky ones who become blockbuster bestsellers. Others say it’s all about hard work. Well, I say there’s no substitute for passion. Readers can tell whether or not you’re passionate about what you’re writing.

When I was active on the online writing site, I read hundreds of unpublished manuscripts. It wasn’t unusual for me to fall in love with a story that was structurally imperfect. If the story was good and the characters were likable–if I could feel the author’s passion for the story–I could forget about a few grammatical errors. There were many books I read which were edited to perfection. The author followed all the “rules,” but for some reason, I didn’t connect with the story. Oftentimes, I felt like I should like the story–it was my preferred genre, it was well-written, the plot was fantastic–but there was something missing. Passion.

If you’re passionate about the book you’re writing and you put your heart and soul into it, you’ll find an audience. Even if you’ve written in a sub-genre that was last year’s craze, who’s to say there isn’t still a hardcore group of readers yearning to read a book just like yours? Who’s to say your genre won’t be popular again next year or the year after that? If you’ve written an innovative book, maybe it will be the beginning of the next big trend.

You can’t predict trends. You can’t control the publishing industry. You can’t make everyone like your book. But, you can write what you’re passionate about. You can make yourself happy. You deserve to be happy, so write what YOU want!

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