I saved this pin a few days ago, planning to use it in a new Workshop Wednesday series I'm going to post after the New Year. Don't you just love the Writer Positivity cards? Instead, I decided that I would use it today, after I received the loveliest heartfelt comment from a reader on yesterday's post.
One of the things that has always troubled me about the book industry is the encouragement by those in positions of authority toward sameness. From my first ever story pitch (The original version of God Love Her back in 2009) to my current indie status, I've heard countless renditions of the same song. Sung by publishing houses, agents, editors, and now bloggers and others connected to the industry in some way. It goes a little something like: "Look at what everyone else is doing, look at what's selling, and do that." Every agent I've submitted to in the past - and that's a lot of them - has sent me some version of this response: "We think you're a very talented writer. That isn't in question. But you've got a lot going on with this manuscript, and you need to focus on one thing at a time." My favorite ever was: "This is an interesting concept. But I don't know if you'll be able to pull it off, and don't have time to read the entire manuscript to find out." What's even more disturbing is when authors chime in, when they start espousing the old tired industry lines that are spoken with the express purpose of shortening their books and thus making them cheaper to print, though no less expensive to purchase. They're sacrificing their own individuality to appease the industry, and they're buying the explanation that it somehow makes their writing "better."
Okay. Didn't mean to go off on a tangent. I obviously have strong feelings about this business. And I don't appreciate being told that all readers want the exact same thing. Because I'm an author because I was a reader first, and books impacted me deeply. I for one don't want the same thing, so the industry isn't speaking for me. So I won't speak for it.
There have been times in life when fiction served as the most beautiful distraction. The stories that touched my heart were the stories that showed me perhaps love isn't dead; that loyalty lives. The stories that celebrated the triumph of the human spirit. Stories about unlikely heroes, about lasting friendships, about acceptance, and the willingness to stand up and protect the things we hold dear. Some of these were dark stories, frightening ones, heartbreaking ones. And there was great adventure, love, mystery. I wanted to write books like that. Books that didn't serve one purpose, but many. And I fell in love with words, with the flow of language and the proper usage of grammar, because the more proper the prose, the easier to read, and the more readily it melts into images in the mind, transcending the words themselves.
I don't know if I'll ever become the writer I've always wanted to be. But I do know that nothing compares to those wonderful comments like the one I received yesterday. The heartfelt words of readers I wish I could reach through the computer and hug.
I believe in the phrase "To each her own." I don't want to affect anyone else's stories. Write and let write. But there are days when I sit down at the computer and I feel the industry's side-eye, and I become frustrated and tired. And then someone tells me what one of my books has meant to her. And that's when I am reminded. As you sit at your computer, you are writing the book that someone out there needs. You may never know your words have reached them, but they have, and they were appreciated. That's why you can't write with anything less than your whole heart, no matter how messy, complex, raw, and real it gets. The market is flooded with the books the industry wants to print. Be different. Write the book someone out there needs.