Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Learning to Love What You Write

I’m not like everybody else. I know that. They taught us way back in elementary school that everyone is different, and everyone has value. We learned that we should embrace what’s different in ourselves. Even as an adult, Oprah and the self-help gurus encourage us to love the parts of ourselves we’re inclined to hate - the things you can’t change - because they’re yours, and they make you you.

Most of the time I can do that. I’m a dork. I love sci-fi and British humor. (Hello Doctor Who!) I’m a grown woman who prefers books for teens. I went to a New Kids On The Block concert – last summer. I may have once been spotted dancing around my kitchen to a Justin Bieber song. (Although this is yet to be proven.) I hate chocolate. I’m me.

I write stories that are very me. Things that I want to read and that, for the most part, aren’t like what’s already out there.

But sometimes, when scanning the latest book deals, or beta-reading an awesome ms, I begin to doubt that my book has value. When I see the fourth werewolf trilogy to sell in a month or I look at those blurbs of mindblowing concepts about zombies and space ships and dystopian worlds and retellings set in futuristic locations and sweet quirky romances (all books I want to read) I think, why don’t I write stuff like that? Why don’t those ideas come to me? And then I think, no one will ever want my book when there are so many truly awesome ones out there. And then I put my ms aside and try to come up with my very own Zombie Apocalypse in Space Quirky Romance – with Werewolves. (Which I just came up with this second and am totally doing, so you can take that one off your list!)

It never works. Why? Because I’m trying to come up with someone else’s book. I can’t get passionate about the idea. I don’t feel true to myself.

And so it comes down to this: I can love my books because they're mine and work to make them the very best representation of the mashup between my skills and the crazy things floating around in my head. And then I can trust that if I put my passion into my work, other people will connect with it even if it doesn’t have werewolves in a dystopian spaceship falling in love with quirky girls during the zombie apocalypse. (Seriously, I’m going to write this. Back off.) OR I can sit at my computer, paralyzed by the fear that nothing I come up with will ever be good enough.

I choose to write. What do you choose? What do you do when it seems like everyone’s ideas are way cooler than yours?


  1. I've tried writing books that I wasn't as excited about, and it was torturous. That old adage of writing what you'd love to read really is true. Writing for trends is just going to frustrate you. Though zombies and werewolves in space has to be somewhat fun :)

  2. Love, love, LOVE the advice to trust that if you put passion into your work, other people will connect with it. And, of course, write the best book you can. Hope it's okay if we include this in our Friday round-up of best articles for writers. It's such an important thing for writers to remember.


  3. I'll back off your dystopian spaceship with werewolf idea as long as you stay away from my space monkeys! Awesome post--I often feel that the ideas of others are cooler than mine, but I couldn't invest the time to write something I wasn't passionate about. Someday the idea of space monkeys will catch on--I'm sure of it. ;)

  4. So true Meredith!

    Wow Martina! I would be honored to be included in your round up! Thanks!

  5. Great post, Valerie! I agree writing what you love and what you'd like to read is not only more rewarding, but your passion with shine through in your work.
    I'm a huge paranormal fan. I love to read it and I love to write it. I don't care that it's a mega trend right now. I don't care that the trend will probably die out by the time I sell a book. It's what I love and it's what I write.
    And my character is a total country girl who is in love with a redneck. And I don't care that most of my future readers won't be like her. I still think they'll love her because I love her.
    Love, love, love, love. Love.

  6. Wonderful post! I think at the end of the day it comes down to passion and what we believe is uniquely us.

    Sure there are similiarities in books. Still, I believe our personalities come out in our writing. All those things that drive us - show up beneath our words, becoming our voice.

    At the end of the day what you write has to mean something to you. If not it will be there to haunt you and show up in the writing. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. This is amazing. Really amazing. Thank you so much for helping me feel better about my own work. I get really discouraged when I see the current trends and I think, "I'm going to be querying soon, but my book is completely different from everything that is selling right now. I have no chance at all."

    But you're right. I write because I love to write, not because I want to fit into a certain mold. And maybe my book won't get published right away. Maybe the market isn't quite right for it. Maybe that will change. But in the mean time, I just have to write what's me and love it because it's me.

    Beautiful advice. Thank you so much!

  8. Oh wow, I get the same envy. I have to really love an idea to write about it. Being passionate about your story helps. If I love it then, hopefully, I'll make it the best it can be rather than a half attempt. lol.
    Although I would one day love to write about werewolves and zombies. :)

  9. Here, here! WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. That's what will stand out. What will come through. Your book is YOUR BOOK and how cool is that? Who cares if werewolves are selling? When yours gets picked up everyone will be clamoring to emulate you! And then we'll have to tell them the same thing.

  10. This is a great post. I think all writers feel this. I know I do. I can't even read books while I'm deep in the writing of a manuscript because I start to freak myself out...

    thanks for sharing. And go for the zombie-space-werewolf romance!

  11. This was a perfect post for me to read today. I just finished reading the mss from my critique group and thought,dang, these are so good. But you're right, we each write our own way, and will hopefully connect with readers. Thanks!


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