Monday, March 24, 2014


Since I wrote that last blog post, I've been thinking about the comments on the blog and about my writing, trying to figure out what was wrong lately.  I think I know what it is. I took the passion out of my writing. I was trying too hard to please people. Thinking too much about how I wanted to sell more.

I don't know what most people believe an author's style is when it comes to writing, but to me it's how the author views the world around them. What an author finds interesting, what experiences she or he has had, the way they sympathize with people and process things are all going to color the way they write a story. Even the way an author speaks or has heard people speak is going to affect their writing. It's why a bunch of different people can take a similar idea, like writing a romance novel about vampires, and make it into totally different stories from each other. Because they view the world differently, so they are going to take the characters in different directions and focus on different aspects of what it means to be those characters. One writer, who is more in touch with feelings, might write more about what a character is thinking, while another, who studies martial arts in their spare time, might write about fighting more.

I've been very insecure about my writing style lately. I don't get jealous of other authors who sell more than me, I usually instead try to read their writing and figure out what it is about them that makes them better than me. See if I can improve myself through their example.

I notice that a lot of popular writers are ones who view the world like a fairytale-the kind that tune out real life horror stories, like people dying or being hurt-and favor a rosy view of the world. I, on the other hand, want to understand people's suffering. I have a deep admiration for characters that struggled and were at the end of their rope. I love reading stories that are positive and upbeat, but I don't think most of those stories fit my style of writing. I just kept thinking that you should write what you'd want to read and I know that I read a lot of upbeat stories where the characters aren't necessarily as emotional as my characters are, so I thought I'd try to write them, too.

I've been trying to change myself to make people happier and to sell more books. The only way to improve as a writer is to change, but to change the way you fundamentally write also takes a lot of the passion from the story. It starts feeling more like a stranger wrote your story than that you did. You have more trouble connecting with the characters because you didn't put much of your life into them.

I was starting to feel like passion for writing was bad. That it clouds your judgement of what is good that you wrote and what needs to change. I might connect, personally, with a certain chapter that I wrote, but readers might hate it, and I shouldn't blind myself from their perspective.

I still enjoy writing even if I put very little of myself into it, but it's not quite as addicting. When critique partners tell me I need to change something, I'm trying to fix it according to their brains, instead of finding a creative way inside my own brain to make the story better. It becomes mechanical and not my own.

But the passion is coming back and I'm very excited about that!


Faith Williams said...

I'm no writer (and would never claim to be) but if you, as the author, are not invested in the story, it's not really your story, is it?

I think there are plenty of people who want to examine the darker side of things. As an example: the TV show the Walking Dead (I haven't read the graphic novel/comic book, so I'm using the TV show as my reference point). In this season, all the survivors have been split apart and viewers are getting episodes that focus on one or two (or just a small group) and are not packed with action (although there is always zombie killing going on!). In the fan forums, you get people who are complaining the action isn't moving fast enough for them (the whole season probably isn't more than a week or two) and others who are really digging getting to know the characters and see them as they experience the horror of the world they are now in.

So it is in the reading world: different things appeal to different readers. Some days I like my action books; some days I want to understand and feel every nuance the characters are going through.

I'm glad to hear your passion is coming back. I know it's probably impossible, but you need to stop measuring the success of your books by everyone's standards ("You should do this to X character; every successful Y genre has to have Z element; etc.) and be the writer YOU are.

Constructive criticism is one thing; bending to pressure to not be true to your characters or yourself is another.

T.J. said...

yes. I've been told to stop writing my stories, and jump on the romance band wagon to sell books. Though my books are starting to get steadier download rates, just not enough to brag to the world.

The high pressure to write what everyone else is managed to shut me down, and I finally told them I'm not a romance writer, I'll never be one. Eventually I'll find the audience who loves what I write (and I have a few avid fans) and be able to make a true living. Until then, I'll keep writing my way. Even if it isn't currently the most popular.

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