Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Terms

The other day I was responding to a comment left by Lady Glamis and wrote the following:

Lady Glamis – maybe you and I are more in tune with our writing than we were before. I know I’ve grown with my writing over the last few years since I started writing about things (i.e., themes, I guess) that mattered to me. It’s when I quit caring about an audience, a hot genre, and just began to write for myself that my writing took off. Yeah, I know, I’m considering urban fantasy. Go figure!! Still, I’m writing the urban fantasy on my terms . . . and I think, for me at least, that’s the most important thing of all.

Now, as is often the case, my responses to someone's blog post or comment often inspires me to write a blog post . . . or two, or three, or whatever. This time it wasn't any different.

I know I've grown with my writing over the last few years since I started writing about things (i.e., themes, I guess) that mattered to me.

Margarita Nights began as writing about something that was important to me and that I wanted to read. I wanted something I could relate to on both a personal and intellectual level that hadn't been written before. Okay, it's probably been written before, but I haven't read it . . . so there!! So, I set fingers to keyboard and typed away. I wrote the rough draft of the first half in 2 weeks, and the rough of the second half in about 4 weeks.

It’s when I quit caring about an audience, a hot genre, and just began to write for myself that my writing took off.

You see, I wasn't thinking about a major audience, I was only thinking about me when I began the project. I kept thinking about me, me, me, and me some more through the entire writing process. There wasn't an imaginary audience - i.e., people this book would specifically apply to - in the back of my mind, or the forefront for that matter, as I wrote this book. Then again, there was, because I was writing for others like myself, others in my community. The point is: the others in my community weren't the specific audience I had in mind. I was the specific audience.

It was freeing to write just for me. It was freeing to write solely for my own enjoyment without giving a flying hoot about anybody else but me, me, me and more me!

Yeah, I know, I’m considering urban fantasy. Go figure!! Still, I’m writing the urban fantasy on my terms . . . and I think, for me at least, that’s the most important thing of all.

Yes, an audience is important. Yes, paying attention to audience is important. But what do we, as writers, sacrifice to write for a specific audience versus writing for ourselves first, and an audience second?

What's hot today, might not be hot by the time we get ready to search for an agent. What then? Do we give up that project, spend a few years on writing what's hot and then . . . find out it's no longer hot? Hmmmm . . .

I think we all need to write on our terms . . . every single time. Genres come and go. Audiences come and go. In the end, I think we need to be true to ourselves first and foremost. We need to write what we are passionate about, and not what a fickle audience - thought they might well pay our bills one day - wants to read today, because we ain't getting published today. We're getting published sometime in the - hopefully near - future.


Jody Hedlund said...

I like what James Scott Bell said in Art of War for Writers: Write what you love, but with your eyes wide open.

My publishing house didn't buy one of my books because they didn't think there would be a market for it right now. I love that book. But I understand their decision. I need a break-in book, then hopefully someday I'll be able to write with more flexibility.

In today's climate, writing has become more of a business than ever before. If we hope to publish, we do need a certain amount of savvy. And perhaps we need to give ourselves the freedom to keep trying new things and write a variety of books. We give ourselves and thus agents more options. Just a thought.

SJDuvall said...

I agree with you completely. Last year, I struggled with trying to write a few novels. I got about 10,000 words into them and had to put them down. I just wasn't interested. I was writing them because I thought that was what I had to write. But when I finally gave myself a chance to write the book I had been dying to write for a year...well, I wrote that sucker with so much enthusiasm and excitement. I love the book, and I'm so glad I wrote what I wanted to write, not what I thought I should.

Cynthia Reese said...

Excellent points, Scott! Too many times on agent blogs I see how they warn of these same things. Yes, you have to consider market, but you also have to write what pleases you -- after all, what if you sell the piece and hate writing it??

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent point! We do need to write on our own terms. This takes an insane amount of confidence though, something I've had to learn to acquire.

Scott said...

Jody – I agree completely w/James Scott Bell. How could I disagree with someone with a name like Scott? Ha! I also agree that writing is more a business. The current ‘trend’ seems geared to YA and MG. I don’t write either. I’m not going to write either. I don’t want to read either. While I understand the trend, what’s hot, and all that jazz, I’m not ready to make the sacrifice to write something I’m not fully invested in . . . at least not yet.

SJ – I struggle the least when I follow my heart with my writing. My writing really began to flow when I started following my heart rather than market trends. Yes, I could write a paranormal MG novel. Would I love writing the project? Maybe. Would I rather write an urban fantasy about adults that touches on a recurrent theme in my writing? Heck, yeah!

Cynthia – thanks. Great thought ~ what if you sell the piece and hate writing it??? To me, writing, at least not yet, is not a job, it’s a joy. I do it because I love to write. I think my writing would suffer if I hated the project I was working on. There must be joy.

Elana – thanks. I too gained the confidence through years of writing what was hot. My only problem: by the time I finished, something else was hot. Go figure. I think – at least for me – the early years of writing are about finding not only our voice as writers, but finding what we’re passionate about as writers. I love the projects I have been working on lately. Yes, I want to get published. I want fame and success. I also want to be proud of every – well, maybe not every – word I write. I want to love what I write and that comes by writing on my terms.

Tess said...

First off I just have to say ....

you have tomato blossoms? Crap! I woke up to a dusting of snow. I was talking about planting the 'winter hearty' veggies like peas this weekend. Tomatoes won't be for another month. I'm so jealous.


What you say here is so important. I wanted to write a sweet, southern story inspired by old negro spirituals and the old, classic gospel music. It is something that moved and inspired me. Everyone said, "historical is dead" or "that won't sell". I even had an agent say, "I like the writing, but am afraid this story is too sweet for today's market".

but they were wrong and it eventually found a home. even if it never did, I am glad that was what I wrote. It was a piece of my heart.

and, finally third:

yes. you did it again. made me laugh out loud with the Starland Vocal Band reference. Life is about some of that, too ;)

Scott said...

Tess – yes, I have tomato blossoms. We’ve had an exceptionally warm – more days in the 80s in April than other temps – spring this year. I even dared Mother Nature to throw a freeze our way. Normally, I don’t plant my garden until Mother’s Day. This year I did it the weekend after Easter.

I think writing from the heart is the best things writers can do. Yeah, the whole lure of publication might make a few of us sell our souls and write something we don’t love; but, I think the best writing of all is done when we love what we are writing about.

I couldn’t resist the Starland Vocal Band reference, especially after you sang the song to your boss last time. LOL.

Lady Glamis said...

This is an excellent post, Scott! You use my words in it, hehe.

Sorry it has taken me so long to get over here!

Yes, I think it's important to write what WE want to write, not what other people want us to write. Maybe if I get an agent and get direction that way, I'll write more to what the market wants, but until then I'm writing what makes me happy, and if that doesn't get me published, whatever. I've kind of pushed the idea out of my head for now anyway. I have a young family and a whole handful of issues to deal with right now. I don't need to throw publishing on the top of that. Sigh. I'm a bit burned out, is all.

Thanks for this post! I'm glad we're in agreement. :)