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IWSG: You Should Write

February 5, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group where, thanks to the genius of Alex J. Cavanaugh, writers all over the world-wide web gather to share their insecurities and triumphs. If you want to join us, click the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.

This month I’m worried my weird stuff will never find the right audience.

People always told me I should write. Maybe it’s because one of my favorite things to do is edit other people’s writing, rearranging sentences and looking for the perfect word to make the prose sing. Maybe it’s because I find typos in everything I read. Maybe it’s because they give me books they’ve read and want to know if I think they’re any good. Some of them, after they’ve got a few chapters of their own book written, even ask me, “What do you think? Should I finish it? Would someone pay to read it?”

“Of course,” I tell them. “You should write.”

“But what about you?” they would ask. “You could write a book someday.”

“Nah, I’m too busy,” I would respond with a smile. “My life is too boring to write about. I have no good ideas for stories—besides, show me the money.”

That all changed when I read a certain bestselling novel. It doesn’t really matter which one; there are so many that sell oodles of copies despite what seem to be obvious shortcomings. There were parts of it I liked, but also parts that I felt could be so much better. “What if–” I thought, “I took the parts I liked, combined them with parts I liked from another story, then put in something I really love, and made a story that’s perfect for me?”

Image courtesy of 'georgie c' @ stock.xchngA story about rock and roll. With time travel, and romance. On a beach in California.

If I wanted that story, I’d have to be the one to write it.

So I did. It took a bit of prodding and lots of free writing to get the words out, but soon I was writing a thousand words at a time without coming up for air. And it was fun! My characters took me to the most amazing places, the plot twisted in the most unpredictable ways, but there was no way I was going to consider this ‘Thing’ I was writing a novel.

Until one day I realized my characters and plot were acting out some of my inner truths and demons. Thinking about that took my breath away.

“Damn,” I thought. “I could write novels.”Image courtesy of Billy Alexander @ stock.xchng

And I didn’t care if they made money. They needed to be written.

My next story was about a kid with a mind reading tiger for a pet and was set on a desert planet where his father, the king, had been exiled. That was followed by a story about an engineer who contacts aliens, then a story about dragons and the moon, then a story about vampires …

This next transition however is filled with self-doubt and missteps. I need to reconcile what the world thinks I should write with what my heart has discovered I want to write.

What genre are these ‘Things’? Where do my stories fit into the spectrum of books people like to read? Are they paranormal romance? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Modern adult, young punk, mature audiences only, dark suspense comedy?Image courtesy of T. Al Nakib @ stock.xchng

And how will I ever revise all this to fit inside a three act structure? In the requisite ninety thousand words?

Can I ever learn to conform to the constraints of writing prompts and word count limits?

When the Muse crooks his gloved finger in my direction and drags me to the page, whispering, “Hey, Writer-Babe, C’mere. There’s something you just gotta see …” do I follow—even if I have deadline for a blog post?

Can I embrace what I want to write and still end up with what I should be writing?Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian @ stock.xchng

Images courtesy of ‘Georgie C’, Billy Alexander,  T. Al Nakib and Zsuzsanna Kilian @ stock.xchng,

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38 Comments
  1. February 5, 2014 7:05 am

    The beauty of self-publishing is that genre doesn’t matter so much anymore. Besides, I’m reading The Raven Boys sequel (which is fab) and I have no idea what genre you would put it into. Doesn’t matter. It has a great cover, a compelling blurb, and thirty-thousand people on Goodreads think it’s awesome.
    Please, write your stories, don’t worry about genre. People like stories, not boxes. You might create a new genre!

    • February 5, 2014 7:58 am

      I do think there are books similar to mine, but I always seem to have trouble classifying exactly who might be interested in what I’m writing. Ironically, perhaps, my feeling is also that self-publishing makes it even more imperative to appeal to people under a genre classification they are already familiar with because I’m asking readers to take a chance on me without any other backing. The traditional publishers, by virtue of having the experience and publishing house behind them, might be more free to experiment, as in your example of the Raven Boys.

      Either way though you’re so right: readers are basically only interested in a good story, and if I can learn to make mine great it won’t matter where how my stories end up being classified.
      (And I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Raven Boys! I’m super intrigued by it.)

      • February 5, 2014 8:56 am

        For some reason I think you’ll love The Raven Boys. The writing style is lyrical and chock full of meaning, like yours is (from what I can tell). It makes me want to write better novels. It’s also written in third-person omniscient, which I find fascinating as it’s my preferred style when I write and I have to spend HOURS re-writing my books into one or two viewpoints because omniscient is so frowned upon. It just goes to show!
        Maybe you should submit to Scholastic? You might be their next Maggie Stiefvater! 🙂

        • February 5, 2014 9:10 am

          😀
          I think Raven Boys will have to move closer to the top of my To Read list! I love reading books that make me aspire to better writing.

  2. February 5, 2014 7:10 am

    Btw, Raven Boys is published by Scholastic, in case my response suggested that Maggie Stiefvater was a self-published author. 🙂

  3. February 5, 2014 7:44 am

    First, you changed your header. Nice.

    Sounds like you’re at the point of decided what’s more important to you – writing what you want or seeking a traditional publishing route. Not to say those two things are necessarily mutually exclusive, but they might be. At least you have the freedom to self-publish these days. *shrugs* Test the waters with your stories (both queries and random citizen beta readers) and then make your choice. 😉

    IWSG #298
    (Yup. I got culled and had to start all over. *blush* Oops.)

    • February 5, 2014 8:30 am

      Hi Melissa,
      My header is on a random rotation (scenic route, get it? 😉 ) so I have a lot of fun putting different scenes on it. I found some cool ones at Big Stock, and had a bit of time to perk things up around here. 🙂
      Anyway, I like how you distilled my thought process and have to admit that writing what I want to write is more important to me right now. That’s not to say that I’m unwilling to compromise, but for me, I find it difficult to get words flowing on the page without some kind of connection to my core writing impulses, otherwise known as the Muse. Your suggestion to put out feelers about where my stuff might fit in is a great one.

      And no matter what number you’re at with IWSG, you’re still #1 to me (or close to it! 😉 )

  4. February 5, 2014 8:12 am

    Writing the stories you want to read is absolutely the way to go. Yes, genre is important when you get to the point of trying to get published, but a story from your heart is still the most important. I am still trying to figure it all out, too, but as long as writing is fun, that is what matters.

    • February 5, 2014 8:49 am

      I admit I kind of hoped that writing something that I love might appeal to others like me, but there are moments when I think I’m the only one who loves it! Genre feels like a safe place to put a story when I’m not sure, but then at the same time I wonder if I’m deceiving readers by telling them that’s exactly what they’re getting. Because I don’t start with genre, it’s more like I end up there …

      I love how the comments I’m getting here are helping me shed light on my dilemma!

  5. February 5, 2014 9:29 am

    I want to read all of those!
    Sounds like science fiction to me. Probably same as my genre, space opera.

    • February 5, 2014 9:41 am

      😀 You do? That makes me so happy!
      And I adore reading space operas, which might be the reason I’m drawn to writing them.

  6. February 5, 2014 10:31 am

    Great article. Hits home in so many ways. As for whether I run when the muse calls–yes. I love what I write when she’s in charge. I can get a 1500-word article out in a few hours when I listen to her. Otherwise, it takes days. The problem is she doesn’t come that often. Sigh.

    • February 5, 2014 11:02 am

      Thanks, Jacqui–this post went through so many edits it’s not even funny as I had a lot of trouble articulating exactly why I feel unable to write on demand or to a short deadline.

      But, yeah, basically, the writing is so much more fun when the Muse is on board!

      • February 5, 2014 11:09 am

        I know what you mean. I write for an ezine. They don’t pay much, so I have to align my articles with what can be done for their pay scale. That means I turn down topics at times because I know it will take too long.

        Writing is always fun.

  7. February 5, 2014 12:20 pm

    Sounds like you write SFF in various subgenres. That’s actually pretty common. I’m the same with the occasional straight-up literary and the side pen name for Christian fic.

    • February 5, 2014 7:18 pm

      Thanks Liana! It does seem that my stories should be able to find a home, since there seem to be lots of stories like them out there. I will look up SFF and its subgenres and see where they might fit best.
      You write Christian fiction too? You’re so prolific! 🙂

  8. February 5, 2014 1:56 pm

    Your desire to write what you want to read is a perfect road to happiness. Deciding what genre your work falls under is a problem I am struggling with also. I write Mystery novels, should be straightforward, but everyone expects something different from a mystery. If it’s not thrilling or suspenseful enough for the reader, there are complaints. Guess this could be my insecurity blog post for March!

    • February 5, 2014 7:23 pm

      Hi Gail,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      I would think writing mysteries would be straightforward too, and although I don’t read that many of them, I still enjoy different writers’ takes on the genre.

      Isn’t it funny how we never run out of ideas for IWSG posts? One just leads to another, and another …

  9. February 5, 2014 3:26 pm

    A really imaginitive novel will naturally push a few boundaries – I think as long as it’s coherent as a single story, in a universe that feels real, it doesn’t matter too much how wild it is.

    It’d probably make your work easier for an agent to sell if your stories were simple ‘like X but different’ novels, but the wild edges can be the most fun to read.

    • February 5, 2014 7:26 pm

      Hi David,
      I like the concept of contrasting my work with other stories, however I’m always worried that my story will pale in comparison to another!
      There might be a fine line between too much imitation and too darn weird. I just have to find it, I guess. 🙂

  10. February 5, 2014 8:35 pm

    Writing what you love to read is so important, and it sounds like you’ve got great advice from other posters about SF/F. There’s a home for your material, so be willing to test the waters. 🙂

    • February 6, 2014 7:42 pm

      I will be checking out the SF/F stuff for sure. In fact, maybe I should classify the stuff I read more carefully, just in case I write something in a similar vein!

  11. February 5, 2014 10:08 pm

    I think the great thing about today’s world is there are so many paths to publication. If you don’t care about money, then why not self publish or go with a small press? I find at Curiosity Quills, they take those stories that don’t fit into an exact mold. And hey, nobody yelled at me for going over 90,000 words in 18 Truths . . . 15,000 more words than 18 Things. What can I say? My characters had more to tell me 🙂 Hold onto faith–you’ll figure it out. You’re a wonderful writer!!

    • February 6, 2014 7:44 pm

      Thank you so much, Jamie.
      Now I’m intrigued that 18 Truths is so much longer than 18 Things! I love it when characters take the lead with the story. 🙂

  12. February 6, 2014 12:16 pm

    You know, Kirsten, that’s the question facing us all. A question (as you also know—thanks for visiting) I posed on my blog, too. Sort of, at least with my decision to write what I want on my blog at the risk of losing followers. But…write what you want, what you feel, the story that needs to get out. That’s my philosophy. There is an audience. Just gotta find it.

    • February 6, 2014 7:48 pm

      Yes, it took me a long time to isolate this question, but now that I have it, I need to figure out whether or not the words I write can find a home–or what I can do to make them pretty enough for someone to adopt them despite their other shortcomings!

      • February 7, 2014 5:48 am

        Your words, like the ones of this post, are very “pretty.” You have a knack of putting them together well. 😉

  13. February 6, 2014 6:16 pm

    So much word on finding a genre label. The only real conflict I see here is if you want to publish traditionally. Your heart’s desire is fair game any other way 😉

    • February 6, 2014 7:55 pm

      The publishing questions are so confounding to me. Do traditional publishers have the inside track on what readers want? Or are the publishers merely delivering whatever they feel like giving us, and we just have to pick from that? Do self publishers have to conform to traditional publishing standards so that readers can’t tell the difference? How do self-publishers find readers, without access to the promotional outlets that traditional publishers have?
      I’m so confused, I sometimes just want to give up on even thinking about publication!
      (As you can see, this could easily become another blog post, but not a very upbeat one … )

  14. February 7, 2014 4:00 pm

    This is a really amazing post. I agree that doing what YOU want is most important.

    • February 8, 2014 6:20 pm

      Thanks, Gina
      Ultimately, I don’t think I would be able to write stories that didn’t have my heart in them. And I have to ask myself why I would want to. 🙂

  15. February 8, 2014 11:34 pm

    Ultimately I think you have to write what you want to read. Although I can see the value in keeping your intended audience in mind, writing a novel is hard enough work that I think it’s important for us to believe in what we’re doing.

    • February 12, 2014 8:00 am

      It’s kind of a give and take, isn’t it? I love much of what I read, and want to make something just as wonderful–yet what arrives on my pages is somewhat different than anything else out there.
      The trick might be to sort my ‘Different’ into the right box … 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Mike!

  16. February 15, 2014 1:09 am

    Kirsten: You’ve set fourth many thoughts for yourself that I believe many serious writers wrestle with over the years. They’re good questions and no matter where we are in ‘the writing life’ we must be aware of our readers.

    • February 15, 2014 9:49 pm

      Hi Sheri,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      I’m really hoping to find a writing place where the ideas that fascinate me resonate with readers as well. Sometimes I have doubts whether I will find it, on others I think I might be close. 🙂
      That might be why I feel this is more a journey than it is a destination.

  17. March 5, 2014 11:44 am

    I would love to read your stories. They sound like fun reads. I hope you find that place.

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