3 Reasons to Write the Book That Calls to YouPosted: July 25, 2014
There is a lot of different advice about what writers should write. I see the occasional clickbait article on social media claiming to give advice on how to write a bestseller, for example (although I’ve never clicked, because I know when someone is trying to sell me something!). The more common mantra for writers is “write what you know”, something I believe in so long as the definition of “what you know” is expanded to include things you’ve researched, or a fantasy world you’ve built until you know it inside out.
But probably the best bit of advice — IMHO YMMV etc — is to write the book that calls to you. I don’t believe in a muse in the literal sense, but there’s no doubt that when I’ve been choosing between two projects, the one that drags me in like a whirlpool, that won’t leave me alone, is the one that gets written.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, for various reasons. So here are my three reasons to write the book that calls to you.
Because chasing trends is pointless
If you’re thinking of traditional publishing, there’s not a lot of point in chasing trends. Say you look around the bookstore and think, “Gee, were-swans are hot right now.” By the time you write your were-swan book, edit it, get it beta read, edit it again (and again), and start querying agents or editors, your idea is one of many were-swan books on the slush pile. Publishing is a slow-moving beast; that new trend you see breaking in the bookstores today was actually bought by a publishing house 18 months ago (or longer). Right now, they are buying something new, not the trend you’ve just discovered.
This is also true, although to a lesser extent, with self-publishing. If you’re going to be a proper author–publisher, that still takes time to do right. (Again with the editing, but also with the typesetting and acquiring of or designing a professional cover.)
I’m not saying you shouldn’t write your story about were-swans if that’s what you really want to do, but don’t write it because you think it’s going to be the next were-swan hit. Write it because it’s the story you have to write.
Because writing a book is hard
I don’t want to sound like I’m having a pityfest over here, but sometimes writing a book is simply hard work. It’s not always glorious, giddy typing to the Murder, She Wrote theme — sometimes it’s awkward transition scenes and words that move about as quickly as my son gets dressed when we’re in a hurry. (For the record, that’s not very fast.)
If you love your story, if in the middle of the night you think about your characters and ways you can mess with them, getting through these writing rough patches will be so much easier. This is particularly important if you’re still working on your first novel, wondering whether you can do it. (Note: you can.)
Because you’re going to read that book a lot
I just finished proofreading the galley proof of Isla’s Inheritance. I’ve read it from cover to cover (so to speak) at least two or three times in the last six months. Before I got my publishing deal, I read it maybe four more times, going over it again and again, looking at places to tighten or tweak. So not only was it my life for as long as it took me to draft it, it’s been a huge part of my life since then.
Regardless of how you decide to publish, you’re going to read your book again. And again. And again. If it’s not a story your passionate about, you’re going to get more than a little stabby. Even if you are passionate about it you may get a little stabby; it can’t be avoided. But love makes it easier.
I feel like I should leave you with some sort of uplifting message: art harder, or write the story you want to read. Something like that. But instead, I’ve decided to make you an inspirational meme. It’s my gift from me to you. 🙂