A Soapbox Moment
(Guest blogger Robin Lee Hatcher is filling in for Katy, who is taking this blog entry with more than a grain of…soap.)
Hello, Fallible readers. Let me begin this guest column with a quick GET WELL SOON, KATY! Next comes a warning: I’m not funny like Katy. Trust me on this.
Back on December 27, Katy asked for some career advice, including this line: “So, can you give me some free advice? If I were to start all over again writing a novel from scratch, would you counsel me to…” From there she listed some options, including should she just give up.
I left a comment then, but I think I’ll use this guest appearance to expound on the topic a little further. It happens to be something that can get me up on my soapbox rather quickly.
As in all of the arts (acting, painting, sculpting, etc.), there are many who say they’re interested in writing a novel. There are fewer who actually write one, fewer still who sell and see a novel published, and even fewer who can make a living at it. Those are the facts. But for those with a passion for telling stories through the written word, what else can they do but answer the call to write?
I’ve been around this business for a long, long time. (My 50th book, A Carol for Christmas, will release later this year.) I’m convinced that passion and perseverance are far more important to a writer than talent or education. It certainly is what has carried me through the years, in both my ABA (general market) career and my CBA (Christian market) career.
While I believe that unpublished writers should educate themselves on the market (what are people reading right now, what are the bestsellers, what kind of novels are different publishers releasing and what are they saying they’re looking for), there comes a time to shove all of that information into a dark corner in your brain and let your heart take over.
Tell the story that will not let go of your thoughts and emotions. Listen to your characters. Write with passion, not with the rule book.
Is it really important whether your novel is told in first or third person, past or present tense? Well, yes. But it isn’t your critique group or your mother-in-law or any other person or even the market you should be asking. It’s that writer’s voice inside yourself. What is she/he telling you to do? What voice, what tense, does the story demand?
Listen and then tell your story the way it needs to be told.
My first novel was riddled with bad writing, cliches, contrivances. So why did it sell? Well, there was the matter of it landing on the right editor’s desk on the right day; I think she must have been desperate to fill a vacant slot. But what overcame all of the mistakes in that first manuscript, I believe, was the passion I’d felt as I wrote it. That passion brought those characters as alive to readers as they’d been to me. I opened that proverbial vein and let the words pour out of me onto the paper. (I wrote my first novel long hand on legal paper, then typed it about four or five times.)
There is no guarantee that anyone will get published. There is no guarantee that I or any other currently published novelist will continue to publish. The business has changed a great deal in the twenty-five years since I wrote my first novel, and it will continue to change in the months and years to come. But if God has called you to write, then write. Write to the best of your ability. Keep learning and improving your craft. Maybe the novel you write today won’t sell, but maybe the editor who rejects it will have a life-changing experience because of something in it.
We see through a glass darkly. God doesn’t.
If you are discouraged because you’ve been writing a long time without selling, if your head has been filled with a lot of rules and regulations (you must do this, you can’t do that), I encourage you to go in search of that passion you felt when you first began. Write for the joy of telling the story and trust God for the end result.
You can’t go wrong when you do that.
In the grip of His grace,
Posted by Katy on 01/10/06 at 03:08 PMFallible Comments...
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