Quick reminder - your 100 words are due today. Click here to read details on this round's prompt. There's been such phenomenal creativity in this round! I don't envy the judges, having to decide which are best.
Since we're talking about getting published, I think it's only fair to bring up the question of why bother with publication? I've been to a couple conferences in my life time, and I'm also a member of several writing communities where writers of all levels are welcome. These are some comments I hear frequently from new writers:
Do I really have to pick one genre? I want to be able to write whatever I want.
I don't want some editor telling me what I can and cannot do.
I don't want to have to write on a schedule. I just want to write what I feel like when I feel like it.
If these represent something you feel, what I want you to consider is who is your book for?
There's nothing wrong with writing for you. I think all writers can benefit from writing for themselves at least sometimes. I have a story that I see no market for (yet), but it's fun to write. So on Sundays when I get to relax, if I feel like writing, I goof around with that story. For me.
Fanfiction came up in our discussion last Thursday. I used to write Gilmore Girls fanfiction and had a blast doing it. Especially because I was in the middle of a season of rejection with my manuscript, so it was a wonderful escape to a place of instant gratification.
But if you're writing solely for you, why bother with the nasty publication business? I don't mean that in a combative way, I mean that earnestly. If writing is something you do just for you, then why bother putting it out there?
I bother because I don't write just for me. I write for readers. The first thing I ever had published was an obituary for my Papa. I was 23 when he died, and it was the only thing I could think to offer. I wrote it with the entire family in mind, but particularly my Nana. It was published in the Modesto Bee alongside the other obituaries, and my Nana loved it.
Even now, nearly 5 years after his death, Nana sometimes mentions it to me. "It was so personal," she'll say. "I had never seen an obituary like that before, and now I often read ones like that in the Bee." (Grandmothers are the best, aren't they? Because, no, I really don't think I revolutionized the way obituaries are written.)
That was the first experience I had with writing with my audience in mind. There's some indescribably magical about bringing someone else into your story world. I've received emails from girls saying things like, "My life is just like Skylars." Or "This scene in your book touched me because it's what I'm going through right now too." I don't say that to brag but to communicate the power involved.
When you publish something, when you put words out there, they aren't for you. Or they aren't just for you anyway. I don't always feel like writing a post for Go Teen Writers, to be perfectly frank. But Go Teen Writers isn't for me. Yes, it's fun for me. Yes, I feel like it's something I was meant to do, intended for. And yes, I love our community on here. 99.9% of the time, I'm eager to write my blog post. But there are definitely days where I would rather spend that 45 minutes editing. Or playing Wii. Or napping.
So what does it mean, practically speaking, if you decide you don't write just for you, that you write for your readers too?
It means picking a genre.
Guys, I'm passionate about cooking. Last Friday, I brined pork chops, we put a little barbecue sauce on them, and they were out of this world. Insanely good pork chops. I served them alongside rosemary rolls and sauteed snap peas.
Do you care? NO.
I mean, maybe some of you happen to be interested in food stuff too, but that's not why you come to this blog. Wouldn't it be a little frustrating if I suddenly started having "Recipe Tuesday?" Or if one day a week I didn't talk about writing, but instead discussed auto maintenance? Sometimes I toe the line and post a cute picture of my daughter. Like this:
(That was such a cheap way to work it in. Shameless. So cute, though.)
I keep it writing related on here because it's what bonds us. It's our similar interest. So don't you think it would frustrate your readers if you debuted with a sweet romance, then released a legal thriller, then a fantasy trilogy, followed by another sweet romance?
As a writer, I understand the complaint of "I don't want to pick a genre." But as a reader, I'd be darn disappointed to pick up a Sarah Dessen book and find it was about, like, witch princesses or something. This isn't to say you can never try something new. (Or that at 16, or however old you are, you must have your genre picked out. I'm not saying that at all.) I'm saying your readers will have expectations, and you will love your readers and want to make them happy.
It means you might have to write when you don't feel like it.
Fact of the writing life - sometimes you will have deadlines. Your inner artist might balk at this. You will have to get over it. I'm gonna go back to the blog example - I try to have a post on Go Teen Writers at least 4 days a week, and I almost always post by 7am. This sometimes means working in the evenings when I might prefer to watch 30 Rock and eat a bowl of ice cream. It might mean dragging my lazy butt out of bed early in the morning. I'll grant that I'm a bit of a nazi about my blog posts, but wouldn't it be weird if some weeks I posted twice and others seven times?
Again, I'm not saying this with any motivation except to communicate my main point - when you write for your readers, sometimes their needs get put before your own wants and desire. Not always, mind you. I've had readers send me IMs on a Friday night when I'm watching a movie with my husband. No thank you, I'm off the clock.
So, yes, being published traditionally will mean a deadline. Maybe a deadline that's tough for you to make. Readers deserve it, though.
It means you won't be able to ignore feedback. From your editor or elsewhere.
Here is the rule I follow for my writing:
The first draft is about me. If I want to talk for a whole paragraph about the gooey goodness of a grilled cheese sandwich, fine. Or if I don't want to describe the room my characters are in - I can see it in my head just fine, thank you very much - that's cool too. It's for an audience of one.
But the second draft is about my readers. My readers probably don't care that much about the grilled cheese. And they would probably like some idea of what that room looks like. I add that in because I care about them and their reading experience.
And when I send my novel to my editor, she gets to have her say. She bought the story, she fought for it in the pub board, and that earns her the right to be involved. I'll preface this by saying that I was blessed with wonderful editors. In books two and three, Jennifer didn't touch my content at all, and the suggestions made only enhanced my story and my message. I'm sure there are lousy editors out there who want to strip you of your writing voice and make your story their own. But I've yet to encounter them. My editor bought and fought for the story because she liked it, because she believed in it. The last thing she was interested in was rewriting it.
Wow. Way longer than I intended this post to be. Please feel free to join the discussion! As always, disagreements are welcome, rudeness is not.
One last thing, tomorrow the ridiculously talented Sarah Sundin will be here to give away a copy of her latest release, Blue Skies in the Morning. I adore Sarah's writing, and I'm totally pumped that she agreed to come on the blog.
Have a great Monday, everyone!