Write from the Heart

crossroadEver find yourself at a crossroads? Sure you have. I didn’t have to ask. (Silly me.) But I don’t mean the literal fork in the road you reach by car, bike, or on foot. I mean the point where life could go in one direction or another.

I’m at a crossroads now as I contemplate my writing thus far and current publishing trends.

twilight-coverBack when the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer had become the in thing and I’d heard that agents and editors searched for books of that ilk, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and write a young adult vampire novel. After all, I’d read several. I could do this, right? Well, after four dismal pages and no discernible plot—just a scene in which the characters sat on a couch watching a horror movie for some reason—I called it quits. My heart simply wasn’t it in.

200px-Hunger_gamesAnd when Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy hit the bestseller lists, I considered revamping my stalled science fiction novel into a dystopian novel. Sure, my plot was full of holes and my system of government threadbare, but I just needed to work harder at ironing out the kinks. Or so I thought. I lasted until page 107 before putting it aside. Couldn’t make the plot work. Again, my heart wasn’t in it.

So where is my heart? Where it always has been: tucked away in a fantasy land sprinkled with magic and populated by elves, dragons, and quirky humans. I love a fantasy world steeped in mythology and dripping with tropes. I have six fantasy novels in various states: two complete; four others in the works.

fantasybooks

Yet when I hear that more and more humorous, contemporary middle grade books (which I enjoy) are being acquired at publishing houses, I have to ask myself: Write to the trend or not?

There are all sorts of practical reasons for doing so—lucrative ones. Yet as I consider ideas for crafting a humorous, middle grade story, the only ideas that come to mind are those that will mean yet more high fantasy novels.

Must I abandon my elves to go trendy?

9781582970523_p0_v1_s260x420A quote from a craft book by Nancy Lamb helped me gain perspective:

Produce the best story you can. Write it, craft it, rewrite it, hone it, edit it and love it. (25)

“Love it.” That’s the key. Do I love the world I developed and the characters that populate it? Yes. Am I producing the best stories I can? I think so. And judging by the abandoned novels versus the finished novels on my computer, getting to the finish line on a novel is not as much of a hurdle when I’m writing from the heart.

So, I think I’ll keep going in the direction that I’m already going. An enchanted forest waits up ahead.

enchanted_forest-1920x1200

Do you write to trends? I’d love to hear about that. Are you also at a crossroads? What brought you to this point? Where does your heart lie?

Lamb, Nancy. The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2001. Print.

Images from amersrour.blog.com, sodahead.com, and freewallpapers4desktop.com.

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34 thoughts on “Write from the Heart

      • Right? You have to study how to be something else then morph into that?

        Life is tough enough.

        Stay the course L.

        I am. I have been editing and cleaning a feature screenplay I’m about to attempt to take to a few hollywood players (yikes) to see if they’d be interested. Then I bought a camera to jump into shorts again. I hear (through a top critic here in NYC ) that the graduating film class on NYU (one of the top film schools in the country) were all concerned about this. How to serve up what are the trends/how to stay abreast of em.’ So I am either going to bomb real good or soar. Depending on what the way to go is. [Throws hands in the air.]

        Who knows huh? Hopefully you and I soar or bomb together. Least we have a partner in crime from this (our) perspective!

      • Let’s think of soaring! Wouldn’t that be great! Good luck on your films. An actress friend of mine lives in NYC and is connected to some of the students at NYC. She’s starred in some of their films.

      • Yes, let’s do that (think of soaring)!!! You have a friend that is pursuing acting in NY? Actors are so great. So dedicated and passionate about bringing a story alive. Have you ever seen her work? Good for her…. 🙂

  1. Thanks for this post, L. Marie! For a long time, every story I started, no matter how it started, ended up with kissing and magic. The book I just completed managed to remain magic-free, but there is kissing 🙂 As you know, I’m with you — writing what you love, what’s in your heart, is the key to resonating with readers. Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Nothing wrong with kissing and magic. 🙂 I have a bit of that in one of my books. 😀 I guess it’s good to assess what aspects truly resonate with us. Sometimes I feel like Dug, the dog in Up–distracted by what I see. “Trend!” I shriek, and off I go. But who knows. Perhaps I’ll finish one of those stories.

  2. I try to write from the heart now, because after a couple of years of trying to write things that weren’t, I realized that doing so was miserable. If we’re not interested in the story we’re writing, it will more than likely show.

    So that’s not to say you couldn’t *get* interested in whatever genre is hot at the time, but I think it’s always going to be easier to write something you’re already in to.

    • That’s so true, Phillip. I can’t help thinking of the book and film He’s Just Not That into You. Disinterest shows. I’m waiting for the year when the trends and my ideal story match!!!

  3. The problem of following a trend is by the time you’ve written your vampire/dystopian novel there will already be another trend taking its place. Write what you love and it will shine through and I’m sure will be a more enjoyable read. An enchanted forest here you come. 🙂

  4. I always hear “write what you know” and will now add “write from the heart” to my mantras. I am soooo passionate about my books and, trends or not, hope, hope, hope my passion shines through my writing and reaches out and grabs an editor or agent so that they give me a chance.

  5. No intentional trends for me. Fantasy is where I’m hanging out. When I first started writing, I considered jumping around my favorite genres, so I did have to narrow it down to keep some kind of consistency in case I ever have true fans. A friend and I are hoping to write a book outside both our genres under a single pen name, so that’ll be our semi-trendy compromise. 🙂

    • I like a pen name!! I’m with J. K. Rowling on that! And nothing wrong with writing in different genres. Look at James Patterson. Okay, yes, he has some ghostwriters working for him. Okay, look at John Grisham! Look at Melina Marchetta.

  6. I find I just have to write what I really want to write–what’s in my heart, what I love–and then hope that the love and care I lavish on the story is enough to make others love it too. Otherwise I won’t stick with it, because my heart isn’t in it.

  7. Writing is already too hard to be spending that much time on something that I don’t love. Magic seems to creep into most of my writing too, though there are some other genres I’d like to try for fun. Keep up the good work, the work you love, and eventually that love will shine through. Besides, we have a book tour planned….

  8. This is a great post, Linda! I always say “write what you love”! I’ve been kind of in a crossroads myself lately, trying to figure out how to recapture that spirit of love and inspiration in what I write. I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day about the importance of imagination in writing and art and I feel this is something that doesn’t get talked about often enough. Over the past few years I’ve learned so much about craft I get tangled up in it and forget that what I always loved about writing and stories was the imaginative possibilities. That’s why I’ve been thinking of writing some short things and instead of worrying about plot or character or POV just see how imaginative I can make them. That’s why I’ve been reading more folklore and mythology. I think, for me, imagination is the key 🙂

  9. I think you’re right to write (no pun intended!) to your strengths, a genre that you love and that you feel comfortable with. I tend to write what I want to write. Thinking about trends is way down the list.

  10. Really great post, as per usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. While I think you are so right that you need to write to your interests and your strengths (by the time you write a vampire book after Twilight the trend has probably already moved to something else) I do notice that current trends sometimes influence my writing. I started a novel about three years ago. It has a sci-fi story line and a contemporary story line. After reading Hunger Games and Divergent I noticed the sci-fi story line getting stronger. Now I’ve noticed contemporary YA writers like John Green and Stephanie Perkins influencing my writing. I hope that is a good thing. We’ll see.

    • And those are both great writers, so I understand the influence! I hope I didn’t imply that I’m not in favor of trends. I’m glad to see more sci-fi in YA. I’m also glad contemporary realistic YA is in demand. We can’t help being influenced by those we admire. Robin McKinley has a new book coming out, so I hope to be influenced by her soon! Thanks for stopping by!!

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