We writers are familiar with what I like to call Itchy Finger Syndrome. It’s that sensation of words backed up in your veins, yearning to escape onto the page. Stories whispering in your ear that want to be told. Yet, as writers we tend to get blown about by that elusive creature: the market. Here’s why you should write what you need to write — even if others are telling you otherwise.
Column by Emmie Mears, who, when growing up, yearned to see girls in books
doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre
that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things and decided the best
way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through
the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty
situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor. Emmie inhabits a cozy domicile
outside DC with and two intrepid kitties, where she is currently hard at work on an
epic fantasy and preparing for her next urban fantasy release, STORM IN A TEACUP,
due out in late January 2015. Her first release was the urban fantasy,
THE MASKED SONGBIRD (Harlequin, summer 2014). Connect with
her on Twitter.
1. The Market Can Launch You by the Seat of Your Pants…Or Just Give You a Wedgie.
You’ve heard the advice not to follow trends just to follow them. Publishing is a slow-moving beast, and just because something’s selling like frozen lemonades in a Manhattan July now doesn’t mean two years from now it’ll do the same. I still remember the words of a prominent literary agent at the 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference when she told me, “Four years ago I could have sold this in a heartbeat.”
If you try to write what seems popular right now, there is a chance you’ll hit a trend on the upswing. Maybe. But you might end up like I did: with a novel involving vampires that no agents would touch with a haz mat suit and a claw-grabber.
The thing is, you don’t know until you try. If you have a book burning inside of you to be written, write it. If it’s vamps? Maybe you’ll bring them back from the dead.
2. Only You Can Write It
You are a unique person with a unicorn-shaped cache of experiences. No one out there has a history just like yours. It doesn’t matter how crazy your idea sounds on paper until you actually get it on paper. Don’t try to write someone else’s best story; write your best story.
When I wrote my first books, a lot of the story was abysmally derivative of the books that influenced me as an adolescent and as a young adult. Anyone who’d grown up on the same books would be able to point to them and know exactly where certain ideas had come from. But they helped me find my voice. It takes writers a while to find that style, that flavor, that je ne sais quoi that sets you apart from everyone else. So do your thing and learn yourself. You’ll be better for it.
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3. Writing More = Better Writers
No one wants to hear that their book might not sell, but that’s a sharp truth of this business. The flip side is that each book you write will teach you how to be a better writer if you let it. Writing outside your comfort zone challenges you to think differently about what you do write when you’re mentally lounging in PJs and leaving chunks of popcorn in the keyboard.
And you know what? Even if you have to trunk a manuscript now, five years from now you might end up digging it out, giving it a good primp and polish, and selling it.
4. It Frees Your Brain
Sometimes we all get sucked into projects that we don’t “feel” 100%. Maybe the original spark of inspiration fizzles. Maybe we’re under contract and have to let a pet project simmer until we finish something else and send it packing to our editor or agent. Maybe we’re getting paid for it. I always try to have a project handy that is my passion project. If I’m lucky, all my projects fit that description, but sometimes when you’re mired in revisions for what seems like the fourteenth decade in a row, you need to clear your head.
That’s what writing that passion project can help you through. Whenever I’m stuck on a project, I take a day and work on one I really want to do, whether it’s creating a new calendar for an epic fantasy or plotting out the next book in a series I can’t wait to return to. Not only does this allow me some breathing room, but I crank out more work when I go back to the necessity project.
5. It’s Why We Do It
It’s easy as writers — especially when slogging through the query trenches, hunting the elusive Agent Beast, and generally trying to get your name on a shelf — to get caught up in the stress of chasing the next milestone. Writing the book that begs you to write it brings you back to why you started in the beginning. The itch of the fingers, the tickle of a story coalescing in your brain, the rush of watching a world spin into being under your keystrokes.
So do it. Write the book you need to write. Maybe it’s the book others really need to read.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Agent Spotlight: Alex Slater (Trident Media) seeks Children’s, Middle Grade, YA and Nonfiction.
- Author Lindsay Cummings Shares Her Advice For Breaking In.
- How I Got My Literary Agent: Jessica Arnold (Young Adult).
- Genesis Of A Memoir: How I Came To Write My Story.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.