Monday, August 11, 2008

Writing Smart or Writing False?

I wanted to share a great blog post by Kaye Dacus that I read a few days ago. Kaye, a romance writer, was frustrated that so many unpublished authors are advised to start with writing romance, because it's supposedly easier to do and easier to get published. I loved Kaye's post because she pointed out that if writers don't believe in what they're writing, it will ring false, no matter how technically correct it is.

I wholeheartedly agree with Kaye, and I found the post even more interesting because I'm one of those unpublished authors whose agent insists that I need to write romance to break into publication.

To be fair, my agent has never suggested that writing romance is easy. She simply feels, based on her experience, that there are more opportunities for new authors to publish in that genre. So I agreed to try it. She is, after all, my agent--and I haven't had any luck breaking that publishing barrier on my own.

But I'm struggling with my attitude as I write. I'll admit that, for a long time, publishing was my number one goal. But that's no longer true. I don't dislike the romance novel I'm writing. It's fun, and I'd probably enjoy picking it up and reading it if I found it on a shelf. But it's not a genre I would have chosen for myself.

I think, as a writer, I'm a little unusual. When I was a little girl, I started developing several different sets of characters--several little worlds. I love those people I created. I never minded writing or rewriting and rewriting again, because I loved visiting their worlds. I always pictured I would mainly write novels about those folks that I've spent most of a lifetime getting to know.

As I try to focus on what will get me published, it's just a job. I don't think about those characters except during the time in front of the computer, when I do my daily word count. Sometimes I wonder, what if I do get published in this genre? Will I get stuck only being able to publish there? Will it just be a chore?

I have a bad feeling--or a good feeling, depending on how you look at it--that I'm not going to have to face that problem. There are so many new writers out there who are passionate about romance writing that--as Kaye pointed out--I can't imagine me actually succeeding in the genre ahead of them.

So why am I trying this at all? Well, God sent me my literary agent. I want to be open to whatever path he leads me down, whether it's my "dream" or not. I realize we sometimes have to be flexible and put aside our own desires. Or at least, he helps us reach them in a way we wouldn't have expected.

Or maybe he's just using this experience--and thoughts from other writers, like Kaye--to show me that publication wasn't really what I desired in the first place. As Kaye said, "When we [write fiction], we’re actually calling upon things that are real and true: feelings, emotions, experiences, thoughts, deeply held beliefs. If we ignore those things to dash off a particular kind of story not because it’s the story of the heart but because it has a better chance of selling, we’re lying to our readers and betraying ourselves as artists (as Madeleine L’Engle calls us)."

Amen, sister!