Go Ahead . . . Write Your Passion

By Michelle Griep

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

~ Cyril Connolly

literary critic and writer

“What’s the point of writing a book if it’s just going to sit in your desk drawer?”

~ Mary Sue Seymour, 

agent/founder of The Seymour Agency 

Now then, with
those quotes in mind, consider the following dilemma . . .
You spend a year
constructing a story. It’s somewhat of an intricate plot. The characters are
flavorful and well developed. Your voice is strong. The writing is as well. You
know all this because of feedback you’ve received from publishers. All is good—except
your story is more Dickens than Austen. It’s a little edgier, a little darker,
spending more time on the streets of London than in the ballrooms and dining halls.
There is a publisher willing to pick it up—if you completely change the plot
and focus on high society instead of the vulgar commoners.
Would you
rewrite the book? Should you?
This dilemma is
one of the most common predicaments facing writers. Should an author write to
fit the market or stay true to their inner self? This isn’t a problem for those
who are Austen or Amish or a zombie on the inside (or whatever the current
trend is), but for the rebel at heart, this issue is a constant demon to battle.
I contend unless
you write a story you’re passionate about, your lackluster attitude is going to
show through. While it’s tempting to write something that will get your foot in
the door at a publishing house, jumping on the current bandwagon isn’t necessarily
the best way to go. Writing about a topic you don’t have a passion for—that
doesn’t mildly interest you—is going to show up in your voice, kind of like a
white-bread country singer attempting some hoodrat rap. It’s hard to disguise.
And honestly, who’s got time to read a milquetoast novel? Who would even want
It’s tricky to
find a marketable niche where you feel comfortable. How in the world does one
accomplish this?
Buckle up. Here
we go…
First, focus on a theme and/or truth that fires
you up
. If your central message falls flat, it doesn’t matter what genre
you’ve chosen to write in. It will fail. Does the act of forgiveness make your
heart beat faster? Unconditional love? Conformity? The injustice of throwing
away a perfectly good grilled cheese sandwich just because it’s a little burnt
on one side? Getting excited about a message has a way of getting your creative
juices flowing.
Next, think about traditional mainstream genres
that could possibly work with your theme. Don’t worry. You’re only brainstorming
at this stage. You’re not committing any vows here. This is simply an exercise
to bend and stretch your authorly flexibility and it’s way easier than
contorting your body into a forearm-stand scorpion pose. Go ahead and Google
it. You know you want to.
After that, ponder some of your favorite stories. The
tales that have stuck with you throughout the years. What are the plots of the
novels you love? Imagine those plots in a different genre. Same story, just
different trappings is all.
Now that you’ve
loosened up a closed mind (hopefully), write
down a 2-3 sentence story idea
in one of those mainstream genres (such as
romance, mystery, contemporary, historical, etc.).
That’s all. Now
set that piece of paper aside. Pick it
up next week and see how you feel about it.
Either that idea will have
grown on you by then, or chuck it aside and repeat the process. Eventually you will land on a story that will resonate
with you on the inside while being something more marketable than Regency Amish
Zombie Aliens. Run that story idea by an agent or editor before you commit to
writing the entire manuscript. If their eyes light up, you’ve got a winner that
just might sell and a story that’s
coming from your heart.
Of course,
that’s great for new story ideas. It doesn’t help when you’ve got a finished
manuscript such as the dilemma at the beginning of this post. In that case,
if you can’t cheerfully rewrite the story, then cut bait and move on—or
self-publish and move on.
Which is a whole
other topic.
Michelle’s been
writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Her recent
release is A HEART DECEIVED, a gothic regency put out by David C. Cook (June
2013). If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or www.writerofftheleash.blogspot.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest