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Apr 24

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (Part I)

I flip-flopped back and forth about blogging on this topic, but if the tale of my twisty-turny road to writer self discovery can help even one writer, then I want to tell it. Also, in the same vein as JG’s post about not giving up, I share this in the name of writer honesty. I’ll post it in two parts though, because when I wander, I WAAANDER.

Part I

Some writers know their genre right out of the gate. They love a certain genre, they read a ton of it and they just know. These writers begin their journey and their voice and writing style suit their genre like a beautiful, tailor-made dress or power suit.

Obviously, I am not one of these writers.

First of all, like many people, my To Be Read pile may indicate I have personality issues. There’s romance of every subgenre and heat level, thrillers and suspense, chick-lit, post-modern literature, dark satires, and anything else that speaks to me. When I first began writing, with the tiniest twinkle of future publication in my eyes, my faves were historical romance. Lisa Kleypas and Sabrina Jeffries to be exact. (Love them!) I thought, THIS is what I should write.

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For 3 whole chapters, I tried. Historical was not for me. I still love to read it and it remains a fave genre, but the accuracy, detail and research tripped me up, I obsessed over being wrong and most importantly, my voice was WAY too modern. That should’ve been the first clue to my writer identity, but…

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I kept reading and found one of my favorite series of all time. It was a Paranormal Romance. I thought, Yes! This is what I love! I’ve always been a super fan of super heroes and the supernatural so this is what I should write. It’ll be aaaaaaaaaaawesome.

I wrote my first full length novel and even placed in some contests, buoying my belief I was on the right path. The caveat? That book was judged by the first 35 pages and didn’t delve into the actual para part of the paranormal. It was just normal people, having their meet cute and doing modern day stuff. Y’know…kind of exactly like a contemporary novel?

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I wasn’t 100% thrilled with my first PNR, but I was ready to move forward because that’s what I do. I keep on keeping-on, even when I might be keeping-on in the wrong direction. I wrote Book 2 and while it felt better, there were still elements that weren’t nearly good enough. I know, I know – no writer ever thinks their book is perfect. However, show of hands for when we at least reach the level of “This might not suck.”

I never reached that level w/ Book 1 and 2. I struggled and kept trying to make the stories work, but they continued to feel wrong. I went to my first National convention and met all of these writers who were so happy and successful in their genre. They were writing their sixth and seventh books and I kept thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’ll do if I have to write seven of these.” I beat myself up about it. A lot.

WHY do I feel unfulfilled? What is wrong with me? I should be happy! I love writing, so what the hell is my problem? Waaaaaaaah!

I came home from Nationals and made the best decision for me. I decided to chill TFO and take some time to think deep-thinky thoughts. I read a lot, watched tons of television (including a re-watch of the entire Star Trek original 3 seasons. Not even sorry), wrote Bad Girl blog posts, wrote in my journal and I lived on Tumblr (not sorry about that either). I fed my hungry writer soul. Most importantly, I stopped beating myself up. Yes, I was wandering around, directionless, but maybe I needed to be directionless. I wasn’t under any contract, had no deadlines, there was no reason for me to be freaking the hell out like I was. I’d already rushed down paths too fast. I’d let my bull-headed determination lead the way instead of my heart.

What I needed to do was wander. I had to get off the path to The End and maybe, hopefully, find myself along the way.

Have you ever been on the wrong road in your writing? Started writing a story and a few chapters in thought, DO WAH? Zigged when you should’ve zagged? Ever had a style or voice problem? What did you do when you realized?beach footsteps

Tune in next time to read about what I found as I wandered…

10 comments

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  1. Sydney

    Have I ever! And at the worst of it, I made the conscious choice to back off of writing for a while. I called it my hiatus, and that helped me with other aspects of my life then. I could have also called it “survival mode.” Now, I’m ready to take it all on again, and have the insights to narrow my focus and a general direction I’m going in.

    I’m glad you decided to post this. A lot of times, it’s easy to feel like the only one going through it.

  2. Kimberly

    This is one of the hardest parts. Whenever I hear, “Write what you know” I want to scream! My life is super boring and I love the paranormal genre. I’m guessing there aren’t that many people out there having met a vampire or immortal (but here’s to hoping)! You are hilarious and always think outside the box so I know you’ve found the right path for you and I can’t wait to read your books!!

  3. Lori Waters

    Oh Heather, Oh Heather, Oh Heather….I’ve been doing a little wandering lately myself. The bad thing is I still want to do it all. I want to write contemporary, medieval, WWII, and I want to write screenplays. I’ll let you know how that all turns out. lol Great post. Like Syd, I’m glad I’m not alone in the genre trampoline of life.

  4. Heather McGovern

    It’s tough when you want to write all the things. :) I’d still like to write YA at some point, but not now. If I ever had an amazing idea, I would still write PNR. Never say never. For now though, I know what I want to write and where my voice is best suited. Sometimes you have to pick a direction, at least for now, and focus on that. In the meantime, you can still read in all those other genres to get your fix. ;)

  5. Heather McGovern

    I’m thrilled that you are writing again and took some much needed time to get your head into it. It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not producing, and while I believe forward progress is vital, it’s also okay to figure out what you’re doing and what you want to do, instead of just bulldozing forward. I was totally bulldozing. :D

    I believe we’re both on the right track now. Here’s to lots of new stories!

  6. Heather McGovern

    Thank you, Kim! :) I think, with the “write what you know” catch phrase, it’s more about writing emotions and motivations you are familiar with or can relate to. If we all wrote what we knew, it’d be a bunch of stories about doing laundry, going to work, traffic jams and computer glitches. Zzzzzz! I’d rather read about immortals! :D

  7. Jeanette Grey

    You know the extent of my wandering this past year. I’ve definitely barked up some wrong trees. I’m trying to get better at the whole not wasting good time, trying to salvage bad. Sometimes a project is just a mess. Sometimes a project is just not right for you after all. It happens. And once we recognize it, it helps point us in the direction we need to go.

    So glad you found your path again :)

  8. Heather McGovern

    I have to remind myself about the helping us in the direction we need to go part so I don’t feel guilty about the time spent figuring it out. It’s all a learning process.

    One of the pts in Part II is about how there are those projects that may only need to be talked out with a writer pal. Then, there are those projects that you should just walk away from now b/c poking it with a stick won’t make it any prettier. The key is learning the difference. I like to think we did.:)

  9. Jenna P

    So glad you wrote this post! Having had the chance to critique your first manuscript I will say this…my favorite part was the non PNR stuff! Your voice is unbelievable and it didn’t need the other stuff. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. But your gift went far beyond the PNR.

    I struggled more with defining what I write than choosing what to write. I started with what I thought was romance and it always steered down a path that wasn’t a traditional romance. I think I had to tell myself it was okay and just write the story. Once I did that, everything seemed to fall in place.

    Great post, McGovy! So happy you found your way!

  10. Sandy Bruney

    Yes, and I have five abandoned chapters to prove it.

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