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