Early in my childhood I learned the safety of books. Libraries were places to discover hidden treasure. After I’d finished reading everything I wanted in the children’s section I walked the aisles of the adult area, searching for the perfect story. The librarian steered me toward Grace Livingston Hill and Victoria Holt. I read all she had of both of them and then found others. Books on royalty. Bloody true crime stories. Historical romances with just enough sex to intrigue me but not enough to traumatize my young mind. 🙂
I loved books. I still do. Today I like bookstores better than libraries, but I don’t go on reading scavenger hunts as often either. I rarely take chances the way I did in the past. A part of me wants to, but another thinks there are too many books in my TBR pile to risk time on a bad book.
I’m not sure if that mentality affects what I write or not.
When I first started writing, I chose to target Harlequin Silhouette for a number of reasons. I thought it would be easier to break in…hahahahaha! I thought the shorter word counts would be easier to write. I loved Margot Early and Debbie Macomber and Judy Christenberry and Nora and Judith Arnold and a ton of other H/S writers. Honestly (and so totally wrong!!!!) I thought writing for H/S would be easier because of the “formula.”
I started off writing what I figured was an American and sent it off into that other world of New York publishing and started on another book. When I got a request for full I figured I was months away from being a published author.
I spent hours working but no real thought on any of my stories. I just wrote them. I didn’t really respect the craft. I didn’t think much about it at all.
That changed with time as did my target markets.
This summer I’m experimenting with my writing. I’m still having fun. I’m tossing the idea of formula out the window. I’m trying to find combinations of words that make me happy and still tell my characters’ stories. I’m working on weaving my voice with their voices. I have no idea of market. Some would say that’s unprofessional. I figure it doesn’t much matter.
I’m reading an interesting book right now. When I started reading it I wasn’t sure I liked it. The story captivated me, but the story’s written from the protagonist’s point of view and it’s not easy to read at first. I stuck with it though because the story was so rich, the language and descriptions so full. I’m 2/3’s through now and I’m glad I kept reading. The book is The Shipping News. It’s a Pulitzer winner from a few years back. I don’t know why I picked it up. I guess the whole News angle interested me. I’m not sure what I’m learning as a writer as I read this story. It’s completely different from anything I’ll ever write. But I like it a lot. Somehow I identify with the characters. The author has made the human connection, the emotional tie. It’s set in Newfoundland. I’ve never really thought much about Newfoundland, but I find myself drawn to this barren area and these people. I hope I don’t need a box of Kleenex by the end of the story. But if I do, I trust this author. I trust that she won’t have me crying for no reason other than author manipulation. I HATE reading stories and getting to the end and some horrible tragedy taking place for no other reason than the author wants to make readers cry. I won’t read Nicholas Sparks anymore because of the end of Message in a Bottle. Author manipulation. Sad ending are fine if the story calls for it, if the characters demand them, if the lesson learned requires that end.
Maybe that’s a lesson I’m supposed to learn as I read this story. My new WIP has a lot of opportunity for author manipulated tears.
Don’t get me wrong. Manipulation is part of the author’s job. But there’s a difference in telling a story, crafting something rich and beautiful and enduring, and throwing in a sad ending just to make people cry. It’s the difference between The Notebook (I bawled and loved every minute of that book) and Message (I threw the book across the room and swore I’d never read another Sparks).
Another choice. What to read, how to write, who to send to. Those choices all play a part in molding me, the writer and me, the reader. But the biggest choice I have to make as the writer is to sit down and write and forget all the rest of this. I think now’s as good a time as any.
Weight loss update: I’m still down 51 pounds. I didn’t lose any last week, but I didn’t gain either. I hope this week breaks the never ending plateau. If I can get through the hours of 2-6 without snacking, I’ll be doing good!