Writing Tips ~
Blog Two: What to write
Over the past five years, what books have you read—and loved? What books have you had a hard time putting down? And what was it – exactly – about them that you liked?
In terms of main-characters, do you prefer males or females? If females, do you find yourself drawn to sassy, witty heroines; meek, waiting-to-be-rescued girls that will soon come of age; or strong, knock-you-on-your-butt women who take names and leave no prisoners? If males, do you like the sporty jock; the quirky detective; the rakish, properly-bred aristocrat; or an Alpha werewolf or vampire? If so, why? What it is about that type of character that really revs your engine?
With regard to plot, do you like having a mystery to solve, a global conflict to resolve, or a romance to get lost in? Would you prefer to tell a story in the present, the past, or the future? Would you rather be on the edge of your seat the entire book or laughing until your sides hurt? Do you like to be scared by monsters or titillated by steamy sexual entanglements? Is there a combination of these themes you prefer?
I think you get the idea…
Write the book that YOU would most like to read!
After all, you are going to spend hundreds of hours with your book: writing it, dissecting it, editing it, polishing it, reading it…and reading it…and re-reading it! And then you might even have to talk about it and analyze it…a whole lot: Your excitement and passion—or your boredom and discomfort—is going to transfer to the reader…every time.
What about writing to the market? There is definitely a school of thought that emphasizes figuring out what people are looking for and then writing to fill that niche. I don’t personally agree with that philosophy, and here’s why: It can often take 2-3 years for a book to move from conception to publication (and that’s a fast-moving novel with no hiccups). By the time your book comes out, whatever the market was previously doing has likely changed. Beyond that, have you ever tried to be something that you’re not? (To play sports when you wanted to play music? To act like a lady when you were born a tomboy? To become a doctor when you wanted to become a school-teacher? Etc.) If so, do you remember how that felt? No one can be you as well as you. Enough said.
So now that you’ve decided to write what you love, how do you navigate all the existing genres considering that each one has its own set of rules? For instance, in a romance, the relationship between the two main-characters MUST be the primary theme in the book; everything else revolves around those two-people falling in love, and the writer can’t get so lost in fantasy (or mystery or science fiction or suspense…) that the romantic-balance tips. Not to mention, the ending MUST be happily-ever-after (you can’t kill-off the main character at the end and leave his or her partner grieving). By the same respect, in a mystery, the main theme must be “who-dunnit,” and the solution to the problem must not be readily obvious (the reader shouldn’t know in chapter one that it was Professor Plum in the library).
So what do you do?
The answer ~ even when you are navigating the built-in rules governing the various genres, you still follow your personal preference: If you want to kill-off the hero—because you just love tragedy—then don’t write a romance. If you want Professor Plum to be the main—and only—killer in your story, then skip the mystery and go for horror. The point is, decide first what elements, characters, and storylines you want to write based on what you love to read, and then figure out what genre(s) those elements, characters, and storylines fit into.
Not the other way around.
Once you know what you love to read…why you love to read it…and what about it most excites you, then you will know what you want to write. And this brings us full circle to the most-important writing tip of all: READ. READ. READ.