One of my consistent words of advise to aspiring novelists (actually, to any novelist) is: Write your passion. When a writer gets all caught up in writing tips and publishing trends, she can lose the most important part of the process — to be totally in love with the story she is telling. Passion for the story that grips a writer will carry her writing far.
I found a great quote about this same thing in Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell:
William Saroyan, whose novels have more passion in them than most, was once asked the name of his next book. “I don’t have a name and I don’t have a plot,” he replied. “I have the typewriter and I have white paper and I have me and that should add up to a novel.”
That’s why Saroyan’s work seems so fresh. He was not content with the old advice, write what you know. He figured out early that the key to originality was write who you are.
Writing who you are = writing your passion.
There is a common question that’s bandied about Romance Writers of America, the world’s largest genre writers’ organization. It is: “Have you written the book of your heart?” The meaning of the question is, have you written that special, unique book that is burning in your heart or are you just writing what your publisher wants you to write?
Well, for Pete’s sake! Every book you write should be that book of your heart. Why else bother? Why spend the time writing it if you aren’t passionate about it? Do you want to spend six months or a year or five years with characters you don’t like or a story you aren’t nuts about? I sure don’t. So write the book of your heart. Then write the next book of your heart. Then write the next book of your heart. Write your passion every single time. I can’t guarantee it will make you a bestselling author; it hasn’t made all my books hit bestseller lists. But it will surely make you happier as you write. I even believe you can write your passion and write what your publisher wants at the same time (or, if you are still unpublished, what you think publishers want, according to their tip sheets).
I have just learned from my agent that one of my publishers wants me to focus on a particular sub-genre for my next two books, a different sub-genre than my most recent books from that publisher have been or from what I’d originally proposed for my next book. Well, okay. Now what I have to do is step back, clear the memory bank, and give my creativity permission to play with some new ideas. The possibilities are endless and ideas are everywhere. I just have to be ready to receive them.
It’s a process I call playing “angel’s advocate.” We all know what a devil’s advocate is — someone who is pointing out all the flaws, all the reasons something won’t work. Well, with an angel’s advocate, I give my imagination permission to play with every idea without shooting anything down. I don’t look for why it won’t work but for why it could work.
Ready, set, go.