Just because you’re screaming in a vacuum doesn’t mean you’ve lost your voice.
This post goes out to all my thinking-about-it or struggling-to-make-it-happen writers out there.
No one will write your story but you.
Oh my goddess in tights, there are a lot of books coming out right now. And that’s probably because everyone and their sister’s half-cousin’s neighbor’s babysitter is suddenly an author. And that’s…. great. Really, I mean that. Language is what separates us from the beasties, my poppets, and the written form of it, the ability to export and make static that which would otherwise be just a passing thought and existent solely unto itself, is a superb gift and opportunity I wish more people would embrace.
And yet, writing is more than an artistic expression for me; it’s also a source of income. So the steep, steep, STEEP increase over the last year of competition in the marketplace is more than a little alarming. More frustrating still, is looking at some of the titles that are coming out of nowhere and shooting up the charts. Don’t get me wrong, I know myself well enough to know I’m a contrary sort. What I like isn’t usually what everyone is going gaga over. Still, I can usually look at these titles with large followings and at least understand what the appeal may be. But lately? Lately I see a cascade of books with cookie cutter plots and more typos than a bad English translation on a box of Chinese shampoo, and I just have to stare and shrug and wonder what the hell I’m doing by not following the trend.
I’m not Tolstoy or Hugo. I think we can all agree on that. I don’t want to be a literary giant. (Cue the heckler shouting, “Then you have nothing to worry about!”) But in the genres in which I write – primarily romance and speculative fiction – I do long for respect and enough visibility for readers to see and form a fair opinion of my work. In the current environment, however, I question how one does that while still holding themselves to a higher standard. You see, I refuse to cheapen my stories, characters, or the quality of my writing just to fit the mold of what is the hot plot du jour.
But I remind myself, I am doing this as a business. If this is what the market expects, it seems a really bad business decision to ignore that, doesn’t it?
Well, yes, and no. See, there’s something that cannot be forgotten in all this. No one can write your story but you. And likewise, you can’t write someone else’s story. I can’t write the type of stories that are burning up the book world these days. So, my only options are quit, or persevere doing what I know I can do, writing what I know I can (and love to) write. So, yes, even though my sales are small and the type of success so many out-of-the-blue authors are experiencing is beyond me, I’ll keep yelling into that vacuum and hoping. There’s one thing I know for certain: nature hates a vacuum. And maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll be the one who fills it.