And so, the end is near...The end of 2017 that is. So many writers will be publishing their Best and Worst of 2017 articles in the next few days and sadly it seems I’m a cliche too. Or maybe not, because I’m not exactly following the herd. I’m hereby naming 2017 the Year of My Way.
My way or the highwayThere’s an expression here in Australia, “My way or the highway” meaning get on board, or hit the road and get going. There’s a bad case of this syndrome going around. Writers, publishers, well-meaning friends and others who have no idea about how to write a book, actually telling people how it must be done.
Apparently, depending on who you listen to, If you don’t do it their way, or whatever way is the professed wisdom of the moment (since it seems to change quite often) you’ll never be able to understand your characters, plot a book, finish a book, get a book finished quickly, write quality work, get a publishing contract, promote a book properly or have a bestseller. Whatever.
I decided early on this year to block my ears and metaphorically say “Lalalala, I can’t hear you” to all of them. You say, you have to write to the latest trends? I say, “Lalalala” I need to write the story that’s calling to me right now. You say, you must write every single day or you’re not a real writer? I say, “I can’t hear you…”
Meanwhile I’m busy not writing every day, since some of my days are devoted to purely Mum-related tasks. Some days ill health gets the better of me, and it’s all I can do to get through the bare minimum daily tasks.
Write what you know...or what I tell you!I have a particular pet hate for other people telling me what to write, since they know (somehow) that’s what will sell, or get me noticed, or make my sales take off. I can tell you, these days I know a lot of writers. If I haven’t tried something personally, I can probably name someone off the top of my head who has. These ideas or snippets of advice are simply not right for everyone.
For example, a couple of years ago, Rural Romance (or Ru-Ro) was the hottest thing in Australian publishing. If a book couldn’t have a girl in a cowboy hat on the cover, it probably wouldn’t interest an Aussie publisher. If you knew all about horses or farms, or even outback police, more power to you. But otherwise, you were on the outer.
The thing is, no matter how many people told me to write an outback romance (and there were quite a few), I knew I couldn’t, and I didn’t want to. Probably because I have zero experience living in the outback. None. Zilch. Diddly.
I know it may surprise some US and international readers, but about eighty percent of Aussies actually live in cities or by the coast. Personally, I live in Melbourne, a city of about four million people. I worked in the central city for years in a high-rise office building. I occasionally took holidays, usually to the beach. I didn’t know the first thing about a muster, or a cattle station, or any of the other vaguely country-ish things in the rural books. And yet, people were dead-set that was the way to publishing success.
Guess what? It wasn’t. At least, not for me.
Wrong way, go back
Many people tried to advise me that what I needed was to finish about five or six books in quick succession. This wasn’t going to happen. First of all, it doesn’t seem to suit the way I instinctively work. I can work quickly, for a while. Then it just...comes to a grinding halt. I know this because I tried it. I have at least two or three ‘partials’ sitting there on my hard drive, not moving, not even uttering a sound. Seriously, not even a peep of voices in my head from the characters. Working fast has generally failed me so far.
On the other hand, there are writers who labour over every sentence, adding and deleting a single comma over hours of exhausting time. I’m not one of them either. Sometimes, I can dash off a scene that’s in my head and know, instantly, that it’s good. Other times, there’s nothing. This doesn’t mean I don’t try, it’s just a whole lot of nothing words that don’t advance the story or add much of anything. I need to allow myself time to think and brew the story like a strong cup of tea.
I also know that I want to write the type of books that entertained me as a commuter, reading books nearly every day on the train. Romantic comedies and sexy romances, not the hard brain-straining literary matter that yet other people advised me to write. You know, the type I don’t really even want to read. Sigh. So, I followed my instincts.
My WayThis year I wrote a shorter novella, Heart Note, that was calling to me. I didn’t think it would fit with what my publisher was looking for, it wasn’t a full-length novel for starters, and frankly when I went to the Romance Writers of Australia conference, publishers and agents were all saying they didn’t want novellas.
I didn’t care, since I knew this was the next thing I had to write. I’d self-publish it. I’d work out the timelines and everything else, because that’s the way this particular project needed to be done. Now it’s complete, published, it’s been moderately successful already (hitting the top 100 Humor Fiction lists on Amazon in a few countries, thanks very much!), I can breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction.
I'm heading in my own direction. I’m doing it my way, and it’s going just fine.
Don't talk to me about making detailed plans or road maps, or new year's resolutions, but bring on 2018!