Monday, December 9, 2013

Be Brave and Write YOUR Story

Subjectivity. Trends. Overdone trends. Cliche. Unmarketable.

I can see you now, fellow writers--just reading those words is probably making you cringe. You may even be considering one of these numbers:

WAIT. SAVE THAT COMPUTER. Those jokers are expensive.

If you've been around the writerly world for a while, then you’ve likely heard one or more of those words. I’m not here to lie to you guys--subjectivity is very real (and sometimes very painful). If you're in the revision stage, then there's a possibility you'll be querying in the near future. When you’re querying, agents and/or publishers will likely consider the marketability of your manuscript before taking it on. This is a business, after all. For example, if you’re querying a dystopian or paranormal, you may have a tougher go at things than others.

(I swear I’m going somewhere with this. Don’t you dare trash that manuscript you just spent a year of your life tweaking and polishing. And PLEASE put down the pitchfork. Yeah, you.)

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sara Bareilles lately, and her breakout hit “Love Song” is what made me fall in love with her a few years ago. I’d originally heard a story about  the background of the song, which said that Sara wrote the lyrics in response to her label “demanding” she write a lovey-dovey romance song. I looked into that a little more.

It turns out that story isn’t entirely true. According to this interview with MTV, Sara had been struggling with songwriting for a while. She kept turning in snippets of songs, all of which got a “meh” reaction. Her confidence plummeted. She became insecure. Sound familiar? If so, raise your hand.

Then, Sara got pissed. She basically said “screw it,” and sat down to write a song for herself. “Love Song” was born, and that’s what thrust her into the spotlight.

Sure, you can write for trends. You can write what you think will get you an agent or a book deal. I’ll admit that there is something to that. It’s great to be smart and up-to-speed on what’s selling, and yes, it can even help guide you when you have a bunch of plot ideas swimming in your head. But you see, there’s something magical that happens when you write the story YOU want to write. When you write the story that spills out of you and demands to be told, a piece of your heart, a piece of YOU, is embedded in that story. And you know what?

People will notice.

I’m not guaranteeing that this will be a money-maker book. What I am saying is that you’ll be happy. You’ll love your book (except for the moments when you’ll probably hate it. It's the writer’s vicious cycle.). You’ll be passionate for this book, and you’ll be its best advocate.

There are agents/publishers out there who still love Dystopian. There are plenty who gobble up Paranormal. There is a reader out there for your book. But you have to be brave. You have to be willing to face the rejections for that chance at a “yes.” Maybe this book will end up on the bestseller list. Maybe it’ll end up in the drawer. Either way, you’ll be the proud author of a book that you love. That’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Some parting words of wisdom from Sara herself (and her song “Brave”):

“Say what you want to say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

What about you guys? Have you written the story of your heart?


  1. I love this! I totally agree. Write a story because you believe in it, not because you think it fits the current trend. Love it!

  2. Great words! I totally agree. Write what speaks to you and it just might speak to others too. :)

  3. Oh Michelle. This is an AWESOME post. It truly speaks to me and so many others that are out there in the query world right now. All we can do is write that story that's been stuck in our heads, edit, edit, edit, edit and then try to find it a home. :)

  4. I love this so much. Writers must be brave and be themselves! *pumps fist in solidarity* :D Seriously though, this resonates with me on so many levels. Often, writing what is your heart takes the most amount of courage, which is why it's especially important for us to do it. Fantastic post!

  5. Here, here! I know I've been tempted by the trendy fairy. But in the end, too much of our blood, sweat and tears go into these manuscripts. I can't imagine putting that much work into something I felt "meh" over. Love your post Michelle!