Sunday, December 6, 2009

Stay True To Your Vision

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." --Frederick Douglass

Over the years I've become friends with many writers. Their books range from sweet inspiration to the hottest erotica yet each of these fabulous authors have one thing in common. The desire to see their name in print. However, the path to success is an individual one. Learning the craft goes hand in hand with tapping into that wonderful Unique Idea that kicks open the door to the lovely Land Of The Published. Unlike Dorothy, clinging to the doorway while your house gets caught up in a cyclone is not an option.

The quest for success can make us feel desperate. We begin the slow descent into compromise. Maybe if I include thirty-five sex scenes or scuba-diving vampires or a wiccan-rockstar-federal agent! Yup, that's the ticket! *sigh*

There are certain characteristics necessary to make it to the finish line.

Patience to get through the 350 or so pages we must write plus the revisions and subsequent edits.

Persistence to complete however many manuscripts necessary and send out endless queries until The Call (or email) arrives.

Passion to continue to seek out new ideas, to perfect each draft and maintain our smiles through the inevitable hours (and weeks and months) of promotion. Yet there's one more essential quality that must be firmly in place: Self-Respect.

"They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." --Gandhi

Self-respect means staying true to your vision despite the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Self-respect also means making your own decisions, whether it's to stick to one path or explore another. Self-respect means keeping your eyes wide open and choosing friends, critique partners, agents, and editors who hold your best interests at heart. It also means recognizing your own worth, which is where those wonderful friends, CPs, agents and editors can come in handy!

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." ~Judy Garland

Some writers burst out of the gate and immediately sprint ahead to the finish line. For those who are still struggling, the presence of these early success stories can either be an inspiration or quite depressing.*rueful grin* Yet the clear-eyed fact is this—if they can do it, so can you. Many successful authors wrote a number of books before finding success. I've mentioned Allison Brennan before and I'll probably do it again. She faced countless rejections before getting her fifth manuscript picked up. There were many more hours logged in before she hit the NY Times bestseller list.

If She Can Do It, So Can You.

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."Abraham Lincoln

Part of the journey to being a successful author is discovering Who You Are and exactly what books you wish to write. As 'toddlers' we often learn by mimicking those we admire. Somewhere down the line, each writer discovers what he or she yearns to write. Janet Evanovich began her career writing romance. As her writing evolved she discovered a predilection for adventure. Out of that discovery sprang her first hit series, the Stephanie Plum books featuring a wacky, accident-prone bounty hunter. Whether you know immediately which books will be tumbling from your imagination or find your path evolving into different genres, one question inevitably arises. Am I writing the Right Sort of Book?

Agent Jessica Faust addressed this topic in her post, Be True To You.

The pressure to fit in or be acceptable may force us into all sorts of gyrations. Sometimes the pressure comes in the form of others looking down their nose at you. Because you write romance. Because you write erotica. Or even because you don't! I remember struggling when some writers I knew suggested my intent to exclude sex scenes in my rom-com novels was something I needed to 'get over'. Obviously I had issues with sex or maybe I was a prude or these were my 'principles' or perhaps I was simply afraid to tackle the delicate subject. They were more than willing to help me get past this…issue and assist me in conforming to their expectations.

When I tried to explain that this was preference, my choice, and akin to choosing not to write Westerns or Historicals, the words fell on deaf ears. In their view, writing romantic comedy meant I had to conform to their expectations. As if choice was simply a broken zipper to be mended.

Another author I know faced the exact opposite reaction. Chapter members shook their heads and voiced their dismay about her choice to include sex scenes in her novel. It seems no matter which way you swim, there will always be someone on the other side of the river wagging a finger toward the 'proper' direction.

"Be proud of the person and the writer you are, take ownership of your strengths."Jessica Faust

It's time to stand up for our choices and feel proud, damn it! One common response to the eternal question "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?" is simply, "When the fake books stop selling so well." *heh-heh*

For a giggle, check out Miss Snark's take on "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?"

Now another view is the realization that one path may lead to another. Here's where the freedom of being unpublished allows you the luxury of making different choices. If one path doesn't pan out or starts to feel limited, why not explore another?

A truly gifted writer who is yet to be published (much to the astonishment of all who know her) is Amy Atwell. I highly recommend you read her article on branching out and exploring other avenues, Adjusting Courses.

No matter what genre of book you choose to write, no matter which boulevard you wander down, always remember to Stay True To Your Dream. No matter what the obstacle, no matter how long the wait, no matter how trying the effort, You Can Succeed. Within every person lies extraordinary potential. The secret? Stand up for the challenge. Embrace your destiny. However those fickle winds blow, be determined to take your ship out of the harbor and set sail.

"There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet." --William Frederick Halsy, Jr

Now you tell me. Have you ever experienced outside pressure to veer off your chosen course? Ever felt like you needed to duck your head because of your chosen genre? Do share!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.


Kathy Holmes said...

Absolutely is the answer to your question. When what I write didn't seem to have an audience, I tried several genres. And while I learned more about the craft of writing, trying these on for size, I'm heading back to my true north and am so excited about it. When others seem to be selling like hotcakes in genres even they hadn't thought they'd write in, you do feel the pressure to try the genre that's hot. But now I realize what a learning experience it's all been and am feeling closer to being where I need to be. I wasn't ready before - I wasn't even that ready when I snagged an agent. We have to give ourselves permission to take all the time we need - I was so sure I'd sell right away - and now I just have to focus on the writing - not the selling.

J Hali said...

I picked the genre I wanted to be in early and I've felt good in staying with it and hopefully I've grown because I've stuck with it. Could I write other things? Sure I can, but would I enjoy it is the question. I think when you no longer enjoy what you write, it's time to stop and take stock.

Great post, Chiron.

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Chiron said...

Write ON, Kathy! Sometimes the fervor to sell can be so manic the delight of writing (what pulled us to this crazy path in the first place) just slips away. *sigh* Good for you in realizing that sometimes the obstacles, the detours, the delays are all part of the learning process.

We start writing to explore stories, and end up on a path of self-discovery. The more we realize that, the more fulfilling this journey becomes. *grin* You are well on your way. Your writing is a delight to read. I'm fully confident that soon you'll be tapping my shoulder to share your VERY Good News. :-D

You GO, girlfriend!


Chiron said...

J, I couldn't agree more. How wonderful to be so in touch as to *know* your genre right from the start. That intuitive spirit of yours spins some fascinating tales too! It takes strength to stick to your path especially when there's so many bright and shiny distractions. :-D Good for you! May your catalog of published novels continue to grow. You are a success and I know your fortune will continue to evolve. Yeah, baby!


Ann Victor said...

Gosh I though I'd left a comment on this post when I read it last week. Must have meant to do and forgotten it in the pre-Xmas dizziness!

One of my constant struggles is staying true to my own voice.

My "deepest" (and thus what I consider my truest) voice sometimes scares me and so often I find myself scurrying away from it to the detriment of my writing. And I constantly do it even when I think I'm finally on track and being true to myself!

For example, in 2004 I realised that much as I admire romance authors and desperately wanted to be a published romance author, my own voice was just not suited to the high demands of romance writing. But...I'm about to start a new story which I'm passionate about, but also nervous about, because I'll have to be brave and dip into the darkest corners of my soul to make it a worthwhile story.

So what do I do??

I rush off and write an entry for the Harlequin 2009 writing competition!! WHY did I do it when I KNOW that my true voice is not suited to romance and I would have done better to remain focused on my new story??? It was almost like going back to where I was in my writing five years ago!!

Writers are crazy people for sure!!! :)

(Win one of five unique prizes from South Africa by entering the easy Christmas contest on my blog)

Chiron said...


You're right, authors are CRAZY! *grin* I do think though it's also that touch of daring that leads us to branch out. So, why did you dash off an entry? Because YOU, my dear, are a dashing, daring, bold and audacious writer! Pushing beyond your comfort zone, and always coloring outside the lines. :-D

It could be the best thing for you, after all. Perhaps your experiments in other directions are exactly what you need to help you find your True North.

You just keep on writing, my dear! Brave the darkest corners of your soul and you will find the most amazing stuff. Go-go-GO!


Zoe said...

Glad I found this post today! Just had the worst writing day yesterday (dude, tears were involved) and it wasn't until this morning that I realized the problem. I was attempting to write a steampunk short story. I don't write steampunk. Hell, I barely read it. So the story ended up not bad, but merely serviceable. World's biggest "duh" right? Back to writing what I'm 'posed to be writing. Thanks!

Chiron said...

Hey, Zoe!

Wow, been there. It's so freaking frustrating when we drift off onto a path that just doesn't fit. ARGH. Glad the post helped. That makes it all worthwhile. *smile*

Happy Writing!