Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why I Write What I Write

When I launched myself into writing some eighteen years ago, I didn't have a plan. I didn't have an understanding of any rules beyond basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  I didn't have a writing community from which to garner support and feedback. I didn't have a clue about the process of writing for publication.

Here's what I had: A pretty good grasp of the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A decent handle on language--words. And PASSION. Mostly, I had passion. The passion to tell a good story, to bring characters to life, to engage someone else in my imaginings.

Inspired largely by the writing of Elizabeth Berg (who I personally think is brilliant at characterization and story-telling), I set out to write a book. My only goal was to find out if I could write a book from start to finish. That was my singular goal. What would I write?

Though I had little knowledge of genre and the technical differences between genres, I wanted to write the kind of stories Berg wrote. So I determined my book would be a story about a middle-aged woman facing a crisis that propels her into following her dreams. I found out later that what I wrote was considered Women's Fiction. Well, that label worked for me. So I identfied myself as a writer of Women's Fiction and went on to write three more books over the next year.

I desperately wanted to be part of a writing community and, unable to find a local group, started my own critique group on-line (still clueless of what critiquing meant). I was quickly joined by a few wonderful romance authors who taught me invaluable lessons. Through critiquing their work, I found myself drawn to writing romance. It was fun, not to mention the richness of having two primary characters to draw upon. I realized that most of my women's fiction work included a hint toward or a sub-plot of romance.

I learned the rules for writing romance--then promptly broke many of them because, well, I just don't do well with rules. Would the Romance Writers of America approve? Probably not, but my readers had no problem. What I end up with in a novel is generally a hybrid--either primarily romance with a women's fiction sub-plot for the heroine, or women's fiction with a romance sub-plot. It can make marketing a challenge, but I don't mind the challenge.

I write what I write because I enjoy writing strong, yet vulnerable, female characters who have to dig deep to find their own inner strength. I like writing women who are flawed and funny and determined, who have a rough edge hewn by their life experiences. I write romance into my stories because it's fun. And it gives me a chance to write from the male perspective. Now that's the biggest challenge--to try to think like a man and still not make the character too cliche.

I write what I write because I want to give readers something that is believable, realistic, with characters who are relatable and enjoyable, and the pleasure of a happy ending. Let's face it, life offers enough difficulty and unhappines. Fiction is, among other things, intended to provide the reader with an escape.

When I realized that my books would largely appeal to a female audience, to reflect the experiences of women, I branded my work as: Writing for Women: Stories of strength, love, humor, and hope.

Why? Because I think we all can use a little encouragement, humor, and hope. Especially hope. After my second book was published (The Year I Lost My Mind), I received an email from a reader thanking me for the book because it made her feel less "crazy" while she navigated the turbulent waters of menopause and the internal changes that brought for her. She felt less alone in that journey. I cried at that email because I knew I'd met my goal. Even in fiction, we can help people find hope and make sense of things in their lives. Mission accomplished.

I write because to not write would be like not breathing. Something inside me would just shrivel up and die. We all need passion in our lives--that one thing that, when we pursue it, engage it, it gives us life and purpose and drive. We find that exact place where we are meant to be.

In the words of Joseph Campbell:

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.”

Substitute the word 'bliss' with the word 'passion.' This is why I write, and why I write what I write.

                                                                    Have a blissful day,


1 comment:

Victoria Bromley said...

Terrific post, Linda, and so timely for me as I have been asking myself the same questions lately and writing down what I've come up with as my answers. You are so motivating and a true inspiration.