I read a tweet the other day that gave me the sads; it was an author lamenting the fact that she had to choose between what was marketable and what she really wanted to write. And I almost sprained my neck shaking and nodding my head at the same time!!!
I think we all feel that same pull toward “what will sell” and “what will soothe our soul” if we just let it out. What most of us do, at least what I do, is to walk that middle line by trying to write something that is both marketable and fun.
People tend to default describe my books as “B-movies in print” and it always makes me smile because, when I write them, I actually am picturing a B-movie in my head. I’m not sure any author aspires to that as their ultimate goal, though. I’d like to think I’m writing “A-books that read more like B-movies.”
But even when we’re writing something fun or enjoyable -- Hint: it should all be fun and enjoyable!!! -- we still have to play by certain rules. Whether it be reaching a certain word count, not using certain words in a middle grade novel or how much gore to include in YA, there are rules to follow and always a game to play.
Even when I market, I tend to play by the rules. I try not to offend, I am patient when folks who follow or “friend” me still don’t really “get” me and I have to explain my jokes or back pedal not to offend, etc. But I can feel that getting old; real old.
Already this year I’ve found myself coloring outside of the lines more and more often. Pushing the boundaries by having more fun and worrying less about, “Will this person ever buy my book?”
I figure if you’re following me and you can’t take a joke, don’t follow me. I figure if you’re a “friend” and you don’t “get” me, well, un-friend me and go “get” somebody else. I haven’t actually cussed yet, but I’m working on it!
My point is, I think what often happens to debut authors like myself is we start our really afraid to offend; offend our publishers, our editors, our “fans,” friends or followers or anyone who may buy our books one day. And that works… for awhile.
Then your second or third or fourth book comes out, and you’re a little older and a little wiser. You see that, be it in your writing or your marketing or your appearances online or off, you will never, ever, ever please everyone.
Some folks will buy into your love triangles, others will curse your name forever. Some will love your main character, some will hate her. They’ll like your cover or hate it, they’ll get mad if you set your YA story in a high school, they’ll be mad if you don’t.
And after awhile you kind of sit back, chew your lip and say, “Oh, I get it now; nobody else knows what they want, either!” And you realize, as you look out over the vast sea of YA titles that sell or don’t sell, that fizzle or fly, that what you enjoy the most are those books where the author didn’t necessarily play by any rules other than his or her own. Where a new world was built, even if it looked like the old world. Where an author was truly confident in his skills, his story, his characters and that world and you just lost yourself.
So, I don’t know, I kind of rambled a bit here but… that’s okay! You probably get my drift. I guess my point is, play by your own rules. Stop feeling so awkward about every little thing (like I do), and second- or third-guess every single thing you post.
It’s really NOT the end of the world if someone gets offended, doesn’t like you or even un-follows you. For everyone who doesn’t appreciate the new, rule-breaking you, there will be one or more who do.
And even better, you’ll like yourself more. You’ll like your writing more, and you’ll even like your marketing more. And isn’t that what writing is really all about?
Yours in YA,