Because I'm going to be away tomorrow, I'm posting tomorrow's YA Week blog today. A very special one it is too, because this piece really resonated with me. I hope it will resonate with you too.
is the author of, among other things, GAMER GIRL
and the wonderful Blood Coven
series for Berkley JAM. Midwest Book Reviews has called her work "humorous and hip." And, of course, I have a special fondness for her because she gave my YA debut, Vamped
, such a nice quote. Without further ado, I present to you:
Write What You Love? Well, Maybe Not...
By Mari Mancusi
I love science fiction. I love futuristics set in post-apocalyptic, dystopian societies. Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson. These are the authors I devour and re-devour over and over and again.
But every time I try to write that style of book? It falls flat. As much as I love their bleak visions of the future--their harrowing descriptions of a disjointed society in a world gone wrong--I struggle with creating my own. I can do it, when pressed, but it takes a lot of effort and never turns out to be my best work.
I also love historicals--especially medievals. Knights in shining armor, ladies in waiting, kings and queens and courtly love and valiant battles. But again, I can't write them worth a darn.
I hear, over and over again, authors and editors and agents urging writers to "Write what they love." But I'd argue this is not necessarily the best advice for everyone. While some of you may love to read the genres you're equally talented at writing in, some of you may find your writing strengths lie elsewhere.
And if so, my advice is to not fight it.
For me, I'm best at comedy. I can easily whip up quirky characters and odd situations and pop culture references galore. And when I'm writing comedy my hands fly on the keyboard and sometimes, I admittedly even make myself laugh out loud, wondering where on Earth my brain conjured up that particular joke.
But for many years, I fought against my natural light style. I tried to write bigger, deeper, more epic novels with dark themes and alternative dimensions. I wanted to be that author with the kick-ass cover of a woman in leather, wielding a sword in a dark, twisted world. Because that's the kind of book I'd pick up in the bookstore, over the one with a silly cartoon cover and a quirky title.
But I'm just not that author. I'm the cartoon cover kind.
This kind of self-revelation can be tough. Especially if the market is currently leaning towards dark, moody paranormals, as it has been for some time. It can be tempting to try to change your voice for the market--so you too can get one of those big book deals that every author under the sun seem to be getting for Dystopian Book X.
But in the end, you'll just drive yourself crazy. And you'll suffer needlessly and turn out a book that may be fine--that may even sell--but you'll have to admit in the end, was not your best work.
Now that's not to say you can't include certain beloved themes in your book. You just have to give the story your own voice and twist. For example, I knew I wouldn't be great at writing a straight medieval. So instead I decided to bring a teen King Arthur to the 21st century in my upcoming novel "The Camelot Code." He Googles himself and learns his true destiny and decides to join the football team rather than go home and pull the sword from the stone. So, in this way, I was able to incorporate something I love--medieval fantasy novels--with something I'm better at writing--light, humorous young adult fiction. And in doing so I was able to create my own sort of genre mash-up. (After all, where else are you going to find Morgan La Fay accidentally agreeing to a Brazilian wax...)
And sometimes you can even get lucky with covers. I wrote light, fluffy Buffy'esque vampire novels and my publisher packaged them with dark, brooding Twilight'esque covers to attract new readers. At first I was worried teens would pick up the book and feel tricked when they discovered a funny story beneath the dark packaging. But I've gotten no complaints. In fact, many are pleasantly surprised at the lighter tone.
So my suggestion? Write what you love to write, not necessarily what you love to read. And remember, well written books will find an audience and home no matter what the genre du jour. You may not get a big major auction for your novel, but you'll end up with something better. A book you have fun writing and one you know will be to the best of your ability.
I write funny. And I'm going to continue to stay true to my voice. And when that inevitable pendulum swings and we're ready for humor in our society again, I'll be there waiting to greet everyone with the best books I can possibly write.
(Along with a copy of MockingJay in my hand for my own reading pleasure...)