Now I’m going through the trial of an aging mother who was recently admitted to a nursing home. It is these life experiences that help us write with emotion, with reality and with – yes – passion. The more you have “lived” life, the better you will write.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes on American Idol the criticism often given to the youngest singers who sing about broken hearts and broken trust and aching love is that they didn’t show enough emotion in the song? …That the judges could tell they didn’t really understand the depth of the feelings that should have come out of the song? That’s because they haven’t lived those emotions. Some are so young they have never even truly been in love. It takes a lot of living and experiencing the many aspects of life itself to bring even more reality to your books.
I am a firm believer that you can’t “learn” to write a good story. That good story is inside of you. You can larn spelling and vocabulary and structure - but you are either born to write, or you’re born to do something else. No one who writes good books decided to be a writer because it sounded cool or because they figured it would be easy and they would get rich. We write because we can’t “not” write, and we do it because it is as natural to us as breathing.
You are drawn to that little inner voice that won’t leave you alone – those characters who still yearn to come to life in your stories – they all keep after you. That passion I had in the beginning has waned somewhat – but it is still there, deep in my heart – and my love for my subject has never changed. No matter what genre was popular at different times in these 30 years, I stuck to American History, Native Americans and the American West because that is the source of my passion for writing. And because I stayed within my genre, I built a name known for Western Romance – and now my new publisher, Sourcebooks, bought me because I had a name in a genre they want to start building back into popularity. They needed a name associated with the genre, so sticking to what I love to write paid off.
You are all here because of your own passion for writing a story and getting it published … your own passion for your subject matter … your own passion for your characters. Let that passion be your driving force. Don’t write just because you want to see a book on the shelf with your name on it. Don’t write a certain genre just because it’s popular.
Write from the heart. Don’t write for the money because for the most part you’ll be disappointed. Write for the satisfaction of telling a story you’ve always wanted to tell and for the satisfaction of actually finishing a book. In my case, I wanted to teach my readers real American History in an entertaining way – and I wanted to teach the truth about what happened between Whites / the government / and Native Americans as the Indians suffered true culture shock when the West was settled so quickly and they learned that practically every word spoken to them by soldiers and the government were lies.
I have apparently succeeded in my quest, because over the years I have received many, many letters from readers who were shocked by some of the things they learned – historical facts they were never taught in school. And today it’s worse than ever. Far too little history is taught any more in our schools. I have also heard from many Native Americans who appreciate my getting the truth out about what really happened to them and why they reacted in the ways that they did.
Stick to your guns no matter what outside factors try to stop you. Some people say anybody can write a book and get it published because people can self-publish. Maybe so – but not just anybody can write a truly good story – one that becomes a best seller – one that is well researched and full of memorable characters. Internet or not, the truly good writers and truly good books will still shine through and rise above all the garbage that gets thrown out there. Readers still appreciate a well told, well researched story written from the heart, so don’t let the fact that thousands of wanna-be’s are out there trying to compete with you and kill your dreams.
Just rememer that there is no competion, because nobody writes like you write – so if people are buying your books and if you are doing well because you have a style, or a voice that people love, you will build faithful readers who will never leave you no matter what other newer writer come into the market, and no matter how many established writers are selling like hotcakes. If you worry about competition, then you are dealing with self defeat. Just be you. Write your way, and don’t let anything – or anyone – get in the way of your passion for writing, your passion for your subject and your passion for your characters. Put everything else aside and sit down and write. Get rid of all negative thoughts and let the story pour out of you, and ultimately you will get published and you will get noticed and you will feel the satisfaction of knowing you realized your dream. When life gets tough, let writing be your catharsis. You will feel fulfilled, and even if you don’t sell that first book, you will know you at least tried.
You know the story – don’t be afraid to submit your work. What’s the difference if you submit it and get rejected, or if you don’t submit it at all? The difference is huge! You’ll never know if you might have sold that book. You’ll never know if you could have realized your dream. You’ll never know if there are others out there who might really enjoy your story and learn from it – and you’ll never become a published author if you never submit your work. Failure is not a result of sending in your work and getting it rejected. Failure is never submitting your work at all. You have failed a lot of prospective readers, and you have failed yourself.
Good luck to all of you. I’ve been there – done that – and I know what it takes! It takes the four “p’s” – Practice, Perseverence, Persistence … and “Passion.” Now – sit down and start writing!