Today is Life List Club Friday. For more information about LLC, click the tab at the top of this site. For a complete listing of LLC members, check the LLC Blogroll in the right margin of this page. Today, my guest is Sonia Medeiros whose blogs appear at http://doingthewritething.wordpress.com. You’ll find more information about her at the end of this post. When you finish reading Sonia’s post, travel over to Jennie Bennett’s site, http://abookagirlajourney.blogspot.com, where she’s hosting my post “On Being a Christian” today. Enough intro—let’s get on to Sonia’s post.
Word Wars: Attack of the Should-Shouldn’ts
Does it ever seem like everyone else knows exactly what we should write and they just can’t wait to tell us?
• You should write a story about…
• You shouldn’t bother writing short stories because nobody reads them anymore.
• You should write like Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King ’cause then you could make a ton of money.
• You should write something important, not like that dreck Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King writes.
• You should write mystery or romance because they always sell. Or maybe YA supernatural romantic suspense about corporally-challenged vampire-hunting ghosts with boyfriend problems because that’s so hot right now.
• You should pick a genre and stick with it because it’s too confusing for readers if you write in more than one genre.
For the most part, all these should-shouldn’ts seem well-intentioned. It comes from folks who want us to succeed. Or it comes from folks who are excited about an idea and convinced that they could never write it…but you could. Or they’ve read or heard what some mega-famous writer has to say about writing and they’re convinced it’s the word.
Sometimes it’s not so well-intentioned or maybe just unintentionally hurtful.
• You know, not everyone has the talent to write really great stories.
• It’s all been done before and you can’t really come up with a unique story. So why bother?
• Or, as someone once asked me after reading (yet another) of my horror-ish short stories: Why don’t you ever write nice stories?
I haz to rite wat?
And it isn’t always other people dishing out the should-shouldn’ts. Sometimes we tell ourselves we must write a certain story or we can’t write another kind of story. We want our friends and family to read our stuff and brag about it. And maybe our friends and family don’t read romance, horror, fantasy, literary fiction or whatever it is that really floats our boats. We try to limit what we write so we can fit in the tiny box we’ve made for ourselves out of all of this advice, theirs and ours.
But stuffing ourselves into that little box means there’s no room to breathe, to grow. There’s no room to flail about and find out what really works. Our passion is what gives our stories life, whatever the genre. If we put limits on the stories we tell because we think that’s the kind of story we should write, we kill the story. Maybe the story we have to tell isn’t hot right now, in an always popular category, isn’t going to make us a ton of money, or nice (or maybe it’s too nice) but it’s the story we must tell.
We have to tell the stories that thrill us. The stories that knock around in our heads and demand to be told. We have to follow where the words lead, even if it means tripping out of the genre we always thought we’d write or writing in several unrelated genres.
Then they all die. The end.
There’s a place for business decisions about writing. A time to tailor what’s written for the reader and market. A time to worry about whether we have a solid brand.
But when we’re opening ourselves to the inspiration around us and when we’re first outlining our ideas or putting the first words on the page, we have to shove all the should-shouldn’ts in the basement. And lock the door. We have to listen to the stories that call us. We have to be true to ourselves.
Have you been on the receiving end of these should-shouldn’ts? What are some of the things you’ve been told? How’ve you held yourself back with shoulds and shouldn’ts? What stories call you?
Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, three dogs, one frog and two cats who battle each other for world domination.
I like your attitude, Sonia. It’s about following your heart and being true to yourself. Thanks for commenting on my guest post at Laura Best’s blog. It’s great meeting you.
Thanks! I’ve learned a lot from my fellow bloggers/writers about all these things. It’s so nice to meet you too. 😀
Thanks for the post, Sonia, and thanks also to everyone who commented.
Thank you for hosting me!
This was a good blog. How often I hear this. Sometimes I wonder why people have the need to do this.
Thank you. I’m not entirely sure what makes people so desperate to hand out advice. Honestly, it’s like they can’t help themselves. 😀
So, I just figured out this morning that the comments go from most recent at the top to first on the bottom. I kept scrolling down looking for new comments to reply to and not finding them. Silly me. All figured out now. 😀
I have been mulling over this exact problem, Sonia. I hate the whole advice thing, but I find myself worrying about it against my will. I write really, really niche stuff, then catch myself worrying about blog hits.
If you want to worry about been there, done that, all the stories in the world were told by about 300AD. Your point about each of us having a unique voice is true, and makes all the difference.
The advice to write like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling misses the fact that both of those writers brought something new to the genres they write–their unique voices, maybe *grin*
If you want to chase the almighty dollar (yen, pound, euro), then go be an investment banker. If you want to write about how you see the world, understand relationships, become an adult in a crazy world, or whatever moves you, listen to your heart. It will shine through your writing.
Well put! I have relatives that believe the success of anything can be measured in dollars. Their feeling is that you’re not a successful author unless you’ve sold a million copies. Wow, stiff standards to meet. But, it helped me evaluate what would make me successful. Would I like to sell a million copies? Heck yeah. But mostly just being able to write the stories that feel right…and to always be learning and growing.
I’m glad you’ve written what means something to you. I guess I’m just too stubborn to listen to those who say that particular genres don’t sell well, literary fiction is dead, paranormal is overdone, nobody can do horror like Steven King, historical fiction has no market. I say I’m writing what I like and do well. I guarantee people will buy it if it offers them a story that they can relate to.
My debut is a trilogy loosely based on my mother’s life and yet she is the one person who said, “Maybe you write something like….” Some people just have to give you advice, you know?
LOL. Good for you for being stubborn! Or “persistent” as I like to call it when I see it in my children. They’re not stubborn…they’re persistent. 😀 I think a lot of our loved ones do give us advice out of a place of love. Even if it’s not terribly useful to us. LOL
I like that you identify your writing self as a kitten with a blank stare. I empathize. LOL. And I also get the “why can’t you write a nice story?” I for one, love your horror stories. So keep em coming, you definitely have an audience.
LOL. The kitten pics do pretty well sum things up. It’s a funny thing about joining this writing community…I’ve actually branched out in some of the genres I read. Getting to know writers makes me want to read what they write even if I wouldn’t have gone for it just seeing it in the bookstore. That, in turn, makes me take a look at those genres I’ve neglected to read. 😀
There’s so much advice out there, we sometimes have to filter the noise, turn down the volume and just get to work. Here’s some advice, we can actually use! I loved your post Sonia.
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This is so true! I’m writing a time travel novel right now and half the people are like, we love time travel! and the other half are like Time Travel is sooo overdone. I’m just enjoying the ride and writing for ME. If someone doesn’t like it, I’m fine with that 🙂
I really hate when people assumed “everything” in a particular category’s been done before. Each one of us has a unique voice. 😀
I so agree with you, Sonia! I’ve have always seen myself as a “humorous article/essay writer” because I got positive reactions to that type of work and was good at it, so that’s why I did. But I WANTED to be a fiction writer. I wanted to write a novel and dabble in horror and not-always-happy short stories. I finally have in the last year and it has been such a wonderful ride – and one of those “that’s not really you” stories has been accepted for publication. Even if that hadn’t happened, I’d still be glad I’ve been writing what I want and stretching my wings rather than sticking with what I know/what I and others seem to think I’m good at.
Woot! Congratulations! It’s so freeing when we can chase the stories that call us.