Write what's in your heart

I know this has been said before, by many others, countless times over, but I want to spend a little time on it because the concept is so clear in my mind today.

I had a lovely Skype chat with Sarah Enni last night. We got to talking about book ideas and how we each have dozens squirreled away–some are floating around in our minds without an ounce of documentation, others are a couple bullet points in a word doc, a few are just clever titles in need of characters and plot! I started talking about which of my ideas might be the right “follow-up” for my career after the TAKEN series. Sarah wondered which of hers she should run with once her current novel is being queried. She even shared a few quick pitches with me.

I instantly knew which of her ideas was most appealing to me as a reader. I knew which sounded the most similar in style/genre to the book she’ll soon query. I knew which seemed well aligned with current trends. (Clarification: the story idea was different for each of these three scenarios.) But screw the trends, right? Never write to trends. And who cares what I think about Sarah’s ideas, because guess what? She’s not writing for me.

At the end of the day, the only thing you can do is write the story you’re most excited about. The one you find most compelling. The idea that haunts you, keeps you up at night, refuses to be ignored. There’s one story kernel in every batch of ideas that always does this–sort of rises to the top and waves its arms like a madman–so pick that one out of the bunch, and start writing it. If you hit a wall, play with the next idea that waves most persuasively. If things are flowing, well heck, that’s just fabulous. Keep on writing.

I think we sometimes focus on this “which book should I write next?” question because our goal is to always share that story with others (aka: Sell The Book). Naturally, if we’re going to face the blank page and spend several long months in WIP-land, we want to make sure we’re at least writing something sellable.

But I’ve finally learned that this doesn’t matter. Not really. Because here’s the hard truth:

» The novel you query might not get you an agent.

» The novel you put on sub might not get you a book deal.

» The second novel you put on sub might not get you a book deal.

» The novel you submit as your option under contract might get rejected.

» No matter how far into this game you are, there is never a guarantee that the next book you write will be published.

So why the heck wouldn’t you write the book that wants to be written? The one you care about? The one that you want to tell more than anything in the word, regardless of trends or genre or audience or theme or style or length or similarity to your previous works?

Write the book that’s in your heart and write it exactly as you see it fit.

Do this and you will never regret telling that story, even if it doesn’t get picked up. Because if you’re proud of your novel–if it’s filled with characters you love and a world you created and a story you couldn’t not tell–it will always, ALWAYS be worth it.

I promise.

Shifting gears to way less thought-provoking content, a few quick updates:

  • I am back from my writing retreat in the Smoky Mountains. I was going to do a recap post on my absolutely amazing week at the lake house, but Sarah Maas has it covered.
  • The retreat seemed to be exactly what I needed, because I left for it drained and burned out and came back rejuvenated and itching to write. This made me realize the true importance of vacations.
  • It was also my turn to answer a Truth or Dare on Thirteeners recently. I played dominoes with my YA books. The results are kinda amazing.
  • I’m now awaiting another revision letter for TAKEN2, playing with a fun WIP on the side, and continuing to plow through my Harry Potter series re-read-athon. Don’t forget to follow along on twitter with #HPAlways.

That’s all for today, friends. Until next time, mischief managed!

13 Responses
  1. You’re so right. Plus, writing the story that’s in your heart is so much more fun than chasing a trend or what we think will sell. I find that if I can’t get an idea out of my head the drafting stage is really enjoyable. For stories I’m only so-so on, writing becomes work.

    1. “Plus, writing the story that’s in your heart is so much more fun than chasing a trend or what we think will sell.”

      ^ Absolutely! Imagine if something that you’re having no fun drafting actually sells! And then you’re stuck revising and promoting it for the next 12-24 months! Bleh.

  2. This post is perfection, and very timely. I’m finishing up a revision on “the book of my heart” (a term I find slightly cheesy but am willing to embrace anyway), and I am so pleased with how it’s coming along. It’s the manuscript in which I found my voice, and its characters are my favorite. (Is it even okay to say that? Eek…) Anyhow, luckily my agent loves it, but I’m just a little terrified about it going on sub. I want everyone to love it, you know? Still, it’s what *I* want it to be, so no regrets, no matter what happens!

    And heaps of luck to Sarah on that next project, and the querying process!

    1. Oh, Katy. I so know where you’re coming form. (We’ve chatted about this a bit via email too.) It is especially wonderful that your agent loves TBoYH, and I’m wishing you the very best success with it, but above all, it makes me immensely happy to hear that the ms is the story YOU want it to be. Because that really is what matters most. If it’s the story you want to tell, you never regret spending the time writing it. (Naturally, my fingers are crossed for a sale for you, though. ;))

  3. I really love this post and it resonated with me. I’ve been struggling with my WIP because I keep changing things based on outside influences. I just decided to wrote exactly what I wanted to read and the words are flowing again. Such a relief!

    I loved your YA dominos – brilliant!

    1. I always have a hard time closing off outside influences while drafting, especially if I’m reading something super jaw-droppingly good. But writing what YOU want to read (just as you point out) is so key!

  4. Great post. Thanks for the reminder! I’m finishing up my current manuscript and my next book idea is shaping up to be “the book of my heart.” The nice thing about not being published yet is that I have the freedom to write whatever I want! Of course, I want it to ultimately be published, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the process of writing it. 🙂

  5. Krispy

    Yes! This so much! Plus, I feel like when you write the book of your heart, there’s a difference in the writing quality – because you feel it deeply and you love it enough to want to struggle through it.

  6. I’m chiming in late to say that I love this post! As someone who wrote to the market three times and was too late twice (and possibly three times – we’ll see) I am now trying to write what I love and hoping for the best. It’s scary, but fun.

    Good luck figuring out your next book. I’m sure it will be fantastic, whatever you decide.

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