I think the only piece of writing advice I’ve consistently gotten over the years has been to “write what you want to read.” That’s great advice…if you want no one but your best friend and a couple of critique partners to read your book.
I’d love to think that writing what I love would be a path to publication. Even a path to the most modest recognition as a self-published writer. But it’s not, in my experience. I don’t love my stories any less. But few others are loving them either.
In my wildest fantasies, I dreamed of being on the NYT bestseller list or making one of the USA Today lists. I never truly expected it but it was fun to dream. What I really wanted was to write and have people read the stories and connect with the themes and characters. Second chances. Home towns. Family. Humor in the everyday things that make you laugh at yourself.
With my new book, I’m considering a big change to the story that would hopefully cater to a current trend in the market. I don’t think it takes away from any of the messages in the book, but it’s not the story I’ve envisioned for the past 20 years.
What I can’t get past is that it feels wrong.
If I look at it logically, we do things that pander to expectations every day. Women wear makeup and shave their legs. Men put on a tie and pick up the check. We wait in lines and chew with our mouths closed and use our inside voices when we’re at the library. Rarely, if ever, do we tell the full truth.
But logic has little to do with it. It’s all about emotion and for me. I am attached to these characters. I have nurtured them. Cried with them. Cried over them. I know. I’m sure it seems overly dramatic and I do not like drama.
I’m sure authors – big names, best-selling names – make significant changes to their work every time a new book is to be published. And if you’ve ever read a book that’s been made into a movie, then you know how often the narrative is changed to suit the screen. If they can do it, why am I hesitant?
I think this book has always been the book of my heart. The book I hoped I was one day good enough to write. And now, that vision needs to change. Twenty years is a long time to hold on to a vision only to have it come to fruition then need to change it to give it more life, or even a chance at life.
Just to have a chance.