I recently received some feedback on my writing that really made me think. For almost a year, I maintained another blog that focused on my efforts to publish my first novel. My posts were either tips on writing, social media, balancing life & writing, and even story scenes and parts of my portfolio from my creative writing class.
Several months ago, I hit a brick wall. I hadn’t built a following of potential fans. My blog was in place to not only chronicle my journey, but to build my platform, market myself, establish my brand, and once published, inform people of giveaways, reviews, tours, etc. I had attempted to rebrand the old blog and get away from the writing-centered posts that had attracted fellow writers, yet still include them because I felt we writers should support each other. There’s something unique about writers and the camaraderie, regardless of genre, was amazing. Anyhow, the new approach wasn’t working either.
Not only was I having a tough time blogging, I’d had some issues with the story I was working on. My approach to my fiction has been from a female perspective whose focus was on relationships – particularly between her friends, her family, and the opposite sex. In addition to relationships, there were things that were important to my protagonist in this story. She loved her friends and family, but she was also fond of shopping and being social. That’s just the way the character is and to make her different would not be true to her. (Another thing about fiction writers, we believe our characters have a life of their own and for the writer to force a character or even the story into something that it’s not supposed to be can slow if not stop the progress of writing.) With all that being said, the story appeared to fit in nicely into the genre of chick-lit. And I like that genre. It’s young, light-hearted, and humorous.
When I write, I pull my inspiration from many places. A song lyric can inspire an idea. A discussion among friends. Mostly, it’s my overactive imagination. I mentioned in a past post that parts of my novel had the feel of a few of my favorite shows. The feedback I received questioned if those outside sources were too much of an influence in my writing and therefore, prevented me from moving forward. I really had to sit back and think about that one. How much of an impact did the things I listen to, watch, and read have on my writing? Did those things play a role in my getting stuck?
And the answer is not really. Yes, there was emphasis on being funny, fierce, and fabulous. Maybe too much. I wanted to entertain the reader. Can I blame the things I exposed myself to for that? No. If there’s any blame to be had, it’s on me. For choosing not to write the story correctly. For placing emphasis on the wrong things. From moving away from the heart of the story, the thing that initially motivated me to write that particular piece in the first place.
Here is what I believe to be the core of all that I write: someone that is desiring to live life to the fullest and the process of how that full life is sought after. Sometimes that character’s approach is right, sometimes it isn’t. And of course, there is a person or situation that is challenging them. The conflict. And they must push past that conflict in order to get to a better place. It’s just like life. We want prosperity, but sometimes we go about it wrong. And we face obstacles that threaten to keep us stuck in the place we’re in. Sometimes it’s a person. Perhaps an event or series of events. Sometimes it’s us. My high school english teacher refers to this conflict as man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. himself. However, the victory in life and in fiction is how we or the characters overcome that conflict.
Now, is my story still chick-lit? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not going to force my story, my style, and my approach into a box. My goal moving forward is to continue to write with the heart of the story in mind and all the rest will fall into place.