I made a few promises (not resolutions) at the start of this year, and one of those promises was to be kinder to myself. I tend to set unreasonable expectations in every aspect of my life, job included. In fact, I’m probably the hardest on myself when it comes to my writing. Sometime last year, I realized that the one thing I love above everything in the world aside from my husband and dog became something I loathed. My ridiculous expectations distorted the reason I write, and it wasn’t long after that writing stopped altogether. I gave up. But a real writer doesn’t do that, does she? Isn’t it impossible for her not to open her computer and type something? Isn’t that the definition of a “true” writer?
Writers write to tell the stories in their hearts. It’s as simple as that. Or should be. But when you’re competing for space and relevancy in an ever-expanding self-publishing world, the motivations to write start changing. If you don’t meet the goals you set for a particular title, you start second guessing the story: Was this important? Did I choose the wrong point of view? Did I offend someone? (Note: you will ALWAYS offend someone with your writing. Nothing you can do about it.) You start second guessing your characters. You start second guessing your genre as you scour Amazon’s Top 100 list and discover that no one’s writing about high school shootings. You take a step back. You try to anticipate what your audience will like. You try to make your audience happy. You allow too many people to involve themselves with your work, giving you confusing feedback that turns into white noise. You say to yourself, “She doesn’t get me at all, but she’s my audience, so I need to change.” You don’t even take into consideration all the people who DO get you—who DO understand and appreciate and love your work. Distortion is scary. It’s what stands us in front of the mirror and forces the words “I’m fat” out of our mouths when we are clearly not fat. And so with each book, you move further and further away from . . . you. And then you wake up one morning to discover that you hate telling stories—that part of you that was your heartbeat. You hate it because you’re trying to please everyone instead of writing what's in your heart.
It took the better part of last year to recognize all this. One enlightening phone conversation with an industry professional helped refocus my lens and give me a clear perspective once more. It was a conversation that centered on a story I’d tucked away for over a year—a story I’d been too afraid to tell because it’s risky and controversial and ugly and all the things that, up until LoveLines, had defined my writing. Fringe writing. That’s what I’m calling it. Those stories that hang out in the margins—right on the edge of potential greatness and amazing catastrophe. The stories people are too scared to read because they don’t know if they’ll get their happily-ever-afters. The stories that reflect true reality, making them too realistic. The stories that sometimes offer no escape.
My stories aren’t pretty or safe or commercial, and they will most likely never be wide-reaching. And that’s okay because someone needs to tell Jeremy’s story. And once I committed to him, all my initial motivations for writing returned. None of them were new, but I felt like a brand new person. I remembered why I write. I write to tell what I hope are good stories. I write because it is a part of who I am. That’s the point of it all. That’s perspective. And with my old-new perspective came a joy for storytelling again—a reason to open my laptop. Sure, I realize I’m taking a huge risk, perhaps riskier than Brooke or Cadence’s stories. But hey, I gave myself a year. It’s time.
(Expected release: Spring 2015)
. . . and here's your first teaser: