Friday, December 16, 2011

That elusive something special

Shameless plug of the day: The Secret Year is finally available on Kindle. And now for the writing:

I love this post by Cheryl Renee Herbsman (on YA Outside the Lines) about goals. She writes, "After my debut, Breathing, became a book, I got lost in trying to understand which elements led to its publication and in trying to figure out how to reproduce them." And I know that temptation. The interesting thing is, the reason for a book's success can be almost impossible to identify; even the readers who love it may not be able to articulate exactly why. And readers disagree: for example, two readers may adore a book while one of them hates the main character's love interest and the other thinks the love interest is perfectly wonderful.

I don't mean that we can't work on our craft, or address obvious problems in our work (chances are, if we're bored with chapter three, readers will be too). I just mean that formulas for success are elusive, and writing by formula can take the soul out of a project. Sometimes it's a quirk of voice or character development, or it's the unexpected, or the deeply honest vein in a book, that make it soar and sing and resonate with readers. Sometimes what we need to chase is not the hook that we think will bring external validation, but a deeper truth in need of expression. (And incidentally and ironically, those deeper truths often prove to have universal appeal with readers.)

As Cheryl writes: "It's about trusting life more, not fighting windmills, not pushing through closed doors. It's about moving forward in my own way, at my own pace. ... It's about writing what my soul needs to write."

What she said.


  1. Oh, beautifully said! I think it's so important to follow our own goals and keep our eyes on our own paper. There's no magical formula. Things just happen, especially to those who work hard and trust that the path they are on is theirs and theirs alone. Nobody can walk it, dream it, or understand it for you. Thanks for this. :)

  2. Thanks, Michelle! Cheryl is very wise. :-)