As in most things in life, at least for we of the hardheaded variety, things are learned through trial and error. And banging our heads on a wall while others offer softer, unheeded, options.
I’m finally about to accept a truth other writers have been telling me for a long time. “Write the book exactly how you want it, don’t worry about anything else.”
That’s how I used to write. My first five books, that was the only thing I thought about. My last four, I didn’t. From the moment of their inceptions, I worried about things I’d read in reviews of my other books, what people criticized, and said they wanted more of. I tried to plan around those desires and tired to find a way to balance what my vision was as an artist with my desire to be successful. During those planning stages, my boyfriend would often get the call from me, sometimes in tears, about how I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to go a different way than what all these ‘other voices’ were saying I should. By the time I actually sat down and started writing (or got into the book ten or twenty pages) I ended up throwing all the should’s/supposed to’s out the window and wrote the book exactly how I wanted it to begin with. Partly because I’m a stubborn bastard, and partly because I was incapable of any other way. Ultimately, I’m glad, because I have eight, soon to be nine, that are exactly how I want them. Regardless of the reviews they get, I can stand proudly behind them, because I wrote them my way.
Other authors had been telling me that, but I just couldn’t accept their words, like they were telling me what I wanted to hear. But, to me, the articles talking about to be successful had louder voices. (Maybe those articles are the right ones, maybe I won’t ever be successful in the way I hope since I can’t seem to write in the way they suggest. I have to be okay with that. I have to write me.)
The final (lord, I hope it’s the final) realization was when I was reading some reviews for my most recent release, Son of Money. It seems sex is a big topic in gay romance, which personally drives me crazy, and I honestly find a bit offensive at times (and I very much like sex and I’m fairly hard to offend, so go figure). In Son of Money, I included more sex than I ever have in my contemporaries, because it fit and was needed. It’s a story about a man who combined sex into two of his other jobs. It’s part of the story. These two particular five star reviews had completely opposite opinions. One stated that I finally had included hot, steamy, and dirty sex scenes in my writing, the other stated that I’d continued to fade to black. I literally threw back my head and laughed. In relief. It was like I was offered freedom. And all those other authors’ voices finally broke through.
So, I repeat the advice for you other authors who may be struggling in a similar place, and as a reminder to myself: Write as you damn well want. You won’t please everyone, and no one will agree (even five star positive reviews by people who love your work). So, write words that you love and that you’re proud of. Because, as nervous as I was for the release of Son of Money, on the negatives I’ve gotten, I can shrug them off, because that book is exactly how I wanted it. If I’d have tried to write to a formula or to please everyone at the cost of my book’s integrity, I would still get negative reviews (because every book always will), but I’d feel shame in the reading of those because I’d have to agree and it would have been obvious I’d betrayed my art.
So, other authors, thank you for your advice, I’m sorry I took so long for me to hear you. The planning stages of my books is about to get a hell of a lot more fun again!