Do you remember the first time you fell in love?
I’m not talking about your junior high crush or your first high school date or even your “soul mate.” When did you first fall in love with books?
Sometimes in the rush of meeting our goals and deadlines, we can forget what first drew us to become a writer. We end up focusing so much on story structure or word count or editing or publishing that we don’t stop and consider how amazing it is that we can speak to others so personally through our writing.
I was recently Facebook chatting with an author friend about why I write. I considered my answer cliché, but maybe it’s something to remember:
I think part of what keeps me wanting to write YA and MG is when I ask myself, “If I could write for one and only one niche group, who would it be?” And it’s young girls struggling with who they are in those formative ages. That’s when I fell in love with stories, when books sent me to worlds I didn’t know and got me out of the frustrating one I was in, when fiction sometimes seemed far more real than the stupid drama of junior high and high school. It’s when I realized that books could be friends.
My book friends were such classics as the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, Little House on the Prairie and sequels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and other novels by Judy Blume, and The Outsiders and others by S.E. Hinton.
But even earlier as a child, I’d fallen in love with story. I curiously read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, joyfully read Gerald McBoing McBoing by Dr. Seuss, and nervously read the fairy tale of Bluebeard, among other stories and fables and fairy tales. I made up stories in my head and acted them out in the privacy on my bedroom, slaying pretend dragons and rescuing my own princess self from the villain’s tower (then the prince arrived and kissed me, after I’d already kicked butt, thank you very much.)
I dove into our family set of encyclopedias to open up worlds of information and excitement, learning all kinds of things you now get from cable channels and internet searches. But flipping through those glossy pages showed me what was available through books and fed my sense of wonder.
Have I lost that sense of wonder? Do I get bogged down sometimes in my checklist and forget the reader – that nameless person on the other end opening up the book and expecting to be taken somewhere wonderful? How can I keep that focus in front of me?
Ask yourself from time to time why you write, who you’re writing for, and what you want to accomplish with your stories or publications. Our writing goals need to fit into our ultimate desire to communicate with the reader. It’s an amazing thing that someone can tell me a story and I can become so engrossed in that world that my own seems to dissipate around me.
Of course, such writing doesn’t come with ease. Like a well-executed dance or Olympic sport, the audience may never realize how much work went into producing a short performance. In fact, if you’ve done your job well, your book is seamless – no evidence of your sweat and tears staining the pages. But you can also tell when the dancer, the athlete, and the novelist enjoys what they’re doing. It comes across in their dedication and their excitement.
What excites you about writing? Do you still have your sense of wonder? When did you first fall in love?