OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
There's a lot of market-chasing in publishing. Look at the amount of paranormal romance after Twilight and now the outpouring of BDSM erotica in the wake of 50 Shades of Grey. If you love those genres, then fine, but I think it's important to consider what you love to read when you write. Today's guest post is from author Michelle Isenhoff on writing your passion rather than the stuff you think you should be writing about.
I’m a teacher and I write mostly fiction for kids, so I have to admit to a couple of ulterior motives when I sit down at my computer. I like to think I’m a purist, that I write only for the love of creating something beautiful, but that simply isn’t true. The educator inside is a big part of who I am, and it shows when I start writing. So I have to ’fess up.
First, I want to see kids develop a love for reading.
Second, I hope they learn a little something along the way.
If we all investigated our motives honestly, I bet very few of us would find we write with total purity.
All of us have unique traits that come out on paper. Likewise, we all have some purpose in mind for our work. But that’s okay. Merging our passions and our purposes can be a very empowering concept. It can revolutionize our writing. But before we can make use of them, first we need to take stock of our assets.
Identify your passions
I’m not talking about identifying plain old strengths here. Knowing our strengths and writing to them is beneficial, but going beyond them to what really makes us tick deepens the magic. Often, our strengths and passions intersect, but not always.
With my background in education, I can write out some serious kick-butt lesson plans. I’ve been trained to write them. I’ve practiced writing them. I’ve even taught from them. The problem is I hate writing lesson plans. I’d much rather indulge in the passion that enticed me into the teaching field to begin with: children’s literature.
When I finished college, I was given some really bad advice: hold off on that novel and assemble a portfolio. What followed were some really rotten years. Did I sell some articles? Yes. Did I improve my skills? Yes. Was I using my strengths? Yes. But it was sort of like writing out lesson plans. I wasn’t having any fun. So nine years ago, I scrapped the portfolio and penned my first children’s novel. Wow! Finally, I wanted to write! Lesson learned: Passion fuels our writing.
Identify Your Purpose
Next, figure out why you are writing. What do you hope to accomplish?
What do you want readers to take away with them when they close your back cover?
We’re all different, and there are as many reasons for writing as there are people. Some of us hope to win awards. Others want to influence people’s thinking. Still others hope to teach, to inspire, to motivate, to criticize, to change, to report, to make money, to tell a story. The list could go on forever, and the individual reasons don’t really matter. The important thing is to discover your own reasons, so you can use them.
Identifying the purpose for a piece will give it direction and hold it together. It will make it very easy to pinpoint an audience, and it’s going to determine what you do with your work when it’s done and how you market it. In short: Purpose gives direction to our writing.
Now Put Them Together
As writers, we all engage in many forms of written language. Just this week I’ve written articles, reworked an old skit, reviewed a book, blogged, communicated on social media and, yes, created some lesson plans. They’re necessary and varied and purposeful projects. But when I merge purpose with children’s literature, when I steer that which drives me, that’s when the magic really happens:
1. Writing becomes more enjoyable. It’s always more fun to indulge in what we love.
2. Our product improves. We naturally become more enthusiastic, more genuine, when we’re having fun. Passion is easily apparent in our writing.
3. A better product draws more readers. And repeat readers.
4. Passions make effective brands. People begin to associate us with the things we get excited about. Connection with those of similar interests provides the basis for marketing.
5. All these things combine to equal better sales.
I know we can’t always write what we love, but we should reserve ample time for it. It’s like plugging into a charger or eating fruits and grains; it revitalizes us. And if we can harness those passions and give them a focus and a direction, we have the potential to improve our entire game plan. The end result is better sales. And better sales means that someday maybe I can give up writing lesson plans.
How have your passion and purpose combined in your writing? Please do leave a comment below.
Michelle Isenhoff is an elementary teacher and the author of several middle grade and young adult novels. Her new release, Beneath the Slashings, takes place in a Michigan lumber camp and concludes a trilogy of Civil War historical fiction. It’s specially priced this month at .99 and can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Image: Flickr CC / apdk