Monday, December 12, 2011

Writing a Book Is Just Capturing a Moment

My feelings about getting a book published have never been stable. When I was younger, I thought it would be cool to see my name printed on the pages of a novel, but I never got much farther than that. Now, with 4.5 finished first drafts under my belt (and yes, the 0.5 one is finished because I don't intend to take it any further), I can't say that I'm feeling any more certain about the prospect of being published.

It's never been a question of confidence. I know that, with enough perseverance, I have just as much chance at getting published as anyone else. And, barring that, I've explored self-publishing and know that I could easily take that road if I found myself with a project I cared about that didn't fit into the traditional publishing framework.

No, the real problem has been uncertainty over whether my work can meet the high standards I've set for myself. I've read some excellent books in my life, books by Tamora Pierce and J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Dickens and others that have changed the way that I view the world. How can I hope to make a mark in an environment that already has so much great literature in it?

My ambivalence had the staying power to remain intact forever. But then, the other day, a thought came out of nowhere and gave me any entirely new perspective on the process. Most people don't write a book because they have some sort of Earth-shattering insight that will change the minds of every person it comes in contact with. There's no need for a person's first or even fiftieth work of fiction to be the "Next Great American Novel." There's no one waiting with bated breath to be impressed. All a writer needs to do is realistically capture a moment in time. And if you're capable of doing that in a way that's engaging, then really, you should be sharing that talent, not hiding it behind a wall of doubt.

I like the way that Dianna Gunn put it in last week's interview: "...what you really want is something that will tie into people's memories. Stories which face issues that are close to all of our hearts." That's it. Not stories that are "mindblowing" or "illuminating" or "incomparable." Just something that is capable of touching one person's emotions for one moment, and leaving a mark, no matter how inconsequential or fleeting.

Okay, so this is starting to get a little sappy. The point is, you don't have to do anything remarkably unique or different to make it as a writer. All you have to do is capture a moment in your own style. And if you can do that, you've got most of the rest of the writing world beat.
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