Monday, April 22, 2013

A Story About Finding Your Way

Bear with me, if you will, while I flashback to a difficult time in my writerly life, allllllllllllllll the way back to the year 2011...

I had it--the story that would make me famous! It was good. Really good. Or so I thought.  I was in love with it. Better yet, I was having the time of my life writing it. The words poured onto the screen like magic. I pictured its cover. I imagined the looks on the faces of those kids who were going to read it.

Then the rejections started rolling in--one after another, each a bigger, sharper dagger straight to my ego. The dream of my passion project being on bookshelves went up in smoke. I kept asking myself: what went wrong? I scoured over the rejections, looking for something that I could use, something that would help ease my mind--and reassure me that it wasn't just because I sucked.

Of course, as much as I tried to find an answer, I knew it was a pointless search. There never is one answer to why a particular project isn't right. It could be anything from bad timing to just being poorly executed. Frustrated over not being able to find that answer, I became down on the project, and worse yet, down on myself as a writer.

I was scared to death of starting a new project, worried about wasting another six months on something that would get me nowhere. Man, to view writing as wasted time... thinking back, I just shake my head. My mind was so consumed with negativity. I decided right then that for my next project I'd leave no room for error. I'd write a story that was guaranteed to attract an agent. It would have all the ingredients of a book that sells in today's market. In other words, I was writing for no other reason than to get published.

Don't get me wrong, I still loved writing. It was my passion, as it always has been. But the process of trying to get published, of being immersed in the publishing industry with all the querying, and Twitter following, and seeing other writers get deals--it makes you a bit obsessed. So, I tried my hand at writing to the trends. I was still confident in my ability, and I knew I could write a book that would sell.
Well, what resulted was one of the worst cases of writer's block I ever had. It was beyond block. It was a writer's funk. I would start one thing, lose interest, and then start another. Did you know that I tried to write a paranormal romance? I know, right? Me! Paranormal romance! Then I moved on to dystopian, becauce those were big at the time. Then YA sci-fi. Then contemporary realism. Then magic realism. I just kept jumping from genre to genre, forcing myself to churn out a story.

Well, fellow YAtopians, I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. At least not for me, as I learned the hard way. I wasn't passionate about any of those stories. And so, my writer's funk continued--for 18 long, excruciating months. 

Then I got some advice from someone near and dear to my heart.

"At the end of the day, you're a story teller, Ryan," he said. "We're all sitting around a camp fire waiting for you to spin your next yarn. At the end of it, it's not about profit. Just a good story."

"Write what you feel, what you're passionate about. Write you. Don't write to get published, because then you lose the story. If you're thinking about getting published more than a story that will be memorable, then in my opinion you're in the wrong profession."

It hit me. I was writing for the wrong reasons. Somewhere I had lost sight of why I was writing, and more importantly, who I was writing for. When I first started out--bright eyed and fresh-faced--I wasn't writing for agents. I wasn't writing for publishers. Certainly not for money.

What happened to that guy? What happened to the guy who wrote that goofy story about the kid-eating washing machine? All he wanted was to write stories that filled kids' heads with a sense of wonder like Roald Dahl books did for him. That guy needed to come back in the worst way.

And thanks to that advice, he has. For that, I'm eternally grateful. As long as it echoes in my mind, I'll never lose my way again.

Remember this: trends come and go, but truly great stories written by people who are passionate about them are timeless.

Write about what you love, not what you think others will love.



  1. I hear you! I did the exact same thing. When the rejections gushed in on one of my books, I resolved to make sure none of the things 'wrong' with that story would be 'wrong' about the next one.

    And writing that next one was painful, horrible and no fun at all. And it still didn't get me published. So I'm now happily writing the stuff I want to and not worrying about getting that deal.

    Well, not much, anyway....

  2. Awesome, awesome post. And really what I've been thinking right now.

  3. Thanks for the comments! This was more of a personal post of sorts, but I thought my experience might be shared by others too.

  4. Great post, Ryan. I happen to know for a fact that you're a great storyteller :)

    Now, if only we could get some marshmallows for that camp fire...

  5. Oh boy do I know exactly these feels. Glad you got it sorted and powered through it; I think this exact problem is where we must lose some pretty talented writers.

    Hope you're working on something you're passionate about now. Cheers!

  6. Six months? I've probably just wasted five years! And the terrible part, is that I don't give up! I won't ever. Not on that baby, even if i have to self-publish one day. But this doesn't stop me from working on other projects at the on the side. Good luck . love your story.

  7. So so so true! Thanks for sharing. This subject is close to my heart as well, and I couldn't agree more: WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE!! Otherwise, what's the point?