We want people to love our stories – of course we do. So maybe we add this element because it will grab this type of reader. And then maybe we tone this down because there are some readers who don’t like that. And an editor might call that into question later on, so better take that out now.
I’m not talking about revising – I’m talking about writing a story in order to please others. I hate to break it to you, but it won’t matter what you do. If you have done your job well, there will be some who love your story and others who don’t. That’s art.
Sometimes there will be an element in your story that some readers don’t like. It won’t matter if your plot is meticulously constructed, your world real and believable, and your language beautiful enough to make Shakespeare weep. Some readers won’t like it because of that one thing. Don’t write to those readers.
Sometimes there will be something about your story that calls to certain readers. Maybe it’s a relatable character, maybe it’s a swoon-worthy romance. And it won’t matter if your plot has a few holes and your writing needs polishing – those readers are too mesmerized by the other to care. Don’t write to those readers either.
You have to write a story you care about. You have to write the one you have to tell, not the one you think will be popular. You are the one who will spend the most time with this book. You will draft it, revise it, revise it, send it to CPs, revise it, and then, once you have an agent and/or editor, revise, edit, copy edit, copy edit – you get my point. You better love this book. And once it’s on shelves, and readers have decided whether or not they love it too, they will move on. Maybe it will always be one of their favorites. Maybe they will re-read it again years later. Hopefully they will recommend it. But no matter what, they will find other books to love or hate, and your name will still be on this one.
Reclaimed was a story that I had to write. At first I told myself it would be too hard. There are three distinct points-of-view, and I told myself I wasn’t talented enough yet to pull that off. But I had to try anyway. This book is about the complexity of relationships. It’s less a love triangle and more about three people who come together as their lives are unraveling. They each need something different from their relationship, and they are all connected to each other in different ways. It’s the story I had to write, because I care about the characters and they wouldn’t let me walk away without telling their story.
That’s the story you need to be telling. We can’t write stories that please everyone. But I can write a story I love in the hopes that others will love it too. And you can write a story that you love in the hopes that others will love it too. And if we all write with passion, then between us, there will be stories that resonate with everyone, that give each varied, wonderful person a literary world where they feel safe, or challenged, or happy, or alive.
Write what you love, and don’t ever apologize for it.