Today’s guest is Grace Wynter, a blogger and writer of romance and women’s fiction. Grace spends much of her non-writing time tinkering with WordPress websites and working on completing her professional editing certificate with the University of Chicago. When she’s not alternating between the Marvel and DC universes, she resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
I probably could have had my first novel done and dusted by now if I hadn’t allowed these three P’s to nag at me for the past few years. If my words can save a few writers a few tears, and years, then my agony wasn’t in vain.
Pressure, Perception, and Probability: The Holy Trinity That Stymies the New Writer
Hi, my name is Grace, and I write new adult romance.
If you think that sounds like a confession or an introduction at a start of a meeting where anonymity is king, then you already know where I’m headed. In an industry that often snickers at romance, and where new adult that’s not Divergent or The Hunger Games is looked down on with derision, admitting that you write in the genre can sometimes open up the proverbial can of literary whoop-ass.
If you’re a seasoned writer you’ve probably run out of damns to give about what other writers think of you. But if you’re working on your first book and find yourself struggling with the expectations of what kind of writer you’re supposed to be, then join me at this meeting, and let’s commiserate about three of the things that, if we’re not careful, can end our writing careers before they even start.
I remember the first time I was inspired to write fiction. I was reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the umpteenth time and thought how wonderful it would be to write a modern version set in the south. Not long into that endeavor I realized that I, my dear writers, am no Jane Austen.
Years later I would pick up a novel by—at the time self-published phenom—Colleen Hoover and, despite some unflattering reviews from established writerly types, fell in love with the way she told stories. The desire to write characters that young women would fall in love with was rekindled, and my fiction-writing journey began in earnest.[pullquote]But then I started hearing voices. Not the kind that Hollywood makes scary movies about. No, the kind that put pressure on me to try to impress people. Mostly it was pressure to impress other members of the writing community. [/pullquote]
But then I started hearing voices. Not the kind that Hollywood makes scary movies about. No, the kind that put pressure on me to try to impress people. Mostly it was pressure to impress other members of the writing community. Writers who had published literary masterpieces, or whose prose was so eloquent I thought surely they had been touched by the hand of God. But there was also pressure to impress family members (I can make a living writing, dammit), old professors (I am not a goof-off), and everyone who had ever cut me off in the parking lot (I can form a sentence that does not include an expletive). The impact that that self-imposed pressure had on my writing was like tightening a faucet. It stifled my creativity until what was released came out only occasionally and only in unsatisfying droplets.
I knew that I wanted to write new adult but didn’t think my literary friends would take me seriously as a writer if I did. I didn’t think I’d be perceived as a serious writer if I didn’t write in a more literary fashion. So I tried to surf between both worlds. I’d write sentences that sounded literary (whatever that means) but that didn’t fit my audience. They never felt quite right until I rewrote them in the style I knew was.
Still, the voices were there, hovering over my shoulder, scoffing, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re writing that!” But here’s the kicker, new writers, we’re not writing for other writers, we’re writing for our readers. What might make your literary friends cringe, might be exactly the thing that resonates with your readers. And here’s where probability comes in.
When we get so bogged down with pressure, and when we worry about how we’re perceived by others, we increase the probability that we’ll kill our writing careers before they even get started. I read a lot about how there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Well, I think for a new writer, pressure, perception, and probability are the perfect recipe for writer’s block. A heaping dose of all three can have a new writer in a place where they’re in the fetal position under a blanket for days. Take it from me: I’m renting an apartment there.
So What’s a New Writer to Do?
For me, the first thing that set me on the road to recovery was embracing my genre. I read new adult romance. A lot of it. Some of it would probably make your toes curl. If genre shame is your writing block, declare it loudly and proudly. Tell anyone who will listen. If you read the genre (which you should, voraciously) don’t hide the covers of the novels you read, don’t leave them out of the lists of books you’ve read. By doing this you will understand your target audience far better than anyone else, and that’s what turns browsers into readers and readers into fans. If genre isn’t the factor that’s causing you to pressure yourself, figure out what is, and tackle it head on.
Study the craft. I’m still no Jane Austen, but I’ve spent the last several years attending workshops and conferences, and reading anything I can get my hands on that will help me become a better fiction writer. Learning the craft and then using your voice to mold it is what will make you unique in a space that’s currently populated with people clamoring to be heard.
And about those voices. When our focus becomes impressing other writers or family members, or when we become obsessed with wondering if we’re worthy of calling ourselves writers, we lose sight of the reason many of us started writing in the first place: we had a story to tell and we were the only ones who could tell it. Let’s not allow the trinity of pressure, perception, and probability to keep us from reaching that goal.
Do pressure, perception, or probability nag you and keep you from writing? Or something else? What keeps you from reaching your goal?