I’ve been doing A LOT of reading lately.
I’ve been reading books of all types and genres. Sometimes I read for escape, but more often than not I am reading to figure out who I am as a writer. One of the flaws of the course I am taking is that it will soon shift into focusing on how to market your book, instead of just on the writing of the book. This is great in the sense that I will have a complete package ready to send off to publishers or agents or whoever I find the courage to send the book too, once it is finished. But, I find focusing on the market sometimes makes it harder for me to write.
What’s the use of writing if you only write to sell, rather than write to tell a story?
It’s no use marketing something if I cannot finish it.
My struggle lies in naming the genre of the book. I have called it fantasy, but it doesn’t fall into the land of fairies of elves made famous by writers like Tolkien. The book that to me has the closest relationship to the story I want to tell is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, so I guess you could call my project a dystopian novel or a work of speculative fiction, but that doesn’t cover the story either, or incorporate the “magical” elements. And I am not Margaret Atwood.
So I’ve been reading, searching for examples of what I am writing. In reality, I think, I’ve been searching for a reason to keep writing– evidence that the story I am telling might be interesting enough for someone to read.
I’ve figured out what my book is not. It is not a paranormal romance, although there is an element of paranormal in it and I’m not sure yet whether or not romance will play a role. It is not a literary novel, or at least not one that plays with language and focuses more on character than on plot, although I think I usually write more with character in mind. It is definitely not chick lit.
So what, exactly am a I trying to write?
I still don’t know. So I keep reading, trying to write, and searching for who I am as a writer.
This morning I finished a book that showed me who I want to be as a writer. Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock is is an emotional roller coaster. I cried off and on throughout, especially through the last few chapters. However, it was so beautifully written, and the characters were so interesting I enjoyed every moment of the emotional journey. Hancock writes with lyricism and brutal honesty. She writes a story from the heart, and that is what I love.
Here is the book description as found on Amazon.com:
“An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.
Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.”
The story carried me forward for a number of reasons:
- Incredible writing that is beautiful, poignant, and honest.
- Characters who felt real. Mickey’s voice, which we hear in the beginning of each chapter as well as at the end of the book, fascinated me, especially after reading some of the powerful posts Kathy has written over at reinventing the event horizon about her own journey dealing with being bipolar. Kathy has always amazed me, and somehow reading a story like hers in a fictionalized character just made me realize how incredible she truly is. I can say the same about the character of Lucy, the main voice of the story, whose journey made me think of another amazing Cathie in my life, one who battled breast cancer while watching her daughter fight (and eventually succumb) to a rare form of stomach cancer. She is another woman who inspires me to live life fully because the future is uncertain. I was grateful to be reminded of her as I read the story of Lucy.
- Although I knew I would cry, I loved the freedom of the tears. I really needed them
This book, combined with my recent reading of Gifts from the Sea, have shown me who I would like to be as a writer. I want to write a story that touches people in many ways. I want a story that reminds people of their own lives, their own stories, their own dreams. I want to make people laugh, cry, scream, smile, or simply think. I want to write beautiful words full of meaning and emotion.
So that is the writer I want to be. The hard work will be getting there.