Write What You Want to Write … Unless….

I find myself in a bit of a conundrum with my writing right now.  Am I lost for topics?  Nope.  Is there nothing I need to be working on right now?  Not at all.  Do I lack for inspiration?  Are you kidding, I’ve been averaging about 3000 words per day for the last couple of weeks!  So what’s the problem?

Well, it all goes back to that old writer’s adage that we should write what we want to write and what we want to read.  That’s writer’s gold, isn’t it?  If we are interested in what we’re writing then surely readers will pick up on that and find it lively and readable too, right?

© Jami Garrison | Dreamstime.com

© Jami Garrison | Dreamstime.com

Okay, here’s the thing.  I’m currently working on two different projects.  One is the next book in my Montana Romance series, Fool for Love.  It’s fun and I’m enjoying the journey my characters are taking me on.  Lots of unexpected stuff coming up.  But is that what I want to write right now?  Yes and no.

I’m writing something else.  And guess what?  It might not ever be finished.  Furthermore, it might never see the light of publishing day.  Why?  Because it’s fan fiction of one of my own novels.  Yep, I’m spoofing on myself.

Here’s the story.

I’ve got this truly fabulous sci-fi series that I’ve been working on off and on for about five years now.  It’s really cool.  I just spent November polishing up the first book in the series, Saving Grace.  I even gave it to some beta-readers last week.  It has serious potential.  So much so that I’m toying with the idea of taking it the traditional route for publication in spite of my deep love of all things Indie.  We’ll see.

I love the world this series is set in and I’ve put a lot of work into building it.  I could probably spend the rest of my life only writing books set in this world.  I’ve got generations of characters planned.  But a couple of weeks ago, as I was working through revisions of the first book, I found myself saying, “You know, the story would have worked just as well if the heroine had ended up with the anti-hero instead of the hero”.

Well, that was it.  I had to write that story.  Not surprisingly, it’s called The Other Side of the River.  The whole thing is predicated on what would have happened to my heroine if the hero of the original novel didn’t exist.  The funny thing is, the story works just as well (although the plot doesn’t have as high stakes).  I’d like to think that this means I’ve created a world with enough depth to support more than just one angle of story.

Am I having fun writing my fan fic?  YES!  And I haven’t entirely dismissed the idea of publishing a parallel version of the story should it come to that.  (Has anyone ever done that, by the way?  Published an alternative version of the same story?  Maybe I’m just being innovative.)  But I still have this awkward feeling like I might be wasting time.  There are other books I could be writing in series that I’ve already started and published.

So they say you should write what you want to write.  How far do we go with that?  What kind of a responsibility does a writer have towards their reader?  If I’ve started a series and generated interest, do I have an obligation to finish what I’ve started in a timely manner?  Keep in mind I don’t have any contracts and I can work with whatever timeline I set.

I definitely plan to have Fool for Love finished, polished, revised, edited, and published by the end of April 2013.  And I have set myself a goal of writing a certain humorous historical romance called A Duke and A Pirate before conference season next summer.  So it’s not like I’m just spinning my wheels.  But man, I really, really want to work on The Other Side of the River right now!

Here’s the catch.  We become writers because we love to write.  Writing is what moves us and defines us.  Once upon a time there was a time when we wrote not to publish, but to entertain ourselves.  That’s what I’m doing with this story.  I’m having fun.  I’m keeping myself engaged with my craft, and it’s a heck of a lot better than watching reality tv.

But where do you draw the line?  Once you make the commitment to be a professional, published author, can you go back to doing it just for yourself?  Does there come a point in a writer’s career where you aren’t actually writing for yourself anymore, but rather for the readers who have come to love you and your work?

That’s a lot of questions for one blog post and I don’t really have answers for them.  I’m interested to hear what other people think.  Is anyone else out there writing something extensive and meaty strictly for their own entertainment?  Anyone else beginning to feel as though their writing belongs to more than just themselves now that they’re multi-published?  Inquiring minds want to know!

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10 thoughts on “Write What You Want to Write … Unless….

  1. No writing is wasting time. What doesn’t end up for public consumption still has helped you hone your craft and taught you something about writing. Also, wasting time is highly under-rated. Artists MUST “waste” time — that is, spend time dreaming, experimenting, staring off into space, etc. Glad you are having so much fun!

    • I love the idea that artists MUST waste time. Mostly because I’m so good at it. 😉 I do have to say that I’ve discovered things about my characters through this process of fan fic that will be essential for the “real” version of the story, so it’s been useful for that. I guess I’m just the kind of person who feels like if I’m not 100% “on task” all the time I’m probably doing something wrong. 😛

  2. Ditto to what Amanda said 🙂 Write because you love to write. I still write fanfiction, although not for my own books (but hopefully one day!). Do what you love, and don’t be afraid of wasting time. It’s your life – do what you want with it!

  3. First, as Amanda said, no writing is wasting time. You’re refining your craft simply by the act of writing. And the fact that you’re rewriting a story you’ve already written from a different viewpoint is going to be very educational. It will teach you a lot.

    Second, The Other Side of the River isn’t strictly “waste”. I think it’d make a very lovely “special limited edition” someday. Or you can publish it after Saving Grace has been out for awhile as an accompanying novella (I’m just guessing at the length). I for one will be very irritated if you don’t let me buy it after telling me how awesome it’s going to be. 😛

    Third, you have already committed to having two books out by the middle of next year. Your fans will be content with that. You work on whatever else you want to work on in the meantime and no one will fault you.

    Personally, I’m quite lazy, so writing something that I don’t intend to publish just doesn’t happen for me. But you’re a writing maniac and I think you have plenty of breathing room. 🙂

  4. As someone who isn’t published (yet!) I’m still going to weigh in. I don’t think it is a waste of time to write fan-fic over your own work. A whole new perspective on a story? Shoot, sounds mighty awesome to me!

    Don’t over think it 🙂 Enjoy it. Let your imagination run free. Nothing like a breath of fresh air to get the wheels turning.

  5. There are about five or so cases in the last decade that I have written something not intended for public consumption. These are all composed of my own thorny mental and emotional catharsis or the interpretation of dreams I find illuminating.

    Otherwise, I’m so bound up in writing for my readers, for every publication I appear in and my own blog subscribers, I don’t even think of writing anything strictly for my own amusement. (Sure, I write some things that get killed for whatever reason or I toy with essays that don’t pan out, but publication/pay was always the goal). I don’t even want to go back to school, because I can’t see the appeal of writing papers for one professor when I’m used to professional-grade writing for thousands. There’s also a financial component. When you write for your living, you can’t spend hours drenched in writing that you’re not being paid for, or that you aren’t directly using to build your platform.

    I will admit, there is something sort of sad about coming to see each piece of your writing as money in your pocket. But that’s reality.

    But let your imagination roam, if you have time for it. I’m sure it’s like tilling the soil and will play into your career one way or another.

    Lastly, I’m in awe of fiction authors who carry multiple worlds around in their heads. I don’t even know how you begin to write a short story.

    • That’s kind of exactly where I am with the whole thing, Alaina. Writing fanfic for my own work is fun, but working on something for publication is money. And publicity and career advancement and one step closer to being able to support myself by my writing. Writing for fun does hone your craft, I definitely believe that, but I’m concerned about taking time away from “real” writing.

      And I generally carry about five or six worlds around and switch back and forth between them like I’m channel surfing throughout the course of a day. Plus I can quite frequently be found staring blankly into space when the action gets really interesting in those worlds! =D

  6. Hello!! I made a question to your friend Alaina M. an she submitted my question to you…does it work publish yourself your own books on markets like iTunes or Amazon? I’ve been always curious about this but never had the opportunity to ask someone about this experience…I will be grateful with any information you can give me. Thanks!

    • Yep! These days every online bookseller who sells eBooks has a program for authors to self-publish their work on those sites. I publish directly on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, and I work with a site called Smashwords which distributes to iBooks and all of the other eBook sellers. Each site has a relatively simple process for uploading books. But you do need to make sure they are formatted correctly before you upload them. Smashwords has a really great tutorial manual called Smashwords Guide to Style that is essential to understand how to format your manuscript. You also need to provide your own cover image. I used Pehr Graphic Design for my covers. And, of course, I strongly recommend that you hire a professional editor to edit your manuscript before you publish it.

      And once you’ve uploaded the book and it goes on sale, then you have to market it and find readers, which is no easy task! They say you have to spend as much time marketing your work as you do writing. Not my favorite part of the process, let me tell you!

      Let me know if you have any other questions. =D

      • Hey Thanks a lot!!! that’s a very complete answer…look if you think is difficult to you, to me as a colombian is a very complex process, cause those sites ask for a lot of papers plus the taxes bla bla bla (and I don’t speak english so if I want to publish in that language…the things get little more complicated)…. but at least I know it is possible, that paperwork is just another step, I work with inDesign and Photoshop and for sure I want to know Smashwords and Pehr Graphic Design. I’m writing right know…when I consider the manuscript is finished…I’ll contact you again for sure. Again a million thanks for your answer. 😀

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