I’ve been gabby lately, but I can’t help it. Blogging is a good break when I need to put the novel down for a few minutes.
I just want to pass on some advice I heard that may help my fellow writers answer the oft-spoken question “What should I write?”
Many people know they are writers. They have a natural talent for putting words together into magnificent stories that leave readers breathless. Picking a subject, or a genre, is daunting, however. There are so many! Which one does a beginning writer choose?
I faced that question in February. It was my last semester of classes before I wrote my thesis and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing. It was time to begin writing for myself, time to start publishing. But what? After reading the stuff for three years, I felt I should write “literature;” in other words, mainstream stories with powerful emotional messages. But I didn’t know if I wanted to. Sure, I love literature — Hemingway, Steinbeck, Carver, Wallace — but I didn’t know if I wanted to write like them. It seemed to me that literary writers piled heavier and heavier miseries upon their protagonists and in the last chapters, killed them. After suffering with chronic depression for 19 years, I wasn’t sure I wanted to relive those emotions and invite a possible relapse.
So, what should I write?
About that time, my professor said “What should you write? Well, ask yourself what type of books fill your bookcase. If you like to read it, then you should write it. Chances are other people will want to read it, too.”
I went home and looked at my bookcases. What dominated them? I had virtually everything from theology to history, from Tolstoy to Twain, from science fiction to horror. One genre, however, towered over them all, filling the entire bookcase in the living room. FANTASY! I am drawn to the mythical, the archetypal, the heroic. I had Tolkein, Howard, Lovecraft, and King Arthur. I had a whole row of English history books. I had books on dragons and swords. Heck, I even had a sword hanging on the wall!
I had a duh moment. A duh moment is when the answer is so obvious that it’s overlooked and it takes someone else to point it out. As in … “What color is my hair?” “Take a look in the mirror, doofus!” DUH! “Where are my glasses?” “What are those things on your nose!” DUH! “What should I write?” “What the heck do you spend all your time reading and all your money collecting?” DUH!
I committed to the fantasy genre, and I have never been happier in my life.
So, if you’re stuck on choosing a subject for your story, ask yourself what do you like to read? Write what you like to read. You will be happy! And so will your readers.