the most important ingredient in your writing recipe

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Hermione Granger is my spirit animal.

Just a little tidbit you may not know about me.

Like our favorite wild-haired brainiac, I’m a reformed know-it-all, hopefully a little more bearable to live with than the girl whose hand was raised so high, her fanny had lift-off from the plastic, grade school chair-desk. But I still devour information about topics that interest me. Google has especially enabled this tendency. 

Now that you know this important piece of trivia about me, let me tell you what happened after pressing send on my second manuscript. I bought a ton of craft books. I studied the industry — both my little subsection of it and on the whole. I tried a variety of writing tactics recommended by plotters, pantsers, speed-writers, and the like. But despite abiding by my tried and true M.O., I began to flounder between book ideas. The DELETE key became my BFF.

Why were my first and second books so much easier to get on the page? After months, I finally had an epiphany this weekend.

 

Yes, it’s important to study what’s selling in the industry, to follow your agent’s recommendations if you have one, and to sharpen your craft until it reaches an almost deadly fine point. But there was one important thing I’d forgotten:

You have to write what you want to read. 

I learned that you can read all the books and blogs until you’ve fine-tuned a rubric with the most popular and sellable aspects in your genre, but if you don’t start with what makes your story one you’d like to read, 1) it likely won’t be unique enough to thrive in the industry, 2) it might not have the pulse that breathes life into the muscles and bones of the plot anyway.

 

So. What kinds of ideas spark your stories? Inspiration from real-life? Music? Movies? Themes or scriptures? That indignant feeling when you would have ended a novel differently? 

 

Tell us in the comments!

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