Monday, March 22, 2010

Who am I?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend re-vamping my blog and website. I really felt like my blog in particular was a generic, cookie-cutter product that didn't showcase any of who I want to be as a writer. Then, I got to thinking about it and realized that when I started my blog a little over a year ago, I had no idea who I was.

I wrote my first book in a flurry of keystrokes, cranking out a product that fit a preconceived notion of what I thought readers(and agents)wanted. It was soft, fluffy, and a bit non-committal. In essence, the book was a big fat bowl of vanilla ice cream. I took a break, queried, took my hits and started back up, this time working on a sequel. I relaxed a little, let my personality come though a bit more, and the end result was--well--more like pralines and cream. A step up from vanilla, but not by much.

The rejections rolled in, one after the other. My request rate, a little worse than ten percent. "Your writing shows promise, but it's not quite there," became the standard response to submissions. I took another break. A little longer this time. I networked, I blogged, I critiqued. And I made some friends in the writing world. But it wasn't until a rainy Saturday morning last May that I finally realized why my writing wasn't quite there.

A single sentence popped into my head. A voice in, of all things, first person. Um, I don't write first person! I don't like it! But the voice would not be silenced and an idea bloomed in my mind bright and urgent. I sat down at my laptop and in one weekend wrote the first 10,000 words. The story was dark, my heroine, bold, brash and unapologetic. Her steel-toed boots and samurai sword were a far cry from my previous characters. The tone of the novel, decidedly darker. I wrote the book in just under three months and couldn't have been happier with the end-product. My voice had finally shown through. The story had taken on a life of its own, no longer fitting the mold of what I thought readers and agents wanted. This book was one-hundred million percent ME. This book was a big 'ole bowl of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey. And you know what? This book has had a much better reception. I can't believe how blessed I've been during this long query process.

One of my friends asked me the other day about my first book, now shelved and resting, maybe indefinitely. "You could always revise it," she said. "Do you think you will?" I thought about it, rolled the possibility in my mind and said, "I've been thinking about that, and I've decided that book just isn't what I want to be known for. It's not the kind of writer I want to be. I like the dark stuff, I like hard, angsty characters." And I know--KNOW--this dark stuff won't be everyone's cup of tea. But it's mine. And if I like it, there's other readers and agents out there that will like it too. I didn't try to please anyone but myself, and by doing that, I became the writer I knew I could be.

So when someone asks, "What do you write?" I'll no longer waffle on the answer, trying to decide what they want to hear. I'll answer, "I write dark urban fantasy. And I like it."


WindyA said...

What a great post on your growth and journey! I'm so glad you've found your groove!

Mary McDonald said...

I'm glad you found your niche. I'm still looking for mine. I like dark angsty characters too along with some kinds of paranormal elements, but that's not a requirement.

Darlyn said...

Congratulations. I've been asking myself the same questions. I write in a smattering of genres, but which one do I really want to be known for? I don't have an answer for that yet.

Btw, I like angsty characters too. I'm just not sure if they like me, though. :)

Matthew Rush said...

Hi Amanda. Great post. I love to hear from other writers about their personal journey. I found your blog when I saw you follow Hair Dye & Samurai, which I love, so I stopped by to become a follower.

Please feel free to visit my blog and do the same.

The MC in your new project sounds tantalizing. You hooked me at steel-toed boots and samurai sword. I can't wait to hear more. Keep it up!

ModernDayDrifter said...

That's really great that you found your voice in your writing. I'm still searching for mine. I generally like male characters who are overcoming a bad past. :)

Zoe said...

Hey, Amanda! Just found your blog from some mutual Facebookers (Elana Johnson, Danyelle Leafty, etc. etc.) - and I love this post. I went through the same kind of thing last year with a long, tangled WIP that was just a mess. It was a dark fantasy - then I realized I YAM dark, but not so much fantasy. My brother actually asked me, "Why are you messing around with YA and fantasy, instead of just horror?" And it made me think. Then it made me crack open my new WIP, which has been flying along since January. Almost done, and it's a straight-up piece of literary horror that I'm proud of. My motto now? "Do It Dark." Go, fellow darkling!! Come check out my blog if you get a moment; I'm always on the look out for "dark" writer friends. Cheers!

Patti said...

Just found your blog. Way to own your genre, good for you.

Christine Fonseca said...

Good for you Amanda - and I love writing dark as well!

Theresa Milstein said...

It's great that you found your way. It's hard to find our voice. When I think back to my first manuscript, although I love the story, there was much I didn't understand. It would need a complete overhaul.

I saw your last post that you're now repped. Congratulations!

Jessica Hill said...

Congrats on finding your voice; that's a tough thing to do. I'm still working on it. I also have shelved my first manuscript, which I've thought about returning to, but like you, it's not what I want to be known for as a writer, so now I'm working on some other ideas. Good luck in your journey!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Came on over from Suzy's. I'm really impressed with this post. There is so much advice out there that it can get confusing. I think you are right that we must ask ourselves what our passion is, not what we think it ought to be.

The Empress said...

I love all this stuff, the details, the history, the beginning.

I love it.

Thank you for your time to give this to us.

It just rounds all of the events leading up to your joyous announcement.

I am very happy for you. And it took guts, and that inspires me.