Writing is the most important thing that writers do. We know this. We believe this.
I wholeheartedly believe this and that’s why, on this blog, you’ll hear me talking a lot about “lighting up” kids book authors. (And lighting myself up as I write.)
What does that mean?
My theory is that authors should write everything from the same place. This is writing with passion, writing from the heart, writing because you believe it will help a kid, a parent, a teacher, or a librarian to communicate a basic truth, to help kids (and adults) to feel an emotion, or to put themselves into someone else’s shoes for a day or so. This is why I write. Am I missing the mark?
Writing from this place creates incredible books, meaningful connections, and that quick intake of breath by a child or a parent when they discover a universal truth for themselves from something you wrote.
And yet, when an author often writes something other than a book (aka promotional blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the writing seems forced, choked, in this artificial way of communicating. Sometimes, the author is obviously frustrated and her audience quickly becomes just as frustrated.
I think there’s a better way.
I think authors should not separate out their promotional writing activities from their books. True, you have to plan this a bit ahead of time, but think about writing a blog post or handling an author interview or showing up on Facebook and Twitter and writing from the heart. To me, that’s powerful.
That sounds too easy, some say. Others say, no way, that’s impossible.
Hang in with me here.
What is prompting you to write those books in the first place? Really.
Shouldn’t this be the same thing inspiring your promotion? Take the promotion out of it.
Shouldn’t this be the way you communicate all the time with your readers?
How can you do it, though?
I’m going to give you a cheat sheet. And first up,
1. What’s your story?
Thomas McCormack wrote an awesome book called “The Fiction Editor: A Book for Writers, Teachers, Publishers, Editors, and Anyone Else Devoted to Fiction.” A gem of a book. A small paperback reprint was put out by Paul Dry Books in 2006, I believe. Grab that one.
McCormack likened the theme of a novel to an overarching axiom—something that encompasses what the writer is trying to do in that novel. This is what I mean by story. What’s your axiom? For the breadth of your writing career? From where you are today. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, just today. Tomorrow, it may change, but we’ll deal with that tomorrow. (Yes, I’m channeling Scarlett O’Hara.) What is the thing that you can’t stop talking, thinking, writing books about? What is it that drives you to communicate? That’s usually your axiom. It could be a saying, a quote, a word, an emotion, a truth.
You may not figure it out for a while. You may not find it until you talk to a friend or author or your agent or your editor. And even if you find it, you may want to change it. That’s fine. But this is the first step. Think on this. Forget about your readers, your friends, society’s pressure. Find out what makes YOU light up today.
We’ll be talking more about this in the weeks to come. Any comments or questions on what we’ve got so far?