The Should-Be Hole
When I begin to dream up a book, I can see the perfect image of what it should be. The feel it should have, the messages to come through, and where it would sit on a shelf in the bookstore. I think about how it'll be different from the others I've written and the challenges but also awesome moments it will have.
Then, I begin my rough draft, and it's nothing like I imagined .
I don't have all of the answers I think I do. The prose is clunky and awkward. Characters aren't developed. There's so many plot and world building holes it looks like Swiss Cheese.
When approaching White Rose, I pictured this big sprawling epic fantasy. I would have maps, charts, appendixes to all of the political alliances and family trees. I even have a guide to the religion and all of the deities. Which is pretty great and I'm proud of the work I have gotten done, even if it's not totally complete yet.
I realized then, that it's been a long time since I've read a big epic fantasy for an adult audience. I wasn't even sure how those books felt anymore. I've read them for young adult, but not adult lately. So, I picked up one.
Goodness, it was boring.
Now, I love long descriptions and a beautifully detailed fantasy world like anyone else. But this book had me so bored. It had rave reviews and had everything I'd usually enjoy in a fantasy. Intrigue, romance, a great leading female character, etc. Yet, the style of the writing left me completely bored and I had to force myself each day to pick up the book.
Later, I thought about the other fantasy novels I tend to enjoy. The big fat adult fantasies are in there for sure, but the vast majority are either urban fantasy, or they're young adult. It made me think about how I'm approaching my own novel. (Now, if only New Adult would become an actual thing and not just a romance sub-genre... that would be great because I think my novel would fit there... but that's another topic for another time.)
What's been making me stumble with my last couple of projects is the idea of what the novel "should" be. I think it "should" be one thing, when that thing may not be what I actually like or am good at. Or, I think about the book as how the end result will be, and not what the rough draft is.
VE Schwabb wrote this on her Twitter once, and I still think of it often: (I would link the tweet itself, but it was in 2015 and I don't have the patience to scroll through her feed that far back)
"So many people set out to write a Novel of Great Importance. I just want to write stories that make people forget where they are. I want to make readers miss their stop. I want to make them smile and gasp and cheer. I want them to have fun."
A lot of writers think about this, and it's not an uncommon struggle for myself. (I wrote about it when Schwabb first wrote this tweet on my old blog in 2015!) I think my novel needs to be Very Important. It has to have the most advanced vocabulary, beautiful prose, and have Deep Meaning. All of these things are great and wonderful.
But is that really me?
I hope my books have deeper meanings than they may appear and will touch people who read them. But ultimately, I want them to be enjoyable. Not a chore for someone to sit through as they struggle to pick it up because supposedly it's "good" for them.
I refer to books like that as being kale. Some people love it, and that's great for them. But for me, it's that healthy food that is supposed to be really good for you and in the end my body will probably be glad I ate it. But the process makes me cringe because it just doesn't taste good.
It's not just with writing though. How many times in our lives do we see something and think "that's what my life should be!" But, that's not reality at all? And that's okay.
Too many times we stumble because we think we need to be, look, and behave a certain way. We should have a certain type of job, our relationship status should be one thing, at a certain age or body type you need to dress a specific way, etc.
Why do we put this pressure on ourselves? It can be good to set goals for ourselves and be sure we're making progress and taking care of our lives, family, friends, etc. But these goals should be based on what we like, enjoy, and do for ourselves. Not what we think everyone else would find impressive.
But it's a hard rut to get out of. I see myself with my career and where I am in life and find myself comparing to others and what it "should" be. When I write I imagine what my novel or my blog posts "should" be, and then it becomes something I don't actually want or like.
What do you do to get out of the "should be" hole?
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