Identifying What I Bring
What do I offer in my writing? What has value? And why would anyone care I wrote a book?
One of the branding projects I went through this week involved me going through all of my reviews and seeing what people liked about my work. It’s hard writing books no one might want to read. It’s hard launching a book that doesn’t sell super well. I’m a USA Today Bestselling author that no one has heard of. That’s frustrating.
So, in really taking charge of my brand, I need to figure out what it is I truly offer.
What I think I offer
I think I offer great characters who go on this amazing character growth arc because that’s what I focus on. I think I write about people others can connect with because they make real choices. What makes them real is the fact that in that moment, they’re given facts and ideas and reasons while they’re feeling whatever they’re feeling, and then they make a choice. Sometimes, it isn’t right, but they make it and they’re forced to live with the consequences that then shape the rest of their arc and their story.
I also think I create amazing worlds. When I say “amazing worlds,” I mean I create fully dimensioned worlds. I invest a lot of time into building each one which is why I don’t typically just write a single story and then abandon the world. When I create a world, I sink in and create a lot of stories. Typically. At some point, I do want to come back to Illona. I love the world of Devices of War and I’d really like to have fun there again. It’s a challenging world, to say the least, but, man! I had a lot of fun there!
What the reviews say
The reviews, oddly, didn’t say much about the characters or the world. They were both mentioned 1:5 reviews. That seems pretty low for it being what I focus in while writing.
What they say is that I surprise them. My stories are page turners and that they don’t know where the story is leading.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, letting it roll around. As of this morning, I’d come to the conclusion that the reason for this was because I’d invested three years of my life writing outlines for authors. I’d intensively studied how successful novels were written, the structure they used, and what structures worked best for which books.
Let me tell you. That stripped the absolute fun right out of reading books for a long while.
However, as I was sitting here typing this post, I realized that - yeah, okay, sure. Yes. That investment of time and energy absolutely helped me. But did it solidify my expertise here? No. Why?
Because in a lot of cases, authors wanted the same format for each book. They wanted the characters to go on the same arc, the same path, the same beats.
But I let my characters choose their own path.
I could go into a very long discussion of beats because… seriously, I breathe beats at this point. I can watch a TV show, movie, read a book, short story, whatever and tell you which beat was hit when and what structural method they’re using for the plot and character arcs.
But people being people don’t follow beats.
When I treat my characters to be people, allowing the space to exist naturally, it’s sometimes challenging to figure out how to tell a story that has beats. Beat are used because it’s proven to help tell a story that people actually want to read.
*shrug* So… am I still a character-centered author even if my readers mainly remark on the fact that I surprise them with the story?
Yeah. Actually. I think so. And I think I’m okay with that.
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