Monday, December 17, 2007

Fire in the Belly

There is an excellent article in the Christmas edition of the Spectator by Tony Parsons on why writing a bestseller requires something more than writing simply for the money. It requires heart and passion. Bestsellers become bestsellers because they are written from the heart. He argued even Harold Robbins with his books that became the runaway bestsellers wrote from the heart. I found myself agreeing with him wholeheartedly.
As a professional writer, it goes without saying -- I write for the money. It is how I earn my living. But I care passionately about each and every book I write. If I didn't care, the reader wouldn't care.
Why do I write the books I write?
Because I am PASSIONATE. Passionate about the need to have good historical romance where the setting is vivid. Passionate about the time periods involved. Passionate about the characters. And most importantly Passionate about the stories I want to tell.
Parson points out about idiotic boyfriends who tell the girlfriend -- go ahead write a chick lit, it's easy and you can make money. So you get idiotic people who think that writing Harlequin Mills and Boon is easy. I would say the reason why the current stable of writers write for HM&B is because they are passionate about the stories they write. They care intensely. These books would not be as successful as they are IF the writers were not dedicated to the medium.
Here I should point out that every HM&B is a world wide best seller. These books speak volumes to women around the globe. You do not get that sort of following without heart and fire in your belly.
Writing commercial books does not mean that the writers are any less dedicated to their stories.
Success in storytelling comes from being passionate about your stories. Full Stop.
Sometimes, yes, writers who would rather be writing other things get taken on, but they do not tend to last. And they are very much the exception rather than the rule. Also sometimes, writer's own individual interests takes them on a separate path from HM&B, but it does not mean they do not care passionately about the stories they told, rather that the Muse has led them elsewhere.
Without passion, without heart, stories can feel contrived and flat.
Ultimately because writing is such a long and lonely process, no one writes for the money. It has to come from the heart. One has to care passionately. In order to succeed in this business, you must have fire in your belly. You must have the desire to write the story. It shows in the writing. Always.

The very lovely Ray Anne went and found the url of the article. You can read it here. I read from the print copy as the Christmas Special of the Speccie always provides food for thought. Among other things, it has a Molesworth article and an article about the orgins of the crib.


Nell Dixon said...

Writing is about passion. Most writers, myself included, write because we can't not write. The money is lovely but as the main wage earner for my family I can't rely on my writing income to support us just yet awhile. Indeed, it may be never, as writing is not a well paid profession for the vast majority. I write because I have stories that I want to tell and I've been fortunate in finding publishers who are equally passionate about those stories as they fit well with their lines. Some stories fly out of my fingers and on to the page, with others I sweat over every single word but the passion is there for both kinds as I become immersed in the world my heroes and heroines inhabit and I try to do the best I can to make that world live for the reader.

Ray-Anne said...

Ditto what Nell said. Passion. Emotional investment. Willing to pay the price to make your characters and their world available to others.
Love. Passion. Life.
Thank you for the tip = I will make time to follow that link up.

Ray-Anne said...

Found it.

'Do not write about what you know - write about the things that will not let you go.'

Unknown said...

Also agreeing wholeheartedly here.

Being paid is (or will eventually) be fantastic. But in all honesty I'd still be spinning these stories in my head even if I never sold a single one.

Your passion for the story leaps of every page Michelle. ACWW has given me a wonderful December!

Kate Hardy said...

Excellent post, Michelle. Spot on. :o)

If it's not from the heart, you're cheating your reader - and yourself.

Donna Alward said...

Yes excellent post! Dedication to me also means a dedication not only to the goal but dedication to the stories you need to tell. Mind if I steal that link? I'm back to the blogging world today. :-)


Unknown said...

Fantastic on :-)

Kirsten Campbell said...

Brilliant post, Michelle!

It's so true. The best books, the ones where you become so invested in the emotions and passions of the characters and their story, are the ones where the author is so obviously passionate about it themselves. The passion feels real, because it is real.