Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing From the Heart

If you hang around people who write with the goal of publication in mind, you will most likely encounter a discussion about how much an author should consider the market when writing. Most authors that I have heard address this topic advise writers to compose from their hearts. I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me that writing the story that holds my interest to the point of giving up food and water is the way to go.

And yet. . .

I have to admit that I often dwell on what kind of story my readers most want. Considering the marketplace is like considering the chocolate cake on the counter. I know I should ignore it, yet it is there, tempting me to come closer. So, I am aware of what kids are not just reading, but devouring. But how much does awareness affect my writing?

After watching a certain thirteen-year-old that I adore finish his intense video game, I asked him (once his heart rate settled and he stopped sweating) about what books he has most loved reading. Answer: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Later, when I returned to my work in progress, I wondered if the previous chapters I had just finished writing were too quiet. Hmmmm.

And then I read a piece by Jerry Spinelli in the July/August Horn Book Magazine. Apparently, his first four books went unpublished. “I wanted to be read. I wanted to touch readers,” Mr. Spinelli wrote. For book number five, he stopped thinking about readers and focused on the story. This novel was published. “When I stopped aiming for readers, that’s when I got them,” he wrote. And: “I’ve since tried to write strictly for the story. . .” He won the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee in 1991.

I think Mr. Spinelli has nailed it. Write for the story. Write from the heart.

What do you think?


  1. I'm with you. Write from the heart. You have to find your niche and be true to what you write best.

    great post!

  2. I absolutely agree. Any most authors say the same thing in various different ways.

  3. I so agree, Cynthia. It's such a long haul for a book to get from conception to publication - if we don't love it in the meantime, than it becomes just a job. I believe any book with lasting value must come from the author's heart.

  4. I admire people who can write for hire but that is so not me. If I'm not intensely interested, then I can't find the motivation to finish.

  5. Ahh, I'm in great company here! I'm glad to hear that you-all agree. Thanks for your wonderful comments!