Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!
Almost everything we see or hear influences us. We may not realize it at the time, but everything does. Some things are positive influences, and some are negative influences. Some spark an “aha!” moment, and some are more insidious, sneaking under your defenses without you realizing it.
This happened to me recently. I have struggled to get words on a page for my work-in-progress, Darcy Overhears. For weeks, I forced words out. Forced. They were good words, don’t get me wrong, but they took so long! And every single day, I stared at the page going, “I do not know what to say.”
My friends, Rose and Leenie, had a couple of times helped me with the story. They went over my plot structure diagram with me and helped me adjust it so it made sense. They brainstormed with me. They read each day’s work and made suggestions for adding in actions and showing emotions, and keeping the timeline smooth. They listened and commiserated about my issues with the story.
I found myself repeatedly coming back to this simple statement, even as I tried to continue on the path I had set for the plot: I like it when Darcy and Elizabeth get together quickly.
As I stood in the kitchen the other day, thinking about and praying about the story, that thought came back to me again, and I realized that the story was not going in that direction. I had let other stories and other writers, and even some reviewers and readers, influence my writing style! I had not realized it was happening, but there it was. Darcy Overhears was someone else’s story, not mine. I was trying to get Darcy to take it slow, and that’s not me. It’s not my style, it’s not what I like, and by allowing that to happen, I was left feeling unfulfilled and floundering.
Immediately upon realizing this, I shared it with Rose and Leenie. Their advice to me was to go with my gut and change it, either now while the story was still relatively young, or at the very end, during the editing process. Since I had already decided to print it out and re-read, I chose to change it now. I printed all thirty-five pages of story, and began reading. I crossed things out and scribbled in new things, and page by page, I transformed my Word doc. The story now reads very differently, in my opinion. If I have missed anything, it will be caught during the editing process. I’m ready to move forward.
Part of my brand is that I get Darcy and Elizabeth together at the beginning of the story. I do get complaints that it’s too fast, but that’s part of me, and part of who I am. I want to see them conquer mountains together.
That’s not the only reason I do this. Getting Our Dear Couple together quickly fills a need in me. I’m not sure I can name it, but my stories become part of me, and this is one of the reasons. I hated Darcy Overhears for weeks, and it was because I had let other people and things in my head. Now that I have made changes and gotten them together quickly, I love the story. My word count the day after the change was the highest single-day count I’ve had in months, and it was all because I felt fulfilled. My need was met.
I’ve thought a great deal about this in the last few days, and I think I have hit on why it happened. I look around at other JAFF authors and their books, and I see who is most popular. My books rarely hit any list of recommended stories. As a matter of fact, I tend to scroll on past posts in Facebook groups asking for favorites or recommendations. I’d have to be tagged to even see it. I know I’m not popular. It’s like high school all over again, to be honest, and I have matured to a point where I don’t need to look and get all bummed out. I ignore. BUT, I want readers to buy my books and like them. So, without realizing what I was doing, I tried to do what the popular kids are doing. It didn’t work. I’m me, and I don’t want to change. There’s room in JAFF for all kinds of styles. I don’t have to be Joanna Starnes or Cat Gardiner or Sharon Lathan or any other author. I can be Zoe Burton, who loves insta-love. <3
If you’re a writer, have you let other books or authors influence you? Has your experience been good or bad?
Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3