Writing Your Own Path

Writers work independently. But we also make decisions to break the rules, to do things our own way. Wickeds, let’s talk about our independence as writers.

Edith/Maddie: What an intriguing question, Julie! I’m not sure it was rule breaking, but when I wrote Delivering the Truth, the first Quaker Midwife Mystery, I didn’t have a contract for it, and my Kensington editor had already expressed his lack of interest. But the setting and characters were urging me to write the story, so I did, and now I’m about to start writing book six in the series. On the business side, I really admire how Jessie figures out innovative and independent ways to promote her work and then goes for it. I’m taking notes, Jessie!

Jessie: Aww, thanks, Edith! I am really touched! I think what I’ve learned most about independence is that it is vital to keep my own priorities for the books I write and the career I want to have firmly in mind even if they don’t line up with anyone else’s. There is a deluge of advice out there for writers and without a North Star of one’s own it is very easy to get jostled about. For my work I have a strict personal rule about following the fun. If I don’t think a book is fun, I don’t write it. It doesn’t matter that my idea of fun is researching minutia or imagining innovative murder methods. It just has to be fun for me. When it comes to career I have found it is vital to question everything, especially common wisdom, and then to take the actions that move me forward on my goals even if the experts say otherwise.

Barb: Jessie you are so inspiring! Carving out your own path and owning what is due you. I am such a little rule-follower, good-girl. I think the main way I show my independence is I don’t follow many of the “rules” you hear for cozies, or even for traditional mysteries. I have one book where my sleuth isn’t the one to solve the mystery, and one where the murderer does not appear in the book at all. No one seems to object (except the very occasional Goodreads reviewer), not even my editor. So I’m not sure it’s rule breaking if no one tries to enforce the rules.

Liz: Jessie, I totally agree with Barb and Edith – you are inspiring! I love your rule about following the fun – there aren’t too many rules I like otherwise. I have a Gabby Bernstein affirmation that I go back to often that’s similar – “I measure my success by how much fun I’m having.” For me, this means, like you, Barb, ignoring – as much as I’m able and as it makes sense to the stories – the rules that normally apply to traditional cozies. I tend to gravitate toward the darker side of mysteries and don’t mind if some of that seeps through into my cozy series.

Julie: You’re all inspiring to me! Jessie, love “follow the fun”! Sounds like a good mantra for all aspects of life. One way I’m trying to explore new rules is by writing a thriller this summer, to see if I can do it. There’s no contract for it, just my own curiosity. And yes, it’s fun!

Do you have rules for the books you read? Writer friends, how do you show your creative independence?

11 Thoughts

  1. When I first started writing, I tried romance (since I knew it sold well), but I found quickly that I did not have a romance voice. Then I looked at my bookshelves and found that the majority of the “keepers” were some form of cozy/traditional, starting with the Golden Age authors. My decision was clear: write what I enjoy. Forty books into it, I’m still enjoying them (and reading them from other authors).

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  2. I only read books that interest me in some way (the character, her job, the setting) and that grab me in the first couple of chapters. There are a lot of books out there and I only have so much time to read, so if it isn’t interesting by the end of chapter 2, I move on to another book. I don’t usually regret it and I rarely wonder what happened in the book.

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    1. When I was younger I’d muddle through, but now I stop as well. I may go back and try again, especially if the book is well regarded. But otherwise, life’s too short to not enjoy what you’re reading.

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  3. Love “follow the fun!” So true! If you’re not having fun, the reader won’t. Love Barb’s idea that cozies don’t have to be written a certain way. As long as you engage your reader, they will be happy.

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  4. How am I a rule breaker? Check out my blog. I don’t just talk about books. I realize that dilutes my appeal in certain circles, but it is fun, and reviewing other things also works different muscles. If I just talked about books, I’d get bored. (But I also might be less busy blogging since I wouldn’t be putting up something new every day.)

    As for what I read, if I’m interested in it, I try to work it into my reading schedule. Yes, I mostly reading cozies, but I do occasionally like to branch out as time and interest allows me to.

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  5. I’m mostly a rule follower with a rebellious streak. As far as reading, I prefer cozy mysteries but I don’t fuss if they stray from the normal cozy standards. I also read some regular mysteries as well as romances and autobiographies.

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