Sunday, December 18, 2011

Write what you want to write

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Well, this was kind of an exciting week. Minotaur Books offered me a contract on SKATING UNDER THE WIRE, book 4 of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series. YAY! I love writing Rebecca and I am excited to get to work on her newest adventure that will be published in the Fall of 2013.

I also had one other piece of good news. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has bought my 3 book GRADUATION DAY young adult series. The first book, THE TESTING, will be published in 2013 as the lead Fall (although they are now thinking it might be Spring) title with the other books to follow in 2014 and 2015. To say I’m stunned would be an understatement. My new editor and the entire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt team is incredibly excited about the series. Their enthusiasm is both thrilling and humbling.

The story is darker than my mysteries and while when I conceived the story I was fascinated by the concept, I admit that I wasn’t sure that A) I could effectively do the world building required for the story or B) my agent would like the story or the voice it was told in. But the decision to write or not write the story was tipped in one direction because of these words:

Write what you want to write.

Last May, I was having a phone chat with my agent. During the conversation, I asked her what project I should write next. I had two books to write on my contract for my new show choir series. The deadline for book 2 wasn’t for over a year, but I assumed that my agent would want me to write those books first before writing anything else. Still, I mentioned to her I had an idea for this Young Adult book…. I waited for her to tell me to keep focused or that she didn’t really rep YA. Instead, she said that sounds really cool. You should write that. I must have sounded surprised because her next response was – WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE.

Those words had a profound impact on me and not just because I have received the kind of contract I never dared dream of. Those words themselves were freeing.

So often we hear that authors need to stick to their brand. That authors need to stick to the genre that is working for us. Stick to the voice and the stories we have an audience for. But instead, I was told to write the story in my head and see where that story would take me.

Now, I’m a pretty fast writer. I tend to write a mostly clean draft of a manuscript in about 3 months. Had it not been for that fact, my agent might have had different advice for me. She might have suggested that I write those next contracted novels and wait to write the other idea until after they were completed. Because this is a business and there are obligations I have promised to meet. But she knows me and thus told me to write the story I really wanted at that moment to tell. Let me tell you, I am beyond grateful I followed her advice.

So, I guess the point of this whole story is this—don’t let anyone tell you that you “the author” are locked into doing just one thing. Being a writer means day in and day out we get to create. There are no limits to the stories we can tell. The most important thing we can do as authors is write the story we are passionate about. That passion is why we do what we do. And we are lucky we get to follow that passion and see where it leads us.

In case you are curious - here is the PW copy about THE TESTING - 16-year-old Cia is chosen by her government to undergo The Testing, which determines whether she gets to proceed to The University. The University is for the country's best and brightest teens; during The Testing, extreme psychological and physical trials pit the teens against one another to determine who has what it takes to become a leader.

1 comment:

Supriya Savkoor said...

Joelle, yes, much credit goes to your super agent, but face it, you are super-author! You write a pretty clean first draft in 3 months? And change genres like the rest of change lanes on the freeway. You're no longer my inspiration but my aspiration. So impressed and so proud. Thanks for the words of wisdom too -- I need them today. (And tomorrow.)