The Kind of Writer I Want to Be

Every artist has a niche. What’s mine?

There have been so many new followers lately, I feel bad for not having more time to post! I can’t believe we’re nearing 800 of you lovely folk. This might be a bit belated, but I welcome all of you and I hope you find something worth your time on this site. When I get a breather from my semester of brain death, I will take the time to check out your blogs as well. In the meantime, please introduce yourselves!

First of all, I have some news for y’all — like always, there’s good and bad. The bad news is that after a summer of waiting, it looks like my second novel is heading in the direction of my first: into the drawer for now. The good news is that I am beginning to feel okay (and even happy) about that, and I’ve started working on my third novel. Now that I’ve finally let go of my second novel (we’ll call it Naked), I can look at it objectively. It’s a good book and it was the best I could do then, but I’ve realized that it’s not the kind of book I want to write. So in the end, I’m kind of grateful that the publishers passed on Naked because now the door is open for me to write something better. That brings me to my current novel-in-progress (let’s call it Water). I started the first chapter weeks ago, motivated by a blogger friend’s story. But I wasn’t ready to dive headfirst into Water because I wasn’t sure I had the literary maturity to write that kind of story. It’s bigger than anything I’ve attempted before and I’m moving outside of my comfort zone, certainly, but as I make progress on the novel, I’m gaining confidence that this is possible. Moreover, I’m convinced that Water is the kind of book I want to write.

I’ve talked before on this blog about my own uncertainty as a writer. What kind of writer do I want to be? Do I want to be a literary writer, esteemed by critics, headed for Nobel/Pulitzer accolades? Do I want to entertain the masses, make tons of money, become the next J.K. Rowling? Somewhere in between? As a young and unpublished writer, it’s difficult to answer these questions. Often, authors’ first novels brand them as literary/commercial/young adult and so on and so forth. Usually, they are stuck within that genre and don’t really venture outside of it. For example, while Jodi Picoult is one of the most successful authors in her generation and her books cover a wide variety of topics, she is very much a brand. Each of her novels are structured in the same way and feature realistic, character-driven plots. I doubt she would try her hand at young adult or high fantasy. She’s found her niche, and if she’s happy with it, she should stick to it.

Jodi Picoult, courtesy of Blogs Courant.

But me? I would like the opportunity to explore many different genres. My most successful short story was written for a class assignment and it was science fiction/dystopian. In general, I prefer to write realistic adult fiction that has a multicultural aspect, but I sometimes have a lot of fun writing young adult or even new adult. With all this in mind, I’ve had trouble balancing the kind of novel I want to write with the kind of novel publishers/the market is looking for. In Naked, I thought I had found the perfect equilibrium, but something about it didn’t appeal to editors. With Water, my attitude is different. To hell with what the market wants; I’m going to write the book I want to write! Although Water is but a newborn at 6,000 or so words, I’m falling in love with it in a way I never did with Naked. I believe that by writing the way I want to, and not worrying about the potential audience, I will end up with a book that the world can fall in love with too.

Since I’ve been reading all kinds of manifestoes (Communist, surrealist, futurist, etc) for my classes, I’ve decided to write my own artistic manifesto. Voici the result:

Rebecca’s Artistic Manifesto

  1. I will write whatever the hell I want.
  2. I will not dumb myself down to please the masses.
  3. I will not insert big words I don’t even know to sound smarter than I am.
  4. I will tell stories that are rarely heard in the mainstream (i.e. children of immigrant parents/teen pregnancy/racial minorities/religious cults).
  5. I will use my fluency in six languages to add authentic multicultural dimension to novels.
  6. I will not write the parts of books that people usually skip over.
  7. I will prioritize the quality of my writing equally with the quality of my plot.
  8. I will write for people of all ages, but I will not censor myself for the young.
  9. I will write to teach people something about the human condition.
  10. I will focus on female protagonists and female relationships, because popular culture is already filled with men.
  11. I will embrace and not alienate male readership.
  12. I will bring attention to my roots — both in China/Taiwan and in Michigan.
  13. I will respect my readership and always take the time to interact with fans.
  14. I will push myself to my limits and try everything at least once.
  15. I will never stop writing.

That’s all for now. After all, I can always write a second manifesto whenever I want. For now, I’m going to work hard on my novel and enjoy the beautiful fall weather in Ann Arbor. Check out my new boots!

Rebecca's New Boots

As a reader, what kind of book do you look for? As a writer, what is your artistic manifesto like?

À la prochaine,

R

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