Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pub Life: Why We Write

Before I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference I planned on writing this post about all the useful tips I picked up.  I was going to focus on marketing and trends in YA, thinking those topics would be the most useful things I would get out of the conference.  Turns out I was mistaken.

Don’t get me wrong; RWA was full of GREAT information (which I will definitely share in the coming weeks).  But the most important thing I learned at the conference had nothing to do with the business of writing and everything to do with the heart of what we do.  Thanks to RWA and the amazing writers I met, I remembered why we write.  

At RWA I met some of the most incredible women (the lovely Colette Ballard, Elizabeth Langston, and Katie McGarry just to name a few)— women who inspired me, women who motivated me to be better.  I felt an instant kinship with the women I met.  That kinship pervaded the conference, creating a community unlike any I imagined, making me so proud to be a writer.  

Because even though we come from different backgrounds, and live very different lives, we share a common love.  We’re all on this journey together because at some point in our lives, books touched us, changed us.  And we want to pay it forward.  Something within us compels us to share parts of ourselves in the stories we write.  Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget this.

I’m at an exciting point in my career as a writer.  I have my first book coming out in January 2014 and my head has been filled with things surrounding my launch.  What will my cover be like? Should I do a Goodreads ad? How am I going to get the right number of reviews on Amazon? Are people going to really buy this thing? I love the business of writing; it’s why I wanted to blog about publishing tips in the first place.  But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in talk of advances, and contest finals, and awards, and sales numbers, and it’s all too easy to forget the real reason we get up, hunch over our keyboards and spend hours lost in a story. 

We write for a story that needs to be told.  We write because we hope that somewhere out there, someone will be touched by our story.  That it will make a difficult time easier; give them hope when they feel lost. 

I didn’t always have the greatest childhood.  There were too many times when I felt alone, stuck, powerless.  Books saved me.  In those moments where my reality became too difficult to deal with, I read.  I escaped by opening up the pages to a novel, travelling to Regency London or modern day Europe or the scene of a budding mystery.  Reading gave me hope, it instilled in me the belief that I could do anything, that I could be anything, when reality told me otherwise.  Books offered solace, they allowed me to identify with characters in similar situations to mine, allowed me read about characters who found their inner strength and overcame obstacles greater than any I ever imagined.  For all the times I felt like crying and opened a book instead, and was transformed, I will forever be a fierce lover of reading.  That’s why I write. 

I write because one day I hope that someone who is struggling in their life, someone who doesn’t quite believe in their full potential, but knows that they want more, will open one of my books and will find hope.  That in my words they will know they aren’t alone.  That they will find an escape from whatever hell they are facing.  I owe so much to books.  I write in the hope that I can give something back in whatever way, even small.

I met so many writers at RWA whose work already does this (Katie McGarry, I’m looking at you J).  And I was in awe of the impact they have on their readers (myself included).  It reminded me of why I write and what’s really important in this industry.  Sure, it is a business, but it’s also an art and a gift.  It has the potential to inspire and uplift.  And what really matters is the letter from the reader whose life we’ve touched, whose day we’ve made better.  We have an awesome potential to help people, to reach out to them across the page, and it truly is an incredible blessing.

If we always measure ourselves by the business side of things, we’re always going to face failure.  At some point in everyone’s career there will be a book that’s not well received, a contest judge who gives us harsh feedback, a review that stings.  It’s the reality of this business.  But if we focus not on those little failures— on the book that doesn’t sell or the agent who rejects our query— but the ‘why’ behind our writing, we have a chance to be truly successful. 

If all I ever do is give a reader a few hours of happiness, I’m going to call it a win.  Because I know how much books have given me.  And it means everything.  

Chanel Cleeton is an avid reader and hopeless romantic.  She’s currently living an adventure in South Korea.  Chanel writes Young Adult and New Adult and is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON..., will be released by Harlequin HQN in 2014.  You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her own website.


  1. What a beautiful writer's voice you have. I can't wait to read that voice in a full novel.

    I loved meeting you too. It's truly weird--and completely amazing--how easy it was to become fast friends through our love of books!

    1. Aww thank you! I loved meeting you too and can't wait for Whisper Falls!

  2. Thanks for the pep-talk! Always good to hear...
    ~Just Jill