Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Letting Your Passion Rule You

So, five days into National Novel Writing Month, and I got an idea for a new book.

A shiny new book. A New Adult, contemporary romance book. Something I've never written before. Something I've never even wanted to write before. I read a couple in the genre and couldn't get into them. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller was all right, but nothing to write home about. I hated Beautiful Disaster. Sociopathic control freaks and co-dependent relationships are not my thing--not to mention the ending is so anti-feminist it would probably make my mother cry.

The thing that frustrates me most about NA is the same thing that frustrates me about a lot of contemporary YA: it looks at life through a rose-colored lens when it suits the story, and then twists reality into some twisted happily-ever-after new reality that's so far from the truth, so far from a healthy understanding of reality that I think in many ways, it's damaging. Damaging to readers and damaging to the genre. (I wrote a whole post a while ago on The Princess Fantasy (or Delusion) that covers this in more detail.) I believe in escapism, don't get me wrong. I love living in a world for a while that operates on different rules. But when a book operates on real life, contemporary rules, and the characters get tattoos of each other's names and get hitched in Vegas at nineteen and are abusive and crazy and possessive, I'm going to sign out.

So I got an idea for an NA book that would please me as a reader, because obviously, I'm kind of a difficult-to-please reader when it comes to the contemporary romance genre. An idea that's about death and grieving, about the lure of adventure, about the ups and downs of real love and healthy love and unhealthy love, and best of all--about the life of traveling kids all over the US.

There are a lot of them here in Portland, coming in and out throughout the year, and I see them all the time walking down streets on the east side with backpacks on, panhandling on corners in downtown, sleeping in train stations and moving from one thing to the next, without ever having savings or settling down.

And the craziest part, having met some of them personally, having befriended some of them personally, is that this lifestyle is selective. They choose it for themselves most of the time, choosing not to be rooted down, choosing to take life as it comes and travel around and see as many things as they can. I had a friend leave her regular job just to go on an adventure like this, with only the promise of a short-term job. Work for a few weeks, save up, then travel some more until another job comes along.

So there I was, barely 6,000 words into the adult fantasy novel I'd planned for NaNoWriMo when the idea for Traveling Boy hits me. I quickly brainstorm some endings with a friend over Google chat. She gives me some great ideas. I don't even write them down. My roommate asks, "Are you sure you want to do that? What if this is just a fling, just a shiny idea that has no future? Will you still be interested in it in a few weeks?"

"Yes!" I insist. I'm filled up with this idea. I can't stop thinking about it. "Yes. Just you see. I'm going to go home and write 5,000 words tonight before bed."

She shrugs. "Well, okay then. Good luck."

I finish up my work for the day, microwave some quiche, and sit down in front of my laptop. That was at 10pm last night. Between then and 1:30am, when I finally was too tired to keep my eyes open any longer, I put down 8,359 words. More than I'd gotten in a week with my previous book. This post is late today because I'm up to 10,768, and hopefully will hit 15,000 before my evening plans.

Because if there's anything I've learned about writing the last couple of years, the books that I really jive with--the books that I'll do anything to finish--are the ones where I let my passion take over. I find the idea, I fall in love with it, I start writing it right away.

If it sticks, it'll stick. If the book is right, if the story and the voice are right, the passion will follow. The passion will take over. The passion will make it happen, as long as you believe in it, as long as you put yourself in front of it and let it rule you.

Back to work!

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Check out the synopsis and excerpt of Traveling Boy

Read more of Kiersi's writing advice on her blog, The Prolific Novelista, or follow her on Twitter at @kiersi.


  1. Awesome! So fun to hear about stories taking shape like that.

  2. I am always enjoy hearing these types of stories - one) tells me I'm not alone, and two) reminds me how having a passion like writing is a wonderful thing...Rooting for you

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  4. Wow! That's so awesome Kiersi! Definitely think you made a great choice writing Traveling Boy and I can't wait to read the final product:)