Tuesday, May 21, 2013


It's our privilege here at Honestly YA to introduce Holly Bodger, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist!  She's talking about confessions!  Take it away, Holly!

I have a confession: earlier this year, I choked. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was five years old and had been actively writing novels for seven years. For the first couple of these years, I was still learning how to write. For the next couple, I was trying to get an agent. And for the final few, I had an agent and was trying to get published. Most people would think I was getting closer and closer to the prize, but I wasn’t. The more I tried to get published, the harder I tried to get published. I couldn’t just write anymore. I had to think. Has it been done before? Will an editor buy it? Is it a dead genre? Is it a trendy genre? Is the dialogue stiff or cliché? Am I telling, not showing? Does my character have a goal? Is it too preachy? Does my antagonist have a motive? Is my main character likeable? Will a reader buy it? Will the book store put it on display in the front or would they bury it in the back next to the Suzanne Somers clear out? And on, and on. The result was me staring blankly at a screen. I could come up with ideas but I had a hard time getting past the noise.

I decided I needed a short break. I wanted to enter the Golden Heart® and I didn’t want to think about original concepts and dead genres and all that stuff. I wanted to write a book full of characters I loved and so I did. I took my favorite teen movie (Cruel Intentions) and I flipped it over. I moved the characters to an Art School and made the sibling rivalry between two girls, instead of a boy and girl. But I didn’t want a pretty, rich girl for the main character. I wanted a geeky band girl with crazy hair and a penchant for falling on her ass. For the boy, I wanted an artist; the kind who’s afraid to give away his heart and yet shows it every day in his paintings. The kind who paints his heart the way I was trying to write mine. Without thought. Without inhibition.

After I finished this book, I tried to return to my regular self but I couldn’t do it. So I stopped cold. I left my agent and the Big Publishing goal and decided to take some time to think about my options. Should I give up? Change genres? Blog? Self publish? I still hadn’t decided which path to take when I found out I’d been nominated for a Golden Heart. I took this as a sign. My problem was not that I wasn’t good enough; it was that I was trying too hard to fit into someone else’s definition of good and I’m not someone else. I’m me.

The next time you wonder if you should write the book that’s in your heart, remember this: Great artists are the exception, not the norm. If you want to be exceptional, don’t follow the crowd.

Follow you.


Kimberly said...

This made me cry. I feel the same way! I edited and revised the hell out of my other manuscripts, and none of them finaled. I wrote this one in one month, polished it up a bit for a couple weeks and entered it, and then it finals. I didn't second guess myself. I just wrote from my heart. I was sick of wondering if I've made my main character sympathetic enough. Had I worked in all the five senses?--or six in some cases. :-) Is there a goal in every chapter and obstacles as well? Does every scene lead to the main goal???? I was sick of it all. Just write the book of your heart, already!
Sometimes you just have to write the way you feel it should be written--with heart and without inhibitions! Good for you, Holly! I love, love, LOVE this post!

Gail Hart said...

Congratulations on finding your voice again, Holly. :-)

Pintip said...

Wow, Holly. This is one of those stories where I'm SO GLAD you finaled when you did! This blog post is such an inspiration. Thank you for this reminder to write from the heart. Major congratulations on the final!

Melissa Landers said...

Congrats on your nomination, Holly! Burnout is a very real thing, (even after you're published), and I'm glad you found your passion for writing again.

Lorie Langdon said...

Holly, I love, love, love this!!! I honestly don't think you can go wrong following the story of your heart. Your enthusiasm will shine through the manuscript.
Big Congrats on the Golden Heart nom...sounds like it happened at just the right time. :D

Leslie Lynch said...

Powerful post, Holly. Many of us have experienced the same flagging of our enthusiasm, but you nailed the reason: trying to fit our work to someone else's definition. It doesn't work. Thanks for sharing!

Congrats on your Golden Heart final, and I hope it translates into an awesome publishing career! :-)

Darcy said...

What an awesome post, Holly! "Follow you." Is probably the best advice you could ever give a writer, and it's something we need to be reminded of again and again. Because it's all too easy to get sucked in the undertow of the "Committee." Those inner critics telling you you're not good enough and planting seeds of doubt that shadow every word.

The Committee are buttwads and dream crushers.

When I sit down to write, I visualize a HUGE roll of duct tape which I slap over every single one of their mouths.

Because if I listen to them, then I'm not following me, right?

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Holly! Wonderful having you as a Savvy Seven Sis ;)

Bonnie Staring said...

Oh, Holly!

I'm printing out your post and putting it into my MOTIVATION folder for those times when the inner critics get too loud.

You're extremely brave to "follow you" and not get swept up along with others chasing the market or the "right" way to craft a story.

Thanks for sharing this, Holly! Can't wait to meet you in Atlanta!

Amy said...

I love this, Holly, and I really needed to read it right now. Thanks for that and all the support and camaraderie you've offered your "sisters". That sale will happen, and we'll be cheering you on.

Sandra Owens said...

This is such an inspirational story, Holly. I think trying to write for what Darcy calls "The Committee" is probably the worst mistake a writer can make.

Congrats on your final and see you in Atlanta.


Miranda Liasson said...

Great post, Holly. Thanks for sharing your journey and look forward to meeting you in Atlanta!

Kari Edgren Miller said...

Amen, Holly! Reading your post was like reading a modified version of my writing journey. Last spring/summer I got so caught up in the chase for publication, I lost sight of why I even started writing in the first place -- because I love it!. Thank you fro sharing, and keep writing what you love!

Unknown said...

Man. I feel like you're speaking from my own subconscious! I went through all that with my agent/submissions to editors. Went through it worse in some ways last year after I finaled. Froze. Couldn't figure out what to write. Too many conflicting "should"s in my head. It took a while to get out from under. Yay that you did!

And the book sounds wonderful! I've got an art school YA in my head too, coincidentally, though my plot will be very very different. (I went an arts high school, majoring in visual art, so it's semi autobiographical, except for the parts that totally aren't.) I'd love to read yours!

Nan Dixon said...

Holly - I'm so glad you kept going! There is so much wait time in this industry -- it's hard not to get disillusioned.
Hope your final leads to wonderful things! Can't wait to meet you in Atlanta!

Stephsco said...

How interesting that you were inspired by a teen movie--one of the other GH finalists did a sort of inspired take on Ferris Buehler's Day Off. It makes such a difference to write what you want to write, the way that moves you. Best wishes, and congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I too have to remember not to over think it and write what's in my heart and what I would want to read. I know I've nailed it when I get excited to read my own work!

Good luck & congratulations!

Holly Bodger said...

Thanks, everyone. The support in the writing community really is wonderful!!!

Connie Gillam said...

A very inspirational post, Holly.