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.