Deb Sarah on the Writing Advice She Always Falls Back On

Have I shared my little affliction? I come up with far too many novel ideas. Really, I think of them all the time. The lovely author Carol Cassella calls it a disease, actually. (And she’d know—she’s also a doctor!) Just tonight, in fact, I was out at a restaurant with my family, and—bam—I had a whole cast of characters imagined, a plot (flimsy, but interesting) and a title sketched out in my head. It’s a strange disease to have, given the fact that I have very little time to explore them right now. With book #2, The Bungalow, coming out in April 2012, and book #3 halfway written, I have plenty on my plate, and yet … I can’t stop the ideas.

But, back to writing advice. I read or heard (can’t remember which or from whom!) a great little nugget of advice that resonated with me, so I’ve adopted it and made it my own. The idea is to never, ever sit down to write a story if you’re not completely in love with it. Yes, there’s somethign to be said about trying out a voice or a theme—fine and dandy. But if you don’t love your story, if it doesn’t haunt you and keep you up at night, then it won’t excite agents, editors, and most important of all, readers.

This is why a lot of my novel ideas never make it past the cocktail napkin stage. And that’s OK. I only want to pursue the ones that are truly worthy of my time … and yours!

Writers–have you ever given up on a story you were writing because you fell out of love with it? Readers–can you tell when an author isn’t in love with her story?

xo, Sarah

12 Replies to “Deb Sarah on the Writing Advice She Always Falls Back On”

  1. Good morning! I have recently read favorite authors and it appears that not only did THEY not love the story and characters they had created over the years, but neither did the ghost writer (blind, unable to read, never set foot in a library or bookstore) who actually wrote the book….. One author reader’s think is she is long dead – DEAD! LOL!

    Yes, I’ve started stories that just didn’t tickle my fancy – or my plain – for that matter. And you do need to love your story, I agree Sarah. That’s why when people ask, “Can you turn my idea into a book for me please,” we smile and nod and scream “NO!” in our heads.

    I’ve become a story generating machine, and then I don’t make time to start writing – LIFE gets in the way and that’s a real problem for me right now. I’ll even share one idea with you – after all, each of us could take this idea and write a completely different book.

    I collect old cookbooks. In an antique/junk shop I found a retro recipe box from the 60s. I loved the art. Even better, when I picked it up, it was full of typed, hand written and retail recipe cards!! I felt as if each recipe was a glimpse of a family snapshot – holidays, birthdays, funerals, summer picnics, the last day of school, Sunday supper – it’s all in this box, right? My title is “The Recipe Box.” The rest is a hazy blur of “I should write this….” And I’m starting to love the story. Uh oh!

  2. Good advice, Sarah. Writing a novel is hard work (no matter how much fun we have doing it),and if you’re not in love with the story — and, for me, the characters — giving up would be all too easy.

  3. I absolutely have – mostly when I was obsessed with *selling* a book more than *writing* a book. I’ve cleared that particular hurdle now, but it was definitely the case!

    I don’t know if I can tell when authors aren’t in love with their story. I can certainly tell when an editor has been sleeping at the wheel, and maybe that happens in conjunction with the lack of love?

    I adore Carol Cassella.

  4. I’m a seat-of-my-pants kind of writer, and I’ve discovered that when I try to plot things out ahead of time (i.e. when a publisher requests a synopsis before I write the book) it totally kills my love of the story or my desire to write it.


  5. That nugget of writing advice is worth its weight in gold! (Ha! Get it? Gold nugget…) Seriously, though, I think it’s some of the best advice I’ve heard. I worked on a novel idea for awhile and while I loved the idea – and still do – something about it wasn’t clicking so I put it aside. But only for now – I will go back to it! I feel the same way about loving the stories (as opposed to novels) I write. I love them all but some of them move me more than others. One story (published today!) is getting wonderful feedback and I’m so glad because it’s one that’s close to my heart. 🙂

  6. I just read the Amazon reviews for a HUGE author with a MONSTER series – and almost every review said the same thing – a mediocre to poor review with questions about continuity, character reality, and that the author seemed to turn in a rough draft. Can an author really write a long term series and succeed – or to fans get SO involved that you can not please them at a certain point??

  7. I’ve given up on a work I wasn’t crazy about. It’s always hard to do, until you realize it frees you up to fall in REAL love with the book you’re meant to write. It’s the difference between wasting time in a relationship with someone you’re settling for and getting back out there to find the ONE. I think I’ve finally got the right idea for my next WIP, and I know because every time I think about it, I feel giddy and jump up and down with excitement.

  8. Yes, all the time! Usually I don’t even get to cocktail napkin with them, though — if I’m there, I’m interested. I’ll just think something would be a cool idea, but I’ll know it’s a cool idea I want someone ELSE to write, and I won’t pursue it farther.

  9. Sarah, I think a writer must love their work, it’s so different than say an actor who says he never sees his movies. A writer has to write, read, re-write and love their work.
    What I see most in some writers is how sadly some work becomes formulated, I won’t mention anyone specifically, but they are often big selling certain genres of fiction and too predictable.
    As a reader I also know what I like fairly early in, and if a book doesn’t make me love it within 50 pages or so, I give it up. There are too many books I want to read!!

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