I don’t want to be Nicholas Sparks…

I don’t mean to say this as a blanket statement. There are reasons why Sparks’ books do so well. He speaks to people. His themes are overarching. His books hold transcendence. His success speaks to his abilities.

When I was at the Pikes Peak Writing Conference in April, Don Maass gave a seminar about his new writing manual and he touched on The Fire in Fiction (my writing Bible); he asked the class of about 200 people: “What’s a new emotion in your life? In the past year?”

For me, that emotion is satisfaction with my success. I wrote a novel, found a publisher, and my novel has been well received by most readers. And with it came new feelings, new awareness. To feel like it’s all worth it: the hours I’ve spent reading, researching, creating: it came to fruition and now I have this work and people are appreciating it. I set out to honor my family by telling their story.

But what can this emotion teach me about writing? Self-discovery. Self-awareness.  How can I relay it? By creating characters that must work to realize who they are.

Lady Gaga recently said that she has found that she is in a constant state of transformation. That sounds exhausting but, as writers, we need to ensure that the novel is constantly evolving in order to hook and maintain its audience. To ensure success, you must be mindful of your readers.

Don Maass then asked: “What kind of ghost do we leave behind in the minds of our readers?”

I want to be a reminder of the greatness of youth, of bravery, of the inspiring nature of words. I want my novels to build bridges and to lead people back to where they need to be (a lofty goal, to be sure). I want to murder and create and make new paths. Simultaneously, I think there is a difference between knowing that you have an audience and trying to write books that for the purpose of being a commercial success. I’m not writing for a paycheck. I write because I know no better way to be myself.

So here are my questions: What’s a new emotion for you? How can you infuse it into your work? Why are you writing in the first place? How does that help your audience latch onto your work?

image credit: everythingsright.com

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8 thoughts on “I don’t want to be Nicholas Sparks…

  1. Change. The knowledge that once certain thigns happen, things can never go back to the way they were. Death of the comfortable, so the need to forge the new comforts. Not sure if this is really an emotion, but it’s something that’s just been hitting me a lot this past year. I’d like to be able to write my books so that things do change and the characters can’t go back, so the only thing that’s left is going forward and learning how to deal with that new situation. I think it’s a universal emotion and discovery and something that, at some point in everyone’s life, happens, so it connects with readers on a deep level.
    So why don’t you want to be Sparks? I haven’t read his writing, so if this was something self-explanitory, it just shot right over my head.

    • He has a propensity to write for an audience and some of his books go straight from being manuscripts to being screenplays for movies. I think that art is diminished when it comes from a need to make money or to please mass amounts of people.

  2. Please don’t be Sparks because the phrase “lowest common denominator” comes to mind and I don’t like to think about math too much. Continue to make new paths and challenge yourself and others. That’s what I like to read about. I’m sorry I haven’t read your book yet, but I really enjoy reading about your journey.

  3. Thought provoking post.

    I start with the idea of a new emotion. What a question? What is the answer? I would have to declare stale. It was a fleeting moment. I didn’t like it so I made a few changes.

    Lady Gaga is on target. It confuses me to “be myself.” What does this mean, “to be myself?” Humans are in constant transformation, traveling at different velocities and all to the same different destination. Do we recognize self when self morphs?

    Writing a blog was one of the challenges I chose to alleviate stale. It was unexplored.

    The insiring nature of words is allusive though present. Words are powerful. They create and destroy. Please do remind us.

  4. I could not agree more to the title! I love the post.. my predominant emotion through the past year has been – freeling free. Followed by a close second of confusion. I have written this and that for as far back as I can remember and to use the new found freedom and reduce the confusion, I am about to devote a much larger fraction of my life into writing. Thank you so much for liking my blog post..
    Ishita

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