When you were a young writer, you wrote the things you wanted to read. You didn’t know any better, didn’t have to put much thought into it. Back then, you figured, simply, that everyone liked the same things you did. A good story, the end. It was so easy. Your mind ran completely wild with ideas, and stories poured out of you.
Even now, it sounds simple enough—just write a story you’d love to see on the shelf. No problem. But selling it? Well, that has become the challenge. You hear things like, “There are too many stories like that out there” or “People don’t want stories like that anymore.” Now, there are gatekeepers, telling you what you should and shouldn’t be writing.
At first, it was all about taking your idea and molding it to fit into what publishers wanted. Add romance, they’d say, you can’t have a paranormal without romance. Add paranormal, they’d said, contemporary isn’t selling well. Make the book longer/shorter/sweeter/darker/lighter . . . more not yours. More theirs. More like what they think people will like.
Now, that creative voice inside you, the one that told you anything was possible, has been all but drowned out by the louder voices that say, “No you can’t!”
Sometimes, you look at a blank page and instead of thinking what you’d like to write, you think first of what they want you to write. Sometimes, you look at all the pages you’ve created over the years, and you can hardly recognize they came from your own hand. They’re good, yes. But they’re not you.
Now, you feel like a puppet on a string, a dancing dog in a circus. You jump when they jump. They know better. The purpose is to sell. They want you to sell. They’re on your side. They want you to make the best book possible.
But maybe, just maybe, underneath all that rubble in your head, there’s a little glimmer of an old idea. Your idea. You know, the one you had wildly when it seemed like anything was possible? It was crazy, yes. It was irreverent. It would make people roll their eyes or laugh at you. But it survived, despite all the rules and “No you can’t’s” that have been piled atop of it.
You know that idea, right? It’s calling to you.
Maybe you can pull it out, dust it off, take it for a spin?
Maybe it’s what they’ve been looking for, all this time.
Cyn Balog is the author of FAIRY TALE, SLEEPLESS, STARSTRUCK, TOUCHED, and DEAD RIVER (Delacorte) and the forthcoming UNNATURAL DEEDS (Sourcebooks, 2016). She is also the author of the post-apocalyptic YA fantasies DROWNED and BURIED (Harlequin TEEN) under the pseudonym Nichola Reilly. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.cynbalog.com.