I know when you see this title, especially as a new author you're either wondering how is it possible to fall out love with writing? Or I could never not love my passion.
Truthfully it is easier than you may think, and it doesn't happen overnight; it's something that sort of creeps up on you. Different authors have different reasons why they enjoy penning novels, and therefore we have different reasons as to why we may one day simply fall out of love with something we once couldn't get enough of.
If you're new to writing, I was too once like you, full of energy and sometimes unable to even sleep due to all of the storylines I had flowing through my mind constantly. I was so wrapped up in creating stories for my readers that I would sometimes even neglect human interaction with my family and friends. Thankfully they understood that this was my passion and didn't feel offended when I'd rather be writing than going out for drinks.
At this time it seemed like nothing could stop me. I had plenty of stories to deliver, and since I'd quit my job due to the amount of faith I had in my craft, I had plenty of time to do what I loved. This was around 2015 and the next summer in 2016, I began to feel a bit slighted I would say. In my opinion I was crafting these amazing books, my few readers had told me so, yet I wasn't doing as well as others. Author's who had just come out were getting number one hits and best seller stickers on Amazon, whereas I was about twenty books in and was lucky to hit the Top 20. What was I doing wrong? I read their books and while yes they were great, so were mine so what was the issue?
Whenever I would come on to social media and see posts raving about an author's work, or see readers listing their faves and I was never on the list, overtime I began to believe that maybe Shvonne Latrice had just hit her peak. Maybe I wasn't meant to become a big author who had hundreds of readers drooling over her books. Maybe I wasn't meant to hit the number one spot on Amazon with ease, or have people wanting a signed novel from me.
I wasn't okay with it but what could I do? I couldn't force people to read my work. I mean yeah author's gifted copies of their books, but a lot of times readers would return them and buy what they really wanted. And I didn't want to have to resort to giving my hard work away for free, just for someone to read it or hell not even read it, just return it. Not saying this gifting option is frowned upon, it's definitely a great promotion tactic, but after 20 books I felt like I should be able to gain readers a bit more organically than that.
I still loved my craft, a lot actually, but it was truly taking a toll on me. Knowing I was neglecting my family and friends, staying up all night, not even getting my nails or hair done until a book was complete, just for it to bomb was disheartening. Even worse, I put a series out, part one did fairly well (Top 10), and then the next series after barely hit the Top 20 again. Part one hit #14, and the remaining installments did worse and worse.
So, I told myself I was going to take a break. Maybe if I took a break and came back, things would be better and I'd have a newfound outlook on being an author. Yep, that sounded like a plan.
However, I wasn't so lucky because just as I decided on this, my publisher called me and basically begged me to write a book, any book, as long as I used this title he'd come up with. For one I wondered why me? Why would you waste a good title on me? You have successful authors that could do this and it'll skyrocket, why in the hell would you possibly waste this title on Shvonne Latrice? I realized later that he chose me because he actually believed in my writing skills, AND he knew I was a sponge. If you've ever been a publisher, a sponge type author is the best one you can have on your team. They're willing to listen, learn aka soak up the knowledge given, and apply it. And 90% of the time they always become successful. I always use the example of Rihanna and Teairra Mari. If you know me I am a diehard Rihanna fan, but I can acknowledge that Teairra was a better singer back then. However Rihanna was the sponge, willing to listen, learn, and apply vs Teairra who kind of wanted to do her own thing despite what a person she entrusted her career with told or advised her. Look how differently their careers turned out. That's not to say that the boss is always right, but if you signed to someone for their expertise, why not take it into account?
Anyway, I've digressed a little so back to the subject at hand. I wrote the book for my publisher, as my kind of farewell book before my hiatus. I was so defeated that I didn't even check the numbers, nor did I even stay on Facebook once I posted the link. I knew what was gonna happen. It was gonna tank just like it's predecessors, and I was gonna be upset so why even keep tabs on it? I was wrong though... happily wrong. The book went... #1?
I was shocked and thought it couldn't be real, but there was a huge difference in feedback letting me know this was very much real. I had constant inboxes, group requests, group posts, wall posts, emails being sent to my publisher; just so different from the past...THIS WAS IT. People really did like my work, they just hadn't seen it!
Wow, I had a #1 series and couldn't wait to write my next one but guess what... it didn't do nearly the same. I was confused, floored, and beginning to think that my last series was just a one time thing which happens. Sometimes you only get that one song, that one book, that one movie, or that one tv show and nothing else again. It sucked to think about but hey at least I'd gotten some success.
I kept pushing though, finished out the series and started a new one. I wasn't feeling the new series too much just because I was so defeated, but after forcing myself to write, I began to just enjoy the process. So what if it didn't hit, I was having fun writing this so I was going to finish it.
I put it out and low and behold, it went #1. What was happening? At that point I realized everything was a crapshoot. That's just how the game went when you were creating something where it's success depended heavily on public opinion. It had nothing to do with you, most times, it's just sometimes people liked your stuff and sometimes they didn't.
After that series, I dropped another, it went #1, and then another... it went #1 too. Wow. This was amazing and what I always wanted right? But I forgot that with success comes A LOT OF FEEDBACK, CRITICISM, AND COMMENTARY. So whereas before I got a few comments here and there, now I was getting them left and right, and some weren't nice nor constructive. I had readers coming to my social media and leaving rude comments, some even having the gall to inbox it to me or post in my reading group. Needless to say it was a culture shock.
And I know some of you reading this may feel "Well my books are amazing that would never happen to me" but it will. Books are subjective, and there will always be someone who hates it. Your favorite song, book, movie, or tv show is despised by the next person and vice versa. It's just life I had to learn.
Some of the feedback I was getting, even from other authors was so bothersome that it began to affect my writing. I was noticing that instead of telling my friends or family that I couldn't go out, I was putting off writing to see them. Instead of staying up all night writing, I was writing maybe one or two hours of the day and busying myself with something else. The mere thought of writing was tiresome and caused me to roll my eyes when I remembered having to do it.
How did I go from being able to write a book in a week to not even completing a chapter a week? How did something I loved so much become a... chore? I had storylines for days, but having to sit down and flesh them out was stressful. This was what I wanted, to be successful, have readers yearning for my books, and everyone reading them but now that I'd gotten it, it wasn't as perfect as I'd assumed.
Don't get me wrong, I love having an abundance of readers and people enjoying my work. I even like when people get frustrated by it because it means I've evoked some type of emotion. Getting number one's on Amazon is a great feeling, and having readers ready to chop my head off for the next installment is a BLESSING. But while I was so busy praying for success, I didn't take into account what it all comes with.
Anyway, when I realized my passion had severely dwindled, I kept asking myself what happened? Why had writing gone from an enjoyable career to the equivalent of when I used to have to clock in at the call center? The answer was simple: I was allowing people's opinions of my books to influence me too much. When I did write for those one or two hours, I could barely get anything done because all I thought about was if people would like this, or would people hate it? Would they say this about my character? Would they say that about this scene? Writing USED TO BE fun because I was freely creating what I wanted without rules, but now that I had placed so many rules on it, it felt like a job.
Authors, I know a five star review is tempting, and a one star review is maddening, but once you begin writing for everyone else, you will hate the craft. It's okay to take into account certain feedback, especially if it's quality issues. Quality issues MUST BE ADDRESSED, whereas opinions can be ignored, it's up to you.
The problem with allowing opinions from every Tom, Dick, and Harry to influence your writing is that it's NO LONGER YOUR WRITING. You're creating a book based on what everyone else likes... and to me that's boring. It takes away from the art of creating and will eventually take away from your passion. And even worse is that when you do put out this body of work crafted based on the likes and opinions of others, THERE WILL STILL BE PEOPLE WHO HATE IT. So what are you gonna do next? Make a new book for them? Then the other people will hate it, and now you're in a vicious cycle, doing something you don't even love anymore for people who will move on from you as soon as a new writer catches their attention.
Once I realized I was allowing outside opinions to take over, I put a stop to it. I told myself I was going to write what I wanted and how I wanted as long as it interested me. And as long as my quality was 100%, I couldn't care less about what someone's opinion was, because no matter what way I wrote the book, someone wouldn't like it anyway. So I did that, and some people loved it, some hated it, but hell that was gonna happen anyway. I then started to notice certain comments and feedback didn't bother me at all. What used to make me feel bad didn't make me flinch, and writing was fun again.
I quickly learned that some, not all readers, find power in leaving harsh reviews or rude comments. They know, especially with new authors, that they can control you with those stars and reviews. Sometimes we as authors want our work to be loved so badly, that we allow ourselves and our work to be controlled by the masses.
Constructive criticism is giving the good with the bad, even when you feel like there isn't anything good. A review of constant bashing should never be taken too seriously. An honest review, even when bad, lists at least one positive, and then respectfully explains the negatives. Keep in mind though, not everyone will be pleased with your book as I stated before, and just because someone doesn't enjoy your book doesn't mean they're a hater and it definitely doesn't mean your book is bad. Some people hate avocados, does that mean avocados are bad? Absolutely not, I love them!
However reviews with things like "If this happens in the next book, I won't be reading it." is not constructive. It's a scare tactic some readers use to force you to create what they want. It's them telling you, if you want that five stars, you will do as I say.
So all in all, the keys to staying in love with writing is to one, not focus on another author's success. Yeah, it may be frustrating that they just came out and they're popping, but that was God's plan for them, not you. If you drive a car while looking in the lane next to you instead of watching your own lane, ultimately you will crash. My slower success was a blessing in disguise because I learned a lot about how the industry works, and what breeds success or what will cause a book to tank. Had I been successful from day one, I wouldn't have learned much of anything (speaking for myself only).
Second key to staying in love with writing is to write what you want and without pressure. The more you think about what other people want or demand from you, the less enjoyable it will be, and the less you will write. When you write your next book, keep the mindset that this book will be successful no matter what you put in it, and I promise it will be much more fun.
Keep that quality on 100, and the rest won't matter. Don't try to emulate what's popular, but do keep on trend.
For example if love stories are popular, don't write about a motorcycle club and expect it to do well. However if everyone is writing about female characters who rob and kill, you don't need to write that if it's not what you're into. Like me, I've never been into Queen Pen type books and I won't write them. Just nothing about a book where a woman is running a drug empire interests me, but there are plenty who do love it. I'm not going to write that because people love it, or because it's what got someone else successful. So at the end of the day, focus on your own journey, write what YOU want, how YOU want, and for YOURSELF & you will always love what you do!