Monday, July 13, 2009

The "Heart" vs. the "Head" Novel

When you're trying to break into the publishing world and be a successful author, your novel ideas generally tend to veer toward whether or not it will fit with your platform, if it will be marketable, or if it will become part of your brand. Published authors do this, after all, and usually if they want to write something different, it's after they've been established for awhile and have a solid fan base.

But what about those ideas that creep up on you that do not necessarily follow what you normally write?

That happened to me Saturday. I'd just gotten home from the horse races with my brother (my first time going and it was so much fun) and I'd stopped by Barnes & Noble to grab a few things before coming home. I hit the shower and when I got out, I had a fully-formed novel idea in my head. Lines were jumping out at me and I raced to my computer, got frustrated when the Microsoft Word took forever to load, and then I finally sat down and started typing.

I don't know how long I sat there - it couldn't have been more than 15-20 minutes, but by the time I was done, I had a solid outline, vibrant characters, GMC's, absolutely everything I needed. I couldn't believe it. All those weeks I'd struggled to come up with a story idea and one had dropped into my head with no effort on my part whatsoever.

I toyed with the marketability of the idea, realized it was pretty sound, but then also realized that it is not what I normally write. Since I'm well into the prep phase for my next novel and I'm in the querying stage for another novel, this new novel wouldn't help me build my platform as a debut novelist.

Then I realized that I simply didn't care.

This book will be solely for fun. It requires minimum research and the characters are all right there, so the normal preparations I make before starting a novel really aren't needed. Everything has already been done in that one fifteen-minute brain dump I had the other day.

And if I decide that I want to pursue publication of it someday, well, that's fine by me. But it's not going to be my main focus. Instead, I plan to forget the whole publishing world while I'm writing this story and just focus on my characters and their world.

Which brings up another point. When you move to the stage of your writing where you are actively seeking publication, have an agent, or even a publisher, you necessarily think of platform, brand, marketability, publicity, promotion, etc., for your novel. It has to come into your brain at some point. That is the business side of this crazy roller coaster ride and to brush that aspect of the publishing world aside is a bit dangerous.

Wouldn't it be wonderful, though, if we didn't have to think of that side? If we didn't have to worry about platform and marketing and all the rest of it, but could just write our story? I suppose this is where my old belief of "write the first draft with your heart, the second with your head" comes into being.

Maybe this "fun" novel of mine will find a place on the shelf some day. I'm not discounting the possibility, but neither am I making it a priority. I'm going to write this story blissfully and deliberately unaware of that "other" side to the writing business. It's a freeing mindset, one I'm anxious to explore.


  1. Just what you needed! I'm very excited for you.

    And I really like this thought of heart vs. head writing. It really can be applied to my writing life, and I want to focus on the heart portion with my WIP right now. That's what's important. Thanks for the point in the right direction!

  2. I'm sensing a future bestseller here, written from the heart :)

  3. A story idea leaping up like this is a gift--and I absolutely agree, it's a gift to honor by pursuing it. Although all those things--marketability, platform, etc--do come into play, and the wise writer pays attention, still--in publishing, I firmly believe heart trumps head.

    Yay for you--go for it!

  4. I've written from both places. "Heart" nourishes the soul. "Head" requires discipline.

  5. What good news! Both sides of your brain getting to come out and play.

    I have my current WIP in "head" stage following massive "heart" work. And I'm always thankful for essays, short stories, articles and poetry for feeding the non-business side of the routine. :)

  6. Go for it! It is so much easier, and such fun to write when we're doing it for the sheer joy of it rather than worrying what publishers and agents want. Enjoy!

  7. Anything that draws out the passion of the writer like that is worth taking a look at. Any agent/editor worth his salt will know that. ;) Good luck!

  8. I can totally relate with what you're saying, Melissa. Right now I feel like I'm at the mercy of the publishing industry, that I'm striving to find what they want me to write. Hopefully, in the end of all the discussion, it'll end up being something I really want to write too!

  9. I personally think that this is the best way to write. A story told with passion is always better than one without. I also think that readers can spot a story that you're "not so in love with." At least, I can. When I can't manage to keep reading (and I'm obsessive about that) I always ask myself first if it's because it seems like I'm not in love with this book. And if that's the case, could it be that the author wasn't either? Who knows? All I know is that I love to write with passion and if I'm not, it's not the right story for me.
    I'm very, very happy for you! Have the most fun time and I can't wait to hear all about the journey!

  10. I'm a bipolar writer. i have two separate writing genres that both call for my writing time.

    If one ever wins and lands me a book deal I'll run with it.

  11. "write the first draft with your heart, the second with your head" - thanks for talking about this, Melissa. It's a great belief.

    Wishing you loads of joy with this new surprise book. ~Sue~ xx

  12. I so agree with you:) Write what comes from your heart--I bet you find out it is one of your favorite books!

  13. A similar experience happened to me last fall. I got out of the shower and entire book appeared in my head. I wrote it all down, did the groundwork. A few days later, I listened to a podcast from the editor I was targeting.

    Unfortunately, my idea was on their "doesn't sell well" list. But you know what? I wrote it anyhow. If it's there, you gotta do it! Mine will probably never see the light of day, but I love it. So much fun to write!

  14. Stories that are fun to write and come from your heart are the best kind. Run with it!


I love to hear from you!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!