I had a really bad time in a creative writing class I took in college.
It was my senior year and a very small class. I desperately wanted to write, but I was having huge problems even finishing one page. Everything I wrote felt clumsy, awkward, and stupid. I was also introverted, super sensitive, and just plain weird. On top of this, the other students in the class seemed to know exactly what they were doing. They seemed to be clicking with the teacher, and handing in work that aligned perfectly with her expectations.
And the teacher did have firm expectations, that much was clear. She seemed very knowledgeable about publishing and what people wanted to read. She had a lot of opinions on what we should spend our time writing, and what would be a waste.
Why doesn’t my book look like the other popular books in my genre?
I get this question, in various forms, from my clients all the time.
Sometimes it’s an issue of genre-blending. For instance, up until a few years ago most of the sci-fi/western writers out there felt like freaks, because this was a very small genre with a select audience and there was not yet a level of cultural acceptance that came with it. If you were writing sci-fi/western stories in the year 2003 you might have just given up altogether when you got back rejection after rejection from agents who didn’t really understand what you were writing or how it might sell.
Today’s Author Interview is with Greta Beigel, journalist and author of Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life: A Memoir of Music and Survival.
I’m always looking for good memoirs by women writers and I devoured this one in just a few days. Kvetch is about growing up an Orthodox Jew and a tormented child piano prodigy in South Africa, and offers a rare look at Jewry’s response to the events of apartheid, circa the 1960s. It also goes behind the scenes of two rarefied worlds: classical music performance—and the workings of a California metropolitan daily newspaper.
I’ve noticed a trend in the last year or so among my coaching clients. Many of the writers I’ve worked with have been women writing memoirs. Whether this trend is fueled by the inspiration and success of such bestsellers as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, women are turning out in droves these days to write about the bigness of their lives, or even just one little narrow slice of it. I think this is partly because women feel the freedom to express themselves as never before, unconstrained by expectations about gender, intellect, sexuality and social and political choices. But also because, for the first time in our modern culture, we get the feeling that someone beyond our tiny individual circle of friends might possibly be interested in reading about our lives and the way we chose to live them.
My clients fall across the entire spectrum of writers. I coach people who are writing Memoir, Young Adult, Literary Fiction, Zombie Apocalypse, Paranormal Romance, and everything in between. Almost all of these writers come to me with the same issue. They’ve started their novel but can’t finish it. They don’t know what’s going on or why they’re blocked or what the problem is.
Much of the time these writers are confused. I talked about this in detail in my last post The Number One Reason Writers Give Up. But there is another problem lurking that most writers don’t even think of as a problem.