Tumblr Post #19 (December 2017)
Tomi Adeyemi says that if you want to write a New York Times Bestseller, you should examine what is selling. You should study the books that are on these bestsellers list and you should read the books that are winning National Book Awards.
Study your genre.
See how the Giants are writing.
Understand what’s currently moving people to purchase their work.
Receive so that you may give abundantly.
I hadn’t been doing that. Instead, I did the complete opposite. In order to avoid comparing my story and writing style to that of other authors in my genre, I avoided their books altogether.
I opted, instead, to reading romance novels. And in all their cheesiness, I appreciated them for their ability to keep my imagination active and reading chops sharp in a time when I wasn’t writing anything. They also made me confident that my story and writing style was good enough to be published. Because I thought if these stories, as shallow as they were, were getting picked up, then surely mine would be picked up as well.
But I was comparing apples to oranges.
Romance to Contemporary Fiction.
Love and sex to family drama and coming-of-age.
The arena that I’ve been comparing my novel to is completely different from the arena that I’m trying to enter. So, I put the romance novels down and ordered Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. Jesmyn, for all intents and purposes, is a literary giant and another patron saint of Black Girl Magic. She’s already won two National Book Awards (what!) and her novels are a perfect starting place for me because she, too, is an author of Contemporary Fiction whose stories take place in the rural Southeast. So, what better place to start than here?
I have to see what all the fuss is about. I need to know what I’m really up against. And though I won’t be able to avoid comparing what I have written to Jesmyn’s masterpiece, I need to be real with myself. That means getting a dose of reality.
As much as I liked hiding in romance novels to avoid getting intimidated by books in my own genre, my novel isn’t competing with Love Jones. And I shouldn’t compare my story to the likes of it.
P.S. I’ve resumed writing Chapter 11.