Today on WoW, we're thrilled to have NYT Bestselling Author, Stephanie Garber, talking about the difference between the book you want to write and writing the book you want to read. If you haven't read Stephanie's magnificent book, CARAVAL (a Number 1 Indie Pick and BookExpo's YA Buzz Book), check out the description at the end of this post. But now, here's Stephanie.
Write The Book That You Want To Read
by Stephanie Garber
When I’m not writing I teach creative writing. Every year I redo my course a little, because I’m always learning new things. But there is one piece of advice that I give every semester. It’s also the advice I constantly return to whenever I am drafting or revising: Write the book you want to read.
This isn’t the same as writing the book you want to write. We all write for different reasons, sometimes we want to tell a story because we think it will sell, or it feels good to put it on paper, but if you’re writing something just to write it or just to sell it, and not because you are aching to read it, then it’s very likely that no one else will ache to read it either.
But, I really believe if you write the story that you are burning to read then others will want to devour it as well. People who are like-minded are drawn to similar things. And, if you write the book that your heart cannot let go of it will show on the paper.
When I wrote CARAVAL, I was brutally obsessed with the idea of a magical game that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. I knew what the game was, but for a long time I didn’t know what the story was, until I started to really think about what kind of story I wanted to read.
I love books with romances, especially the kind where the love interests are frequently thrown into situations together that they don’t want to be in. So I kept this in mind as I wrote and made a point to make it happen in my story. So if you haven’t already, think about what you favorite kinds of romances are. Are they love to hate? Are they love at first sight? Are they slow burning? Do they involve love triangles? Do they involve best friends? Are they star-crossed?
Pick your favorite and then put it in your book.
For settings, I like being immersed inside of beautiful locations—stark and dreary settings are not my favorite. So I knew I wanted to create a world that was aesthetically pleasing, one that bled colors and delighted every sense. I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in this place, so I wanted it to be a place I wouldn’t want to leave. So ask yourself, where do you want to visit when you read? Where could you spend hours on end? Or do you not like being in the same place for too long? Do you like books that take your characters all over the globe? Books that take your characters to places you’ve never been—like space, or other worlds? There are so many amazing places we can visit with our imaginations, so rather than picking the easiest setting to write about, pick the location you most want to visit.
Villains are usually my favorite characters, I always find myself falling for them. So I knew I wanted a seductive villain. But not every story has a villain—maybe villains make you uncomfortable, or they don’t make you as uncomfortable as they should. Maybe you and your characters feel more threatened by well-meaning antagonists? Or maybe your character is their own antagonist? I like villains, so I try to put them in my books—you don’t have to do the same thing. But I would recommend, rather than just throwing obstacles in the way of your main character, take a minute to think about what kind of threats, problems, or antagonists surprise you the most or make you want to keep turning pages?
When I first started writing, I just put down the first ideas that came to mind. I created familiar settings, familiar antagonists and predictable romances. But once I started to spend more time thinking about what I loved reading about the most all of those things changed. I became more creative with my settings, bolder with villains, and more unpredictable with my romances. Hopefully this post encourages some of you to do the same!
Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.
About Stephanie Garber
Stephanie Garber loves Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where she feels as if the fantastical stories she loves to write about could actually come to life. When she’s not writing young adult fantasy, she teaches creative writing at a private college in northern California. She’s also a blogger on Pub(lishing) Crawl.