~ By Susan Meier
Note: This post originally appeared here.
This is a blog I posted about a year ago…I read it (to remind myself of a few things) and realized this was some perfect “new year/new start” advice…
Happy New Year! Enjoy! …
A few weeks ago, I had a bad cold and spent a Saturday and Sunday in bed. If you know anything about weekend TV, you know I was bored to the point of tears and ended up watching a “special” about Garth Brooks. But, man, am I ever glad I did. The show was designed so that Garth himself didn’t do much talking. His friends talked about him, his work ethic, etc. After a while I started making notes. 🙂
And here they are …
8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write.
1. He loves music and wants everybody to love music.
That sounds pretty simple, until you really think it through. Because he loves music he promotes well…but he also writes, produces and sings the best songs. The best songs. And what does that mean for his audience? He doesn’t shortchange them. They always get the best.
So…If you really, really, really love WRITING and your genre, you should be looking for the best ideas. You should be doing YOUR best when you write. Your love of writing (or your genre) should shine through your work.
2. He has respect for other musicians and songwriters.
You have to have a healthy respect for what you do and everyone who does it in order to be your best. If you only half-heartedly love romance, I genuinely believe it shows in your work.
If you’re working hard, if it takes you months to write a book, if you study writing, if you tear your scenes apart again and again to make them perfect…So are your peers. Lots of people are working full-time jobs and writing. Lots are caring for kids, elderly parents or disabled adult children. We should never, ever, ever discount the trials and tribulations of other writers.
It just plain makes us better people to be kind to each other. And God likes that. 🙂
3. He has a good range.
Garth might be a country singer, but his songs transcend the genre. Because of #4…
4. He loves telling a good story.
That’s so true. His music is all about storytelling. And he does it well. He picks subjects that resonate, and he makes them vibrate with reality and emotion. Literally. LOL
I heard Elton John talk about storytelling and music once and it totally changed the way I looked at music. He said smart songwriters tell a story because people love stories.
Well, lucky us! That’s our business. But that takes us back to not shortchanging your audience (something I talked about a few weeks ago in the Hybrids blog), to figuring out what they like to hear, to learning to write well…so your story is the best it can be.
5. He is an entertainer.
And so should we be. People get a show when they go to see Garth. People want to be entertained when they read our books.
So many times we get caught up in word counts and craft that we forget we’re entertainers. Nora Roberts wasn’t afraid to break a few rules. Suzanne Brockman took regular romance “hook” or trope stories and turned them on their ears. Laura Kaye’s writing vibrates with sensuality, even as her characters charm you to death. LOL
When I pick up a book, I want to be swept away. And it took me a few books (like 20 — sometimes I make my younger self sound like a real idiot) before I realized, as a reader, I wasn’t special. All readers were like me. A book doesn’t have to have tons of action or ideas that transcend the norm. The writer simply has to take her genre or subgenre’s conventions and use them to entertain readers.
We are entertainers. So…entertain. 🙂
6. He has a respect for his audience (very much, his friends said, like another successful guy…Frank Sinatra)
The pundits used to tell us our audience was bored housewives. We now know that’s not true. Our audience is lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, secretaries, nurses, business owners…Everybody. You should appreciate the fact that a reader picked up your book. You should give her her money’s worth. But most of all, you can’t talk down to her.
Readers are very smart. If you write poorly, they will spot it. If you don’t research, they will know. If you don’t like what you’re doing and “phone in” your book, they’ll see it.
And they won’t come back. So even your books with the tightest deadlines have to be your best work.
(I’m talking to myself here because I’m a week late and tempted to write fast and get this turkey in. Instead, I slowed down…God help me…to make sure the book is the best it can be.)
7. He’s never afraid to be passionate.
And don’t we love that? Being passionate, I think, is part of being a good entertainer. And we’re all in the entertainment industry.
I love category romance. 🙂 I love the point in the story when the tension is so tight you know it could snap. The story could change. The characters could do something they regret. It puts me on the edge of my seat.
That’s what I want to see in books I read. That’s what I want to get into my stories when I write. Granted, I’m not always successful…but I’m not afraid of that passion. Not afraid to confront it.
In fact, smart romance writers use it! We are, after all, in the passion business! LOL
8. Even with success he remained a nice guy. 🙂
Ah, would that we all could be. Sometimes I think it’s easy for the uber successful to be nice guys. Let’s face it. They’re making the money. Readers are stroking their egos. Their Facebook fan page numbers are through the roof. Amazon loves them. Agents call them out of the blue. Editors call their agents and ask them to write something for them…
Sigh. I could be nice if I were on top!
That’s what we all think. But the funny part of it is, the people on top have greater struggles than those of us hovering in the middle. There’s constant expectation. Not just from their publishers, but from readers…AND THEMSELVES. When you are on top, you want to stay on top and there are thousands of wannabes nipping at your heels.
So whether you’re on the top or in the middle or just starting out, know this:
You’re going to have bad days. There will always be somebody who is doing better than you are. You will question your talent. There will never be enough hours in a day or days in a deadline…
That does not give you license to be mean.
In fact, given that we’re all in this together, being nice to people is a way to form support groups, critique groups, lifeboat groups and make the friends who may someday save you. 🙂
But being nice is just plain the right thing to do. Jealousy, meanness and condescension only make you sadder than you already are. In other words, you’re hurting yourself.
So grab your talent by the handle and get going. Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. Don’t think you’re better than anybody else. Don’t worry that you’re not getting the recognition you deserve. Just write your best book. Enjoy the process. And be a well rounded person. Enjoy your family. Love your spouse. Go fishing (or swimming or bingo playing or shopping). Have other passions aside from writing.
Because nobody’s ever clearly the best. Rankings change. Genres go in and out of style. Things like Facebook get invented and change everything. 🙂 Don’t be so one-dimensional that you can’t be happy unless you’re the best. 🙂
And think of Garth Brooks. 🙂 Be passionate, love your industry, love your audience, love your craft, love your peers, be a storyteller. A great storyteller. Be proud of yourself. 🙂
As a special treat, we’ll leave you with one of Garth Brooks’ best “story-telling” songs:
Are there any songs that have taught you about craft and story-telling? Leave a comment and let us know!
Susan Meier is the author of over 60 books for Harlequin and Silhouette, Entangled Indulgence, Red Hot Bliss and Bliss and one of Guideposts’ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. In 2013 she lived one of her career-long dreams. Her book, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHER was a finalist for RWA’s highest honor, the Rita. The same year NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS was a National Reader’s Choice finalist and won the Book Buyer’s Best Award.Susan is married with three children and is one of eleven children, which is why love and family are always part of her stories.