We’ve all done this before. If you didn’t, you should have. As a child we ran to the swing set, hoping to be one of the first to jump on a swing. There was always a little pit under each swing, excavated by dragging and pushing feet. We would kick off then work our arms in perfect synch with our legs, swinging higher and higher with each pass. Then, when we reached the highest point we dared, we jumped. We didn’t wear helmets, knee pads or any other type of body protection. We assumed when we landed we would be okay. And most of the time we were. We would let go, freeing ourselves to fate, totally immersed in the moment.
Most of the time when I talk to independent writers I realize that they are doing just the opposite. They spend most of their times worrying about issues that no longer apply to them. Of course there are the requirements that none of use can escape; good storytelling, good grammar, and good spelling. But there are other things independent writers concern themselves with that have nothing to do with what we do. These are the concerns of the mainstream writer, the writer that must meet the demands of the agent and the editor, their true customers. For if you are a mainstream writer, these are the people that you must please. I’ve had this discussion as well; writers will argue that they are writing for the reader. You are, but in your case the reader is the agent or editor. I’ll save this discussion for another blog.
I was part of a discussion where a writer was working on a fantasy novel and was seeking a source for the rules of magic. I read in amusement as other writers gave various sources, then I type, ‘Dude, this is fantasy. We’re making this up. There are no rules.’ I was immediately assailed with all types of reason why what I typed was false. But all the reasons led back to examples of what mainstream publishers would accept as fantasy.
You are an independent writer. There is no one between you and the reader. There is no one to dictate to you how you should write your story. The possibilities are endless. Sure there may be certain types of stories readers prefer. We’re all conditioned to respond to what we’ve been exposed to. But here’s the funny thing about readers; they’re far more open that agents and editors. Why? Because their decision does not determine the profit or loss of a corporation nor does it affect future commissions. The only decision the reader has to make is whether or not they think your book will be entertaining.
You have to learn how to write without looking over your shoulder. Write from the heart, then find people who like what you write. Most of us are naturally risk adverse, at least in adulthood we are. But to me independent writing means letting go of the constraints, expectations, stereotypes and validations of the mainstream market. It’s a different path. So here’s my advice to all my independent writing friends; swing hard, swing high, then let go.