Katie and Aimee posted about this already, so you should totally check theirs out because they're really good. But I had to add my own thoughts about it.
|Your writing has power.|
After the keynote, I went to get my books signed. I had a huge stack of them, and two copies of her second book (long story for another post). I told her I really enjoyed her keynote, and that it really touched my heart, and that I hoped I could someday touch people with my writing the way she had.
I will never forget when she looked me in the eyes and said, "Oh yes. You will. I know you will. You are a writer. You are meant to write stories that will change lives."
(Jennifer is such a quotable human, goodness.)
Just typing that out made me get the goosebumps again. And grin like a dork
She hadn't read any of my writing. How could she say this to me, with such confidence? She looked me right in the eyes when she said it, and I could just feel her belief and trust in me. A girl she barely knew.
How could she say this to me? How could she say it with such confidence? She had no knowledge of me to verify if what she was saying was true.
But it was. And it still is.
I am meant to write stories that will change lives.
And you are too.
I know what you might be thinking, and Jen mentioned this in her keynote. "I'm just writing a story to entertain people. It's not going to affect anyone. It's not going to change lives. It's just for fun."
But you see, that's not true. For a long time, I thought that's what I was doing. I was writing stories for fun. Nothing more.
And I got discouraged. I thought my stories must not mean much, since they didn't have any strong themes or underlying messages (at least, not that I could see). I haven't been through much in my sixteen years of life. I haven't seen earth shattering trials. I've had it pretty easy, compared to a lot of people.
So I kept asking myself ... what do I have to offer? What wisdom could I ever possibly give to the world?
We all have faced something. Big or small, that something is a something. And we have all learned from those somethings. Sometimes, what we learn can apply to similar trials others have faced. You might be writing more than you realize. More deeply than you've intended.
That's certainly what happened to me. When I started planning my WIP last year, I had no themes in mind at all. I never do. That's not how I plan. I discover a bit of the plot and a lot of the storyworld, and then I write. That's when I discover the characters.
And that's also when I discover the themes.
Sometimes, I don't even see my themes until after I've written an entire draft. With my WIP, I didn't realize I was handling big issues until I told my friend what my book was about.
"It's about a tiger that escapes and tries to kill the prince, and my MC Rissa gets framed for it and has a week to clear her name before her sister is sold and her life forfeit."
That's about what I said. And my friend looked at me, her jaw hanging, and said, "Let me get this straight. You're writing about ... slave trafficking ... assassinations, murder, racism ... Basically everything that's going wrong with our world right now?"
I stared at her, completely taken aback. No! I wasn't writing about any of that! I ... well. And as I sat there, struggling with what I was supposed to say, I realized I couldn't say that. Because I was writing about those things. So I just looked at her and said, "I'm not writing about how great they are, or something. I'm writing about how you fight them."
And it was in that moment that I realized my book, my work in progress, is really thematic. It deals with some tough issues. Issues that my friend could rattle off after hearing a sentence of what it was about.
If I couldn't see that until half a year after finishing the first draft ... no wonder I haven't been aware of the power my words can have.
I tell you all of this because a) you gotta admit it's kind of funny. I mean, who doesn't just smile uneasily and say, "That sounds great!" when you stumble through what your book is about? I was not prepared for this kind of reaction.
And b) you may not realize it yet, but your story has theme. And if your story has theme, it is going to touch someone somewhere. It may not be huge and noticeable. But you're writing about people, aren't you? Humans. And humans go through stuff.
Humans + plot = theme
I am obviously a genius at math (ha. ha.) so this equation is infallible. Obviously.
POINT BEING: Your story is yours, and yours alone. Only you can tell it. You have a story inside you (probably lots of them) that will reach someone in this big world and change (or even save) a life.
Don't doubt yourself. Keep writing. Edit hard and without mercy. Make your story the best it can be.
Your writing is valuable and unique, and your stories deserve to be told.
Are you writing a thematic book? Did you mean to? Do you plan your themes before you write your stories, or do they come to you as you're writing? Or are you like me, unaware of them until someone points them out to you?