by Jenn Windrow
I've been an avid reader since I was a little girl. It was a way for a shy, introverted child to find new worlds, new friends, and new adventures. I loved going to the library on the weekends with my grandfather and picking out books to read. I think that my reading obsession developed from watching him devour books.
I grew up reading Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High and, as I got older, discovered Stephen King and Dean Koontz. My teen years were full of stories that were a little darker, along with the occasional romance and some not-very-appropriate Anne Rice.
If reading was my first obsession, writing quickly became my second.
As I read, I dreamed of my own worlds. Dabbled at trying to write them down. Creating something others would want to read. I needed to write. It had become an obsession. Story after story. Idea after idea. Notebooks full of false starts and bad writing. I failed. I failed to complete a story. I failed at putting my dreams on a blank page. I became discouraged.
Eventually, college and life goals forced me to set aside all other reading and creative pursuits. If I wanted to graduate, I had to stop reading. That also meant I had to stop writing.
I missed my favorite obsessions during those years.
The day they handed me my diploma, I raced to Barnes and Noble to feed that book-loving beast. In the years since I read anything for myself my tastes had changed. New authors hit the scene. Supernatural authors. When I explained to the bookseller what I was looking for, she gifted me with a whole new genre. Urban Fantasy!
Welcome to my third obsession.
Vampires. Werewolves. Witches. But especially vampires. I mean, if you could see my office walls, you’d think I was a vampire freak.
After devouring book after book, I knew what I wanted to write. What I needed to write. And I finally understood why all the stories I started years before seemed wrong. I wasn’t writing about what I wanted to read. I was writing what I thought other people wanted to read.
I decided to combine my three obsessions. Reading. Writing. Vampires.
There are thousands of vampire stories on the market. And if you asked any agent or editor, vampires were a no-go. A non-starter. Oversaturated in the market. No one was buying what I wanted to write, but it didn’t matter because I was determined to write my vampire story, and it would be something never read before.
That meant if I was going to write a vampire story, it had to be original. Not just another retelling of someone else’s idea. A Jenn Windrow original. But how do you approach a subject that so many other authors were writing about and give it your own spin?
This is where my first obsession came in handy.
You study and get creative. You read what others are writing. You watch TV shows and movies. You take notes of what works and what doesn’t. Learn what you can use and what you can’t. What readers enjoy and what they don’t. You treat that research like the job it is.
Now that my research was done, my goal was to find my own take on my vampire obsession and figure out how to stand out in an overcrowded genre.
I had an idea, and it was a good one. Original. Something no one had done before. Seeped in lore, but with enough originality to make it my very own.
Obsession three was complete. That left me with obsession two. Writing.
I blamed my horrible writing and inability for completing a story on not finding my niche. Now it was time to see if that was true. Could I successfully finish a novel I was passionate about?
You never know until you try.
I wrote. On my lunch hour. In the evenings. On the weekends. Even while my first baby was napping, I worked on my vampire book. You could almost say I was obsessed with my world and characters and story.
It took me years, but I finished my passion project.
Was it well written? No. It was horrible. But you can fix horrible.
I took classes, read craft books, did even more research on my second obsession, and I must have rewritten that book at least a dozen times. I went from third person to first person. From an opening scene loaded with back story to diving right into the action. I found my own voice. I made it funny. I killed a character in the second chapter that has gotten me hate mail. I broke rules and even created some of my own.
But in the end, it was my story—the perfect combination of my three obsessions. I was damn proud of that book. So proud, that I’m now writing book four in the series.
I guess the point of all my rambling is to remind writers not to force themselves to write what’s popular, in demand, or what might be the next big thing. Write what you love, what inspires you, or are just plain obsessed with.
Because in the end when you’ve written something you’re passionate about or obsessed with, it will show in the words and the character and the story itself. It won’t feel forced. It won’t be bland or boring. That obsession is passion. And passion is what will entertain readers. Impress your mom, your dad, and your long-lost cousin.
Embrace those obsessions and turn them into a profession you can be proud of.
Share a comment below and tell us about your experience.
Award winning author of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Vampires, Greek gods, and a bit of Freak Show fun for everyone.
JENN WINDROW loves characters who have a pinch of spunk, a dash of attitude, and a large dollop of sex appeal. Top it all off with a huge heaping helping of snark, and you’ve got the ingredients for the kind of fast paced stories she loves to read and write. Home is a suburb of it’s-so-hot-my-shoes-have-melted-to-the-pavement Phoenix. Where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a slew of animals that seem to keep following her home, at least that’s what she claims.
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I hear you, Jenn! Writing is my obsession as well publishing books I think people should read. Working in an obsession is such a powerful, fun space!
I should have added developmental editing to this as well, but it didn't quite fit in with the gist of the story! But writing in your obsession really makes for a fantastic story!
1987Great post, Jenn, and I totally get it. I've been an avid reader from the time I could string sentences together (yes, even before I started school, I have mum to thank for that) and I've been writing for almost as long. I grew up with all the same authors you did, being of Gen X, and went through a real vampire phase when my kids were little, around the time the first Twilight movie hit the cinemas, although I've been a vampire groupie since The Lost Boys was released in 1987. I have written a full vampire story but it's been sitting on my external hard drive since 2009, unedited and needing some serious love. I really commend you on your passion and drive, because I'm still struggling to find my own voice, even at age 49! I think you're right, I need to start writing for me, not other people. Maybe then I'll actually revisit the vampire genre, and finish that story!
You and I are the same age! I say pull that bad boy out and write it. Work on it. Have fun with it. It may just end up being the book you were meant to write!
Reading to writing to print is the greatest journey!
It really is so rewarding
Great post, Jenn. “Obsession is passion.” Good one. Can’t wait to read your books.
Very well said, obsession is passion! I love that!