Every year as Christmas draws nigh, I begin hearing that old stand-by, “My Favorite Things”. Maybe you don’t recognize the title, but I’m sure you know the words:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…
Yes, these were a few of the “favorite things” included in the Rogers and Hammerstein song from The Sound of Music. Even though the musical isn’t really about Christmas, the song has become irrevocably associated with the winter holiday and has been included on dozens of Christmas albums.
It’s also about this time each year that I begin compiling my own list of “favorite things” — related to writing. I do it as part of my annual routine for National Novel-Writing Month.
Why? Or, more to the point, why bother? After all, I know what I like and don’t like…don’t I?
Well, yes. And, no.
More than once, in the flurry of writing excitement, I’ve been tempted to throw in ideas, events, or characters who don’t really fit with who I am as a writer. That’s what it’s really all about, you see. It’s not just a list of likes and dislikes, but a way of stepping back and taking an objective look at who I am as a writer. What I’ve discovered as I make my lists — there are actually two of them — has helped me define myself and my particular little “niche” in the romance-writing world.
Knowing who I am as a writer has helped me develop a clearer understanding of what I’m striving to accomplish, a greater awareness of why I write historical romance, and a better focus on how to connect with readers.
It also keeps me on track in my stories. Even though I may wander a bit off the path, I know if I go too far astray, I’ll become uncomfortable. Writing will cease to be a pleasure and will feel instead like a dreaded chore.
Because I know my “favorite things”, I no longer waste time developing plot lines that I won’t enjoy writing, or creating characters who won’t hold my interest for the time required to tell their stories. Knowing what I like and don’t like makes me a better writer, I think. It certainly makes my writing time more effective.
Here’s a sample of things I like:
- I like “fish out of water” stories where characters are thrust into unfamiliar situations.
- I like stories of mistaken identity or misunderstood intentions
- I like stories set in rural areas with a “down-home” feeling
A few of the things I don’t like include:
- Heroines who are so perfect they’ve never made a mistake in their lives.
- Heroines who are total victims, suffering one calamity after another.
- Excessive violence.
I could go on and on with these two lists, but my likes and dislikes aren’t important here. What’s important is that you, as a writer, develop your own awareness of your favorite things…and your not-so-favorite things.
Maybe you like raindrops on roses and maybe whiskers on kittens really do tickle your fancy. Sounds like sweet romance to me.
Maybe you’re more inclined to follow those wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. If so, maybe you’re more into adventure than love.
Maybe it’s that brown paper package tied up with string that appeals to you. And maybe it’s because your like the mystery of it and can’t wait to unwrap it to see what’s inside.
Our favorite things — both in real life and in the world of writing — do provide clues to who we are as authors, and the sooner we realize who we are and what we most love to do and write, the sooner we find the true joy and satisfaction that comes in telling out stories.
So, what do you like to read about? What do you like to write? What turns your off while reading? What don’t you want to include in your stories?
The more we know… well, you know the adage.