Why Passion Matters More Than Ever

This morning, I actually had the time to browse some posts in a couple of writing groups, and I came across one that inspired this post. A writer in there lamented that their sales went way down in March. Now, not every writer experienced this. Some are seeing a drop in income; some aren’t. This has been the way it’s been for years. There will be writers who will thrive in times when others don’t. So I don’t startle easily anymore when I hear these reports. These reports, however, are a good wake up call on the “why” of why we write.

When you’re doing any kind of business, you run the risk of losing your ability to make income. Everything doesn’t keep getting better. Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into something or what new method you try, you won’t see results that you were hoping to. That’s why a rainy day fund is so important. If you can manage to have some extra set aside, then you breathe a lot easier when sales fall.

My sales have been dropping for quite some time now. I’ve been in burnout mode for a while, so I’ve naturally slowed down the writing. I’ve been torn between quitting all together or just throwing out all of the “critical voices” in my head so I will write exactly what I want in order to get that spark back. Despite all of my efforts over the past few years to shut those critical voices out, one or two keep coming back. There’s always that, “Well, someone won’t like this if I put it in the book,” or “Someone will expect this book to go in this direction and will be disappointed if I don’t write it this way,” thought that passes through my mind. I’d like to say that I’ve been strong enough to stand up to these thoughts, but I’m not. There have been times when I caved into the critical voice. Even the smallest detail put into a story can change how much I enjoy it.

I’ll give an example. Interview for a Wife. I published this in September 2021. I originally put in a scene where the heroine’s brother comes looking for her. Now, nothing came of the event. Nothing was supposed to. But it was supposed to explain more of what the heroine went through in her past to add a level of sympathy to her character. This added sympathy was supposed to make the reader (or at least me) happier that she ended up with the hero. So it was just something thrown in to tug on the emotional strings of the person reading the book. The critical voice told me that if I kept that in there, then people would be upset because I never really “did” anything with the brother. It was a fleeting scene that was there for a moment, and was supposed to be there for only a moment. The person editing my book echoed my critical voice. So I ended up removing it. I don’t think I kept the original scene even in my notes, so I can’t retroactively put it back in. And to this day, removing that snippet really bothers me. That book did not live up to the full potential of what I wanted it to be.

There comes a time when a writer is going to have to give serious thought to the “why” of writing. Removing money from the equation makes the “why” a lot easier to see. You see, money is a big incentive for writers to follow those critical thoughts. If we have spent time reading our genre, we know what the readers want. I spent years reading romance before I wrote one. Back when I started writing them, I didn’t think I’d ever make money, so it was easy to write whatever I wanted. The only reason I started writing romance was because I got frustrated over not being able to find the specific story with the specific characters that I wanted to read. I gave no thought to anyone else. I published the book so I could have a paperback copy, and later, when the Kindle came out, I wanted an ebook copy so I published the ebook. Those books that I wrote during that time lacked the correct historical touch. I’ve learned a lot since then and wouldn’t make the same mistakes today. But they are among my favorite stories as far as the story part goes. I was playing and having fun. I didn’t hold anything back. I didn’t start holding back until about 2012 to 2013 when it became clear to me that there was actually money in writing books. That’s when the critical voices took up residence in my head.

I formed an LLC, I started thinking like a business person, I started to pay attention to what I was writing, and I wrote a lot of my stuff to market. The more I wrote to market, the more I listened to those critical voices. Then I began to lose money in 2016, and it occurred to me that there was no guarantees with writing. Just because you go up, it doesn’t mean you stay up. That’s the expectation that writers have. We don’t expect to lose money, especially if we can run ads and publish more books.

Sometimes I think God allowed me to lose money in order to help me get my priorities back in order. You see, when I started out, I put a lot symbolism between God and the church (the Bride of Christ) in my work. Eye of the Beholder, for example, fits. God takes us in our ugliness of sin and makes us beautiful in how He has redeemed us. Then in His Redeeming Bride, I wanted to show that no matter how grave our past sins were, we can always find forgiveness with God. When I wrote those books, there was no critical voice stopping me from putting in what I wanted. Of course, I still wrote my cute little comedies that were meant to be light and fun. I think humor is good for the soul. Not every book I wrote was supposed to have a deeper meaning to it, but some of them did.

So anyway, as I made money, the world did seep in, and I did have a “falling away” of sorts with the close relationship I had with God. As the money dropped, I naturally went back to Him. That part was easy. God never makes it difficult to return to a close relationship with Him. But it is difficult to overcome the critical voices that tell you, “Ewe. You might not want to add that to the story. Someone’s not going to like it.” And that voice can be right. I made the decision to let a certain subplot span from Book 2 to Book 4 in the Misled Mail Order Bride Series. So I left things hanging in Book 3. I actually think the series was better by doing that because it helped me get the hero and heroine together in Book 4. But wow! People did NOT like the way I wrote The Perfect Wife at all. Even people who liked my other books complained about this one. The amount of negative comments I received on The Perfect Wife was more than I even got for how “1980-ish” An Inconvenient Marriage seemed. I didn’t think anything could top the complaints I got for An Inconvenient Marriage. I can actually laugh about this now, but it wasn’t all that fun at the time. So after The Perfect Wife bombed, those critical voices came right back into my head and took up residence again.

It is not easy to write for passion. It is one of the hardest things a writer will ever do because it opens you up to a lot of negative feedback. Unless you’re passionate about stories that naturally cater to the market. If you happen to love writing stuff that is popular, you’ll do fine writing for passion. For those of us who are round shapes trying to fit into a square hole, we will struggle. Our stories are not going to appeal to most people.

For anyone who took the time to read through this entire post and writes for passion, I would like to encourage you to keep going. You see, we are competing now with a world of AI. I heard KU just had its lowest payout ever. I think writers will start using AI to write books in order to produce more content because they’ll get scared when the money starts to dry up. This will be a natural reaction. If they’re writing for money, they will seek out ways to keep making it. But I can’t see how AI will ever match the creativity and passion that someone who loves what they’re writing can produce. We’re human. AI will never be human. We have the ability to put emotion into the words we write. We have the ability to write things that mean something to us. I realize that most people will be content reading stories that have been produced with AI’s help. A lot of people read books once. I think AI will give people that disposable fiction that they like reading. AI will be good at formula writing. Also, let’s face it. If a writer is rushed to keep getting stories out there in order to keep money flowing in, they will not have time to give a story the emotional backing that writing for passion produces. To write for passion, you do have to give all of yourself to a story. Those books aren’t popular with most people, but they will resonate with the person who wrote them, and, if God will it, those books will find the readers who will want to read them more than once.

So anyway, I have decided that my current work in progress, Midnight Wedding, will go to a level that I realize will not please a lot of romance readers. It is a romance, but there’s going to be a dark element to the story. Romance readers don’t really care for “dark”. I already received reviews on my gothic romances and some comments about it. But I’m going to write this book for me. This is an element I could leave out. I does nothing for the plot, but it does give the story the kind of gothic feel I want to read. And since this is my story, I’m going to put it in. Even if you can’t shut the critical voice off, you can shove it out the door. That’s what I am going to intentionally do from now on. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite stories when all is said and done, and I’ll look back and be glad I went with my passion. As writers, it’s okay to write books specifically with us in mind.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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12 Responses to Why Passion Matters More Than Ever

  1. Leona Melton says:

    You write for you! I admire your passion. Some of the books I read over and over again are your stories. I get bored with some, what I like to think of as “cookie cutter” stories. They seem all the same and are boring and like the author was only striving for a deadline. Not yours. My very favs of yours are ALL of the South Dakota Series (especially Loving Eliza), Chance at Love Series (I’ve read the accidental Mail Order Bride over and over), The Reclusive Earl, Marriage by Fairy Tale, Taming the Viscountess, Interview for a Bride, Nebraska series, Her Counterfeit Husband. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting that I’ve read multiple times and I know there are more of your books I have yet to read.

    • Thank you, Leona. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, and it touches my heart that you pointed out the books you enjoy the most. Those are among my favorites, too. The South Dakota series is my favorite historical western series, and the Marriage by Fairy Tale is my favorite Regency series. Since you enjoy that Regency series and The Reclusive Earl, I think you’ll really enjoy Midnight Wedding. They have the same feel to it. Regarding the cookie cutter stories, I agree 100%. One of the reasons I started writing was to have something different to read.

  2. Orinda-Lou says:

    I’m not a writer but I love all your books I read several series over and over.
    I’ve missed your writings.

    • Thank you, Orinda-Lou. That means a lot to me. 😀 I have missed writing. Once I get through the last month of homeschooling, I am hoping I can finally get back into a writing routine.

  3. Gail Adam says:

    I still have your book series on my computer to re-read many times : Marriage by Scandal (His Reluctant Lady is one of my favorites ) Marriage by Arrangement , and Marriage by Deceit , just to name a few. I think you should just write what your characters tell you too, they are who make your books special. Like Christopher and Ethan, 2 of my favorite guys.. even Nate. Looking forward to your new series.. I have been off line for some time and got way behind with my reading..

    • I love His Reluctant Lady, so I smiled when you mentioned that book. There’s a special place in my heart from Christopher and Ethan. The characters are what make the story fun to write. Christopher’s daughter will end up with Nate’s son. I expect that to be fun, but I have no idea how to set the stage for that romance, so I’m putting it on hold. 🙂 I think you’re right. I need to let the characters lead me. Whenever they lead the story, it turns out to be stories I want to read again. Thanks for commenting!

  4. bunnymuggs says:

    Christopher’s daughter and Nate’s son —— Oh wow ! THAT will set Chris on his back, I will be first in line to buy that book… 🤣

    • I know! This is going to be so much fun. I don’t think Nate will be any happier than Chris will be. 😛 I need to come up with a plot for this book. I’ve been looking forward to writing it for years now.

  5. I love it when you write for passion. I think it makes a better book. And I love it when you put some dark elements in. You’re making me want to pick my Gothic romance back up and finish it!

    If an author uses AI to write, then they aren’t a real writer. Period. If you can’t do the work, find something else to do.

    • You should write your Gothic romance. I’d love to read it! 😀

      I agree that to be a writer, you need to actually write the story. AI has practical uses, but writing the story shouldn’t be one of them. I think it’s attractive to people who are more interested in making money. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, “This is a business. We need to treat it as such.” It’s sad. A story should be more than a product. It should mean something to the person who wrote it. But these people are so determined to run a business that they will take whatever shortcut they can get to maximize their profits. My guess is that they will manage to find an audience and thrive using AI to write for them. I hate to say it, but our consumer-driven society has us programmed to throw things out when we’re done with them. Why should books be any different? I think this is why more and more people will go to subscription services instead of buying books in the future. We have become disconnected, in many ways, from genuine human emotion.

  6. Erica R says:

    I had no idea writers received so many negative reactions. Seems very rude to me. I honestly say that I enjoy your writing very much. Do I like every story the same? No maybe not, I do have my favorites, but I always enjoy your writing. You never ever bore me with the telling of the story. I’m very sorry to hear you are struggling with your passion. I think you need to kick those critics out of your mind. Instead think of readers like me, who enjoy your tales and can’t wait for your next book to be released. When I first started reading romances many years ago, Gothic’s were some of my favorites. If you want to write gothic, I say bring it on.
    I think your writing appeals to me so much because you do have a variety. His Redeeming Bride is one of my absolute favorites and I enjoy the hero’s relationship with God. I also don’t share the criticism people showed about The Perfect Wife. I thought the carry over to book four with the hero and heroine was a great cliff hanger and just just made me more excited for the last book. I like the Westerns, Regencies,. Gothics, and just plain sweet stories.
    I hope that passion comes back, because I would really miss your writing if you stopped.
    There is not way to please everyone so you should just please yourself.

    • Sometimes I think the worst enemy a writer has is self-doubt. Sometimes I go into a story thinking it will be one thing, but it turns into something I didn’t expect. I did start The Perfect Wife with the plan to deliver on what most people wanted, which was Natalie being upset with Mark for his deception and Mark learning his lesson. I got a couple of chapters in and realized that the plan was boring me. It would have been too cookie-cutter for me. So I had to go with the angle where Natalie felt inferior to the ladies in her social group. I also didn’t feel like Tony would forgive Mark in the time frame I set up for The Perfect Wife. That’s why I decided to resolve that side of things in Book 4. I’m glad to hear it worked for you. 😀 Thank you for letting me know that. It makes me feel better about that book.

      As an aside, a lot of His Redeeming Bride stemmed from an issue that came up in my personal life. I had just left a very legalistic church (as in men had all the say in a marriage whereas the women had none), and I was doing a lot of Bible reading to understand what God intended for a marriage to be like. Fortunately, my husband wasn’t anything like Sarah’s first husband. I love that book a lot.

      I wish kicking the inner critic was easy, but I am going to keep working on getting those criticisms off my mind. You’re a reader after my own heart, Erica. I am the same kind of reader. I enjoy a variety of things. Thank you for all of your encouragement. 😀

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