Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Writing: Books of the Heart

Project: sister story
Status: another edit round (a mix of rewriting and revising)

My Heart Has No Book
Earlier this week author Beth Revis posted a blog post called "The Book of My Heart" which is about, as you probably guess, the book of her heart. If you're a writer who has somehow managed to miss this heartfelt and truthful post, I suggest you go read it. According to Revis, a book of the heart is: 
All books are works of art and take some of ourselves to write, but a "book of your heart" is one that is ripped from your very soul. It's the important one, your baby, the one that you wrote with blood, sweat, and tears; the one that means more to you than any other.
I read the blog post, saw it discussed and applauded on Twitter and in the comments, and was fascinated not only by the post, but also by all the writers (both successful and aspiring, at varying points in the publishing journey) who talked about the book of their heart so... surely. Those writers knew instantly what Revis was talking about in her post and knew which of their books it fit.

I've definitely heard this term -- "book of my heart" -- somewhat regularly lately and in the past, but I've never used the term to describe any of my books. And now, thinking on it as I have been since reading the post, I've realized that unlike so many other writers, I don't think I actually have a book of my heart. The book I'm working on now, my "sister story," is definitely personal and special and important to me. As is the last book I queried, Sing Me Away, and all of the books that came before it, whether they were edited to the point of querying or abandoned at some point earlier in the process.

I love my stories. They're difficult, stubborn, and at times I hate them, but even then... even then I love them. It's just that none of them have reached that level of all-consuming, infused-with-magic, this book is me status that I think writers talk about when they talk about the book of their heart. And for me that's weird to say because I've always felt like each book I write has that magic. But none of them so much that I can instantly pick it out as "the book of my heart."

Another thing Revis says about these books is:
Very often the book of your heart is a practice novel-- you've written it too early in your career, and the quality isn't there (even if you can't see that). Or it's so close to your heart that you can't properly edit it. Or it's a story important to you-- but not the rest of the world. 
I've written what I now consider "practice novels" (of course, being unpublished, unagented, you could say that everything I write is practice). And I've written stories I never could properly edit, for whatever reason. At least one story is one that's intensely personal and important to me, but to nobody else -- the novel itself was more like catharsis than anything else. And then there's that as-yet-unwritten novel that's also incredibly personal and that I haven't yet figured out how to tell. But none of those are so much that I'd consider them "the book of my heart."

And so I have to wonder, and I have to ask, are there any other writers out there who don't have a "book of the heart?" Or if you do have one, what makes that book more important than any others you've written?

1 comment:

  1. I haven't had a book of my heart until very recently. I had books I liked a lot, but nothing I was really truly in passionate love with. I just wrote one this year, and we're going on sub with it soon. I love it because it's incredibly fun, has a ton of cool stuff packed into it, has thoughtful philosophy stuff and a bunch of my favorite themes but in a really nommy package.

    All these posts made me terrified about it, honestly.