You may not have noticed, but this spring has been all about The Hunger Games. Everywhere you look there's a poster, a logo, or a commercial for this uber-bestselling series and movie. And I totally get it - I loved the books. The Hunger Games is the only book in history my son took hours out of his day to read, squealing 'it's so exciting!' the entire time. I loved the movie so much that I get chills just seeing the previews (no, the book wasn't as good as the movie, but that's not the point of this post). Come on - the moment where Katniss volunteers as tribute? You know you teared up too.
I did not write the next Hunger Games. Most writers did not write the next Hunger Games, and those who say they did should have their writing license taken away (I actually heard a debut author say this at a signing recently and I wanted to throttle this person). The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter are social phenomenons that can't be planned - they occur through love and perfection and a dose of magic. They can be promoted (hello Lionsgate), but without a story that resonates with millions of people, they're going to fall flat. Over 100,000 books are published each year (okay, that's a made up number, but it sounds good) and there will only be a phenomena like the Hunger Games once every few years. Percentage-wise, you have a better chance of hitting the mega millions jackpot than writing the next Hunger Games.
So how do you keep going, knowing that you're not writing the next mega-hit? How do you go on writing your quiet story, the one that's not full of action and suspense? At times like these, it's hard to justify your existence as a writer when every billboard, every tweet and every magazine cover in line at the grocery store mocks you and reminds you that you're not Suzanne Collins.
I wrote a book about hoarders that tens of hundreds of people liked. I'm hoping my next book reaches tens of hundreds of more people and that some of them like it just as much. I'm allowed to let my imagination run away with me when I'm out in the world, but when I sit down at my writing table, I can't write for the 36million people who bought Suzanne Collin's books. I have to write for the one person who needs to read this particular story that I need to write. I need to focus on that one teenager who is looking to hear what my characters have to say and pour all of my effort and soul into that book, because anything less would be a cop-out. All writers are at the mercy of the stories that show up, and I have to believe that there is a reason why a particular story comes to that particular writer at that particular time. I have to tune out the negative voices in my head that say I will never be the next Suzanne Collins. I have to concentrate on being the very best CJ Omololu.
And if that doesn't work, I go on Goodreads and read all of the one star reviews for The Hunger Games. Crazy as it sounds, not everyone loves every book, no matter how awesome it is.