Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why do I Write?

My guest is Romantic Suspense author, Elle James. Elle's books have been Romantic Times Top Picks in 2008 and 2009.

As writers we plug away perfecting our writing skills. We query, we work hard for a contract and we want a book out there with our name on it. Not an easy task. But Elle asks a timely question that calls to our motivation for writing and trying to become published. Why do you write? To find the answer we have to look inside. She shares with us why she writes:

When I was a beginning novelist with very little writing experience under my belt I didn’t have a clue where to start or why I wanted to write. I just knew it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Sure, I’d written poetry for my family and friends and the occasional skit for the enjoyment of my co-workers, but I didn’t get serious about writing until I joined a writer’s organization that took writing seriously at the end of 1999. I was amazed at how enthusiastic other writers were about their work - writing. Up until then, writing was just something I did when I felt like it and forgot about for the rest of the year.

I met published authors and unpublished authors and wondered about their motivations for writing. Some people wrote as a source of income, others wrote to have an outlet for all the stories in their heads. Still others wrote because it was a challenge to get from the start of the story to the end.

One of the first workshops I attended asked the participants to evaluate their reasons for writing. The statement that resonated with me and has been repeated by many other writers in the industry since was - don’t quit your day job! If you are writing strictly for money, it can be done, but it’s a tough haul. Not many writers can support themselves off the royalties they make, assuming they are fortunate enough to get published.

Needless to say, I was a little discouraged, but not enough to stop me. At the time, I had a good day job making a good salary, so I jumped into learning the business of writing. Soon writing became an obsession and all I could do or think about in my spare time was writing. At work, I’d think about the story waiting for me at home. That great day job became a drag, and I began questioning my desire to earn a real living when I could be starving and doing what I love most—writing!

I eventually did get published, and I did quit my day job and DID take a HUGE cut in pay. And at least annually I ask myself why I write. If I’m on a real downswing in ego and motivation I make a list of all the reasons I write.

It all comes back to the love of telling stories. I write because I have stories bottled up in my head that need to get out. If I didn’t write, I think my head would explode! I write because I like to elicit emotion from the reader, even if the reader is only me. Whether it is humor, sorrow, joy, fear or anger, I like knowing that what I’ve written is felt by the reader. I like that I have a creative outlet that I love and that now I can make a living at—albeit a much more modest living. There is nothing like seeing your book on the shelves, getting emails from your readers saying how much they enjoyed your story, because they GOT IT.

If you’re a beginning writer, or an experienced writer that hasn’t been published yet, or a published writer questioning your reasons for sticking with a business that may or may not pay the bills, you need to get down to the basics and ask yourself:

Why Do I Write?

That simple question may take you from “because it’s cool and fun” to “because it is who I am”.


Elle James always loved playing make-believe and inventing stories of adventure and fun. At the turn of the century, she and her sister, Delilah Devlin decided it was about time to take writing by the horns and make it happen!

They challenged each other to write a romance novel. After chapter one, they decided to join forces and learn the craft together. Their first five novels were co-authored. After that, they took off on their own. Delilah turned to the hot stuff, writing romantica for Ellora's Cave. Elle writes a variety of genres from romantic comedy to suspense. She loves writing paranormal elements into her projects and does whenever possible!

Elle won the 2004 RWA Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript TO KISS A FROG, her first book to sell. Dorchester Publishing released it in March of 2005.

In 2004, Elle left her successful career as an Information Technology Manager to pursue writing full time. She loves escaping into her stories, learning and growing with each character and plot. She writes because she likes to experience and evoke all the emotions from happy to sad, funny to frightening. She digs them all!

At home in Northwest Arkansas, Elle is busy writing tales of murder and suspense for Harlequin Intrigue. With thirteen Intrigues under her belt, she’s still going strong.

Stay tuned for more from Elle James!

Visit Elle at


~Sia McKye~ said...

Elle, a warm welcome to Over Coffee. Interesting article testing our motivation.

Plenty of coffee on the coffe bar. Help yourself to the edible goodies too. :-)

VA said...

Elle this is an important question, but it is either too late or too early for me to formulate an appropriate response. See ya on the flip side.

Other Lisa said...

It's pretty much THE essential question. I talked about this stuff sort of obliquely in my post that Sia published last week. Er, two weeks ago? Anyway, scroll down and look for the pretty red book cover with the ominous tiger.

I have always written, since I was a really little kid, so my primary motivation seems to be that it's some kind of creative expression that's pretty basic and intrinsic to my nature. But I do most definitely want to make money at it. I say this because at this point in my life, I've had a lot of other jobs, and overall, I like writing better. And I think it's something I'm pretty good at. So there you have it.

Kat Sheridan said...

Excellent question, Elle, and I'm still working on the answer. I started because, as an avid reader, I fell in with a group of writers. They pretty much dared me to try writing. I finished the first novel simply as a challenge, but found I really enjoyed the feeling of creating a world and telling the story. I didn't even realize I had those characters in my head. Now I'm working on the second novel, to recapture that feeling of satisfaction and the joy of having created something interesting that other folks might also enjoy.

Great guest, Sia, and great topic!

Elizabeth said...

Good question, Elle and Sia!

I write to experience other lives, other times and places. Who wants to be limited to one life, one century, one part of the world?

Making a little money is a good thing, too.

VA said...

Essentially, my mind is an insane asylum and the inmates are clamoring to get out. Not pretty, but true.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Vivian, lol! Such a visual. Get 'em out and help them immigrate to your computer. It's better for all involved. :-)

Elle James said...

I also think writing is yet another creative outlet and I have to have them in my life. I've done all kinds of crafts or home improvement over the years from crocheting, sewing, laying tile, building things and egging. Writing is yet another way to express myself. I love it when people "get it", feel the emotion I wrote into my story. Nothing is more rewarding.

Sheila Deeth said...

I never got into crocheting and sewing and stuff, wasn't even keen on gluing and sticking with the kids. But writing... I just want to write and the world (well, the family) wants me to earn money instead.

Helen Ginger said...

I think I write because I like to write. I like to see the story develop, to come to know the characters and watch them come to life, to build a world. And when I get it right, it's wonderful.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

I write because . . . it's there. Isn't that why people climb Mt. Everest? Because it's there? I can't say I like writing, it's hard work. But . . . it's there.