Light a Fire

At the San Francisco Romance Writers’ meeting Saturday I got to talking with Beth Barany about the one thing that makes writers break into the industry over others. She said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that persistence and dedication are what make a writer successful.

I completely agree. All you have to do is take a look at the slew of blog posts about rejection and eventual success to know writers have to be The Little Writer That Could in order to finally make it to their publishing destination.

I’d take it a step further. I think Donald Maass was on to something when he wrote The Fire in Fiction. He says (again paraphrasing) that there has to be “something” unique about your book…a fire…that lights your characters and your stories brighter than the others flooding the market. But how do you contain that fire? And how do you draw people in?

Look at any popular figure in the music, television, or movie industry and you’ll find the answer.

Why does Angelina Jolie garner so much more attention than, say, Katherine Heigl? I dare say it’s the FIRE within her that people are drawn to. Whether it’s strutting the runway, gazing at her man, or working in the field, flaming passion sparks from Angelina Jolie.



You want to be around her. You want to listen to what she has to say and maybe, just maybe, pick up on some of that excitement and passion that’s flowing off of her in waves. I’m not saying Katherine Heigl isn’t beautiful, because let’s face it, she’s drop dead gorgeous…but the pull to watch her in life or on the screen isn’t the same.


She’s beautiful and a great actress and also does great things for those less fortunate…but she’s…plain? Is that the word I’m looking for? Can you see the difference too? There’s just something less interesting…

Now look at Eminem…he’s rocked the music industry time and time again. What does he have over all the other talented rappers that keeps people (myself included) coming back to his work?


It’s his FIRE. It’s the desire burning deep down in his core fueling his lyrics. If you listen to his music at all (and if you don’t, you should), you know he’s talented…but it’s more than that–there’s thousands of talented rappers out there waiting to make their big break. It’s the pull to him that makes him the star he is.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you want something bad enough, so bad that a spark of an idea gets ignited into something larger, and you keep fueling that fire with positive energy, hope, determination, then the fire will emit from you too. People will be drawn to you as much as your work. (And believe me, I can attest to this after RWA National where I saw many a fan girl drooling over Nora Roberts or Eloisa James.)

Writing is no different.

Life is no different.

Beth Barany was right–persistence and determination get you far. Angelina Jolie sets an example of how to be known–rock the boat, work hard, and look smokin’ hot doing it. And Eminem, showing no fear, did whatever was necessary to reach his goal.

If the passion is in your heart for being a published author, your words will be fuel on the page…and people will take notice.

At least that’s what I’m hoping as I start plotting the sequel to Enemy, Beloved. Two years ago next month I started writing. I definitely feel the burn to write, edit, and become a part of this bustling industry…now I guess others just have to believe in it too. I’ll keep you posted on how my little theory plays out.

What about you? What one thing do you think makes a writer successful? Voice? High-concept material? Luck? Timing? Determination? Fire?

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10 comments on “Light a Fire

  1. Anonymous says:

    Completely disagree with you about Katherine Heigl. She is far from plain and garners plenty of attention. She just has not been a major movie star for as long. I don't think it is a particularly fair comparison – Jolie is probably the biggest female actress right now and her husband is also high profile so as a couple they also grab a lot of attention. That said, give me Heigl any day. She is far more interesting to me.

  2. KarenG says:

    This is the BEST post I've read all day. I love how you illuminated your point by showing us the fire in Angelina and Emminem and the lack of it in Heigl. A picture is worth a thousand words, truly, by simply comparing the photos of these two beautiful women. You can still see it in photos of Marilyn Monroe after all these years. And Elvis & the fab Beatles. LOL guess what generation I'm from! Then we go from actors & musicians to writers, who must harness the passion they have for the story and the characters within words. Not an easy task, but passion & FIRE make it so much easier!

  3. Anonymous–Like I said, I think she's definitely a beauty and very talented. I just think there's something about her that's very…predictable. Maybe that's a better word than plain. For me (emphasize "for me" as I value different opinions), she doesn't have the "it" factor that's going to propel her to top star status (with the likes of Jolie). In my opinion, of course. To each their own. In fact, my own Husband isn't a Jolie fan. He says she definitely smolders, just has too robust of features for his taste. But it's the "smolders" that garners the attention whether or not she's his type.Karen–I didn't think of Marilyn or Elvis but they definitely have that Fire too, don't they? You're right–any picture, any film, any time–you can't take your eyes off her. Even before Marilyn made it to Hollywood she had "it". Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. It's so many things: talent, drive, passion/fire, dedication. I agree with all of your points. And I agree that Jolie has it over Heigel. I hope I have all the ingredients, continue to hone my craft, and get noticed.

  5. Summer Ross says:

    there's alot of fire in Angelina, I can see the difference you talked about. Your post was inspiring and I'm glad you posted it for our reading

  6. Excellent post. I love how you used celebritities to illustrate your point that determination and FIRE is what will set you apart in the publishing industry and ultimately lead you to a published book of your own.

  7. RosieC says:

    I agree with Amanda. The celebrities you've chosen really exemplify your point. Not only that, but the fact that it's hard to pinpoint *exactly* what it is about Jolie that makes her different from Heigel echoes everything agents and editors say about voice: you know it when you see it, but you're not sure what *it* is.Can't say I love Eminem, but I definitely see the fire within.

  8. Theresa–I'm sure if you keep at it, it'll happen…at least that's what keeps me going strong! :)Summer and Amanda–Thanks so much! Get that fire roaring! 🙂

  9. squinto says:

    Love this post–definitely the best I've read today. 🙂 Passion does tend to make people stand out of the crowd, doesn't it? This has actually inspired me to work on that little idea nudging me on the back of my head–thank you! And I do agree with you about the Heigl and Jolie; Heigl seems so subdued, so quiet compared to the enigmatic but striking Jolie. Your comparisons were spot on. I'm definitely retweeting this. 😀

  10. Rosie–your last comment hit it on the head. Even if you don't like Eminem's music, it's easy to see there's something about him that makes people come back for more. (Kind of like P. Diddy {or Puff Daddy or whatever he goes by nowdays} and his allure. I don't get it, but he seems to be at every hot party at every hot moment in Hollywood. There's got to be some spark in his eye I'm just not seeing)squinto–Glad you stopped by and commented! Thanks! And always glad to hear something I said inspired–if only in a teensy-tiny way. And thanks for the retweet! *grin

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