In my last post on writing, I talked about the two doors one can choose as a writer–writing for “the market” and writing “for myself”.
As some of you pointed out, it ain’t necessarily an either-or proposition. As writers who are artists, we have an obligation to write authentically. As writers with bills to pay, we have an obligation to write something that will cover that pesky mortgage. I believe we can meet both obligations.
The key thing, I think, is not to lose the connection between “why I write” and “why I read”. As a number of you noted, the “why I write” often boils down to “it changes me emotively.” And the “why I read” boils down to “it changes me emotively.” There will be a disconnect if the thing that changes the author emotively doesn’t change the reader emotively. But there will be a powerful author-reader connection when the author and reader are moved by the same thing.
I have said this many times, but it bears repeating: your goal as a novelist is to create a Powerful Emotional Experience in your reader. That’s what it means to be marketable. And you can do that best as a writer if that Powerful Emotional Experience is one that you have first experienced yourself. That’s what it means to be authentic.
The trick, of course, is to sift through all that therapeutic writing you do and filter out all the stuff that nobody is going to care about. What you want is to find those Powerful Emotional Experiences within yourself that are going to resonate with somebody other than you.
This is one reason we have editors–to point out those parts of our work that nobody is going to give a flip about. And to highlight those parts that really resonate.
Andra M. says
So what you’re saying is it’s okay to PEE in public?
Andra, in the puppy posts folks are advising Randy to *pee* in public. Or at least down his fenceline. Surely it would be more acceptable to P.E.E.?
Andra M. says
Valerie: Yep! I just neglected to add the periods in P.E.E.
I wanted to add, too, about the original subject that being in a writer’s group has helped in removing the extra weight of the things I care about vs what everyone else cares about. It’s tough, and I always want to disagree with them.
When I take their advice, though, 80% of the time, they were right, and the story always improves. Whether or not it’s publishable remains to be seen . . .
Emotively. Did you mean Emotionally??
And yes, even though I “get into” what I’m writing, when I have bills to pay, mass market sounds good. You do what u gotta do.
What amazes me is some stories really have a routine premise.
*A num gets sent to take care of some kids. Yawn.
Sound of Music. A story (substantially true) which was a mega hit. Of course the premise was fleshed out well…And the score & actors didn’t hurt either.
Tho the other trick is…getting the story on the market. I once worked for a publisher. They mainly went for name writers (or ghost authored celebrities) because of name recognition. I referred a friend to them. He had well illustrated stories to offer. They seriously considered him, but he had no name & was rejected.
Just wonder what would have happened if Raymer Unwin had not gotten his father’s permission to “lose 1000 pounds” on a brilliant manuscript with probably no audience. My past example fits her “The Lord of the Rings”.
Still, I hope you Tolkein like creatures out there don’t give up.
I am working on a powerful emotional experience involving an innocent cyclist and a nasty, rude, thoughtless, idiotic car driver! Murder, anyone?
ML Eqatin says
The topic is too wide to be manageable. It needs breaking down.
Craft — what works for reader A stinks for reader B.
Market — the same problem. What happens when you write for reader A and poor marketing takes it to reader B?
A flop, which reader A would still love.
We live in a world of micro-markets, which are fragmenting so fast it’s making the head spin. That’s why internet savvy is so crucial: it is the measuring rod of the future. Rather like using a live snake, but better than nothing.
Filter all writing advice through this screen: does this apply to my own market?
Filter all marketing advice through this screen: will this reach my reader?
Work like mad to keep up with both.
Amy Wallace says
Great thoughts, Randy! I totally agree that writing powerfully comes from keeping the “why you read” and “why you write” connected and keeping it all authentic. It’s a writer’s thrill to hear that a reader connected with a character that first breathed for the author.
My mentor tells me often to “bleed on the page.” And while that’s so very hard (very messy if you’re a literalist), it’s also incredibly rewarding when someone “gets” it and is moved.
Barb Haley says
As I am planning my stories, I ask myself, “How do I want the reader to feel in the beginning? How do I want the reader to feel in the end?” Then I plan the trip. Often, I stop at several points along the way and ask, “How is the reader feeling right now?” That’s when I throw in a twist that will totally throw the reader. It’s too fun.