Write for Yourself
Do you write for yourself or for the market? This is a question all writers must ask themselves, hopefully sooner rather than later. Well come on then; do it. Do you write for yourself or for the market?
If some of you don’t know what those actually mean, I will give you an example. Say you’re a writer who loves to write science-fiction humour for young adults – that’s fine. But what if the market (that is, what’s selling at the moment) is serious fantasy? Now you’re in a real pickle. Do you carry on with your humourous book or do you throw it in the garbage and begin a fantasy novel just like the ones that are selling? It’s a difficult choice, as it can make or break a writer if they desperately want to be published. But what’s the answer, then?
Well in a book I am currently reading, called Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers, Alan Dean Foster (writer of the Alien novelisation) said this:
“Everything I had been trying to write ‘to the market’ was going nowhere, while something I wrote out of love and personal interest sold immediately.”
Fair enough if it’s his opinion, but why should we even begin to trust his advice? Because his world-wide sales are in excess of ten million copies. Wow. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. But you may argue that what works for one writer may not work for another, and that’s true. So let’s a dig a little bit further into this to come up with an answer of our own.
Let’s take another example, one when you were (or still are) in school. There were certain subjects you enjoy more than others, weren’t there? Perhaps there were ones you utterly despised – like me and Physical Education! 😛 You may have tried your best at that horrible subject, or tried to write that History paper with all your heart, but in the end you weren’t as good as the best in your class, were you (not trying to bring you down here; I hated most of the subjects in my school)? You had your favourite subjects, the ones you were good at or at least did your best at. This is what writing should be like for us. We shouldn’t force ourselves to write what we aren’t good at or what we don’t enjoy – we should be writing what we do enjoy, subjects that make our bodies quiver with excitement!
Of course, what interests you as a writer may already be what’s currently selling on our shelves, and that’s great! If that’s the case for you, then get cracking! For those of us who aren’t so great at writing what’s currently on our shelves, though, this can be a little bit of a problem, so let’s tackle this problem head-on.
What do we do when we don’t want to write what’s popular? This is difficult to answer, and probably one we won’t be able to answer fully, but we can at least try. Essentially, we as writers just need to keep writing about what we love, as that’s what motivates us to write that novel or screenplay or short story – our love for its themes, characters, and so on. That love should make us proud of the work we’ve done, even if publishers and agents don’t so much as take a whiff of it. As Oscar Wilde said:
“An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.”
Wise words. If we’re not willing to at least try a new idea (in its broad sense, anyway) then there’s almost no point in us writing at all. In fact, you could go as far to say that the people who copy the ideas of what’s popular at the present may not actually be dangerous or original, just as Wilde said. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be that writer that breaks the mould – somebody has to be!
Thanks for reading; I hope you gathered some opinions of your own through reading my own! If you want to check out the book which I quoted from, you can get it from Amazon here – Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers. It’s a good book in which the writer interviews several writers about how they became bestsellers, from Roald Dahl to Tom Clancy.