Not Writing What I Want to Write
One of the hardest things for me, as an unagented author, is to know exactly what to write. That may sound strange, but let me explain.
Stephen King likely doesn’t sit down before his computer and ask himself, “Should I try to write a romance?” I would imagine that John Scalzi doesn’t spend days trying to decide if he should write a western. Could either of those men do either of those things? No doubt in my mind. I would love to see Stephen King’s romance. I would be just as happy to read Scalzi’s western.
If you have a look at my books, you’ll see I tend to write all over the map. I write, primarily, genre fiction like sci-fi and fantasy and its variants, but my most recent book was historical fiction. No fantastic elements, really, whatsoever. I have written nonfiction. I have written literary fiction. I have written YA. I have written what some might call horror. And the problem, for me, is knowing where to focus my time and effort and energy.
Why is that such a problem?
I want to write what will sell.
I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads at me. There’s this altruistic vein in authors that says, “Write your passionate, romantic way towards the pleasing of your muse. Celebrate your books with flowers, and champagne and…” And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, necessarily. Really I’m not. If that’s you? Good on you and keep it up. But I have not been gifted with the success of Stephen King who could write his laundry list and probably sell twenty thousand copies. I don’t have the resources at my disposal to just write whatever I love most. I could, certainly, and that’s been largely how I have written up until now.
My writing must serve a core desire or else I will just play at it, forever. So I have to ask myself, “What is my ultimate goal with my writing?” Is it just to do something fun? Is it to garner fans? Or is there some larger game I’m playing?
To be honest?
I want to change the publishing industry.
I want to work on and maybe help solve The Big Problem. For those just tuning in, The Big Problem is the decline of people, in general, reading for pleasure. I won’t delve too much deeper on that here, but it’s a problem that sits at the front of my brain.
If I’m going to help change the publishing industry and help solve The Big Problem, I can’t do that as an Amazon Kindle Direct author. I can’t really do that even with the book I’m giving away. I can only be successful in helping the industry by building influence within it. I can only build influence within it by being successful to the industry’s bottom line. I can only help the industry’s bottom line by selling ridiculous numbers of books.
Do you see? I want to write what will sell because I care about books as an art form. I’m not just in this for building a comfortable life for myself or crowds of fans. The world is far too fickle for that be my end game. But if I can raise the tides? If I can lift all our boats? Well, that will survive fickle fandoms.
So what say you? What do you think I should write that will sell? Or do you all just think I’m crazy?