Monday, June 14, 2010
Write what you love not what the market does
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
I thought I'd follow on from Jim's terrific post yesterday about writing with heart, and discuss an issue that is just as important in my view - writing what you love and not what you think the market will love. It drives me crazy when people say "you should write a romance - you'd make more money that way" or (even weirder) "You should write erotica - it's really hot (no pun intended) right now." For some reason there always seem to people wanting to make 'helpful suggestions' on what you should write - usually by pointing out the 'hot' genre on the current bestseller list, as if that is all it takes. Hey, if you just added a paranormal element to your mystery, shazam, you'd have it made.
If only it was that easy...For many wannabe writers the thought of becoming the next J K Rowling or Stephenie Meyers is enticement enough, as is the belief that somehow if you write to what you think the market wants, your future will be secure. Wrong.
Setting aside the obvious (that by the time you've written what the market loves now, the market has already shifted to something else) there is something more fundamental at stake. As my agent always says, you must write what you love. Why? Because it shows.
It shows if you are writing a romance when you think it's 'easy money'. It shows if you write a YA fantasy when you really want to write contemporary thrillers...If your heart isn't in it, the readers will know you're faking it.
I did a course in Australia years ago on 'how to write a romance'. I admit I did it as a lark and in the mistaken belief that 'anyone can write a romance' (I cringe now when I think of my attitude). I had never actually read a Harlequin romance before I did the class, and once I had, I realized I didn't enjoy them at all. They weren't my thing. So why did I think I could write one?? It wasn't until the end of the course that I realized my mistake: it felt fake, and then the realization set it, I was writing a romance for all the wrong reasons.
When I came to the US, I did another class and this time I fell into a different trap. This class was full of so-called serious writers and I felt the constant pressure to prove my 'literary merits' (when given everyone's ego was impossible - the only way members of this class felt good was by putting other members down). So then I faced another hurdle - how could I write what I loved when all I was worrying about was making sure what I wrote was 'literary' enough.
It took a while before I could set aside my misconceptions (that I should write what will sell, that I should write something 'worthy' etc.) Eventually I sat down and wrote what I loved, what I actually wanted to read, and you know what, it showed...(and, thankfully, it also got me published!)
So what about you? Have you ever felt pressured to write for the market, or to switch genres just because there was money it in? How have you dealt with the 'helpful' suggestions people make which means putting the market ahead of your heart?