I envy those people who can choose what they write.
Is your romance series not selling enough? Switch to thriller and watch your Kindle profits soar!
These are the type of posts I see on the 20Booksto50K Facebook page. This is the kind of advice I see written in blog posts, in articles, in books, etc.
“Write to market” is usually interpreted as write the content / genre / topic that the market wants.
Vampire stories are hot! You should totally write one of those.
I’ve never been able to choose what I write. What I write is determined by what appears in my head.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I write organically; I’m a panser or I write into the dark. I don’t outline. I don’t plan. In fact, if I plan or outline, I’ll completely derail my writing process and my creativity will run for the hills. It’s happened before. It was tragic and painful. I don’t want it to happen again. I avoid this pain and tragedy by writing what appears in my head.
I look at myself as a facilitator. I listen when a new character or scene shows up in my head. I pay attention. I ask informed questions to try to flesh out what I’m being told or shown. I write it all down. I am non-judgemental, and I accept it all unconditionally.
To choose what I write would be to reject something that is begging to be written. When I reject or judge, my creativity evaporates.
Another way to view “write to market” is use an expected story structure.
In other words, it isn’t what you’re writing, it’s how you’re writing it. I credit Derek Murphy of CreativIndie for this shift in perspective. You can write just about any topic in fiction, but your reader will likely expect you to follow a storytelling structure of beginning, middle and end, with a character arc, some dramatic events to help with the character arc, and a midpoint shift of the plot that facilitates the rubicon of that story and character’s arc.
Non-fiction readers especially expect a certain structure. For self-help it usually follows: introduction, background, informational chapters, implementation, conclusions, resources.
Even language has an expected structure that could qualify as “writing to market”. For instance, in English, we need our sentences to be structured as subject-action-object or noun-verb-noun/adverb. If you mess around with this, people get very very confused or think you’re talking like Yoda.
When people find out what I research, what I’ve done, they immediately ask me why I don’t write thrillers or mysteries or true crime or something like that. None of that comes out onto my page. Memoirs of a Reluctant Archaeologist is the closest I’ve come to writing about what I do, and that only happened because it was cathartic. I needed the therapy of writing the shit down to heal from it.
I don’t like dwelling on the nastiness of life. I’d rather focus on empowerment, resolution, overcoming personal obstacles, and the magic and beauty of life. Besides, I rather like magic, swords, larger than life characters, and places where anything can happen. Magic also allows the underdog to be empowered. There’s nothing like a David and Goliath story to get my blood going! (Does this happen in my latest WIP To Hell in a Handbasket?? Maaaayyybeee.)
What it boils down to is that I like what I write.
I find happiness in it. If I was writing something else, I wouldn’t like it as much. The enjoyment would likely dry up and I wouldn’t bother writing any more. I’m drawn to Elise Marquette (the protagonist of Memoirs) because she’s good people who, despite everything that’s happened, still has hope and compassion. She also says and does things I wish I could do. I didn’t think I’d ever write about her again after finishing Memoirs, but she’s hung around. And I’m glad she has.
For me to write, it needs to be something I engage with, that makes me curious, that give me hope for a better world and better people. If I don’t engage with the content, I don’t write it. If someone were to offer me millions of dollars to write a vampire novel, I couldn’t do it. I’ve read my share of vampire novels. I liked most of them. But vampires just don’t come out onto my page, likely because I just don’t resonate with them.
So while I don’t write specific content for a market, I do structure my stories to communicate them in a way I hope is engaging for my reader. Does this initially come out onto the page? Nope. It’s something I edit in after the creative dump is mostly done.
Back before Pierce Brosnan became James Bond, he was in the TV show Remington Steele. I used to watch it obsessively (I had a wee bit of a crush). In the very first episode, there was a self-made millionaire character talking about how he built his business. He told of how he went to night classes to learn how to speak well so that people would listen to what he said instead of how he said it.
This can also be applied to writing.
Using an expected storytelling structure (ie, how you’re speaking) helps the reader engage in the story you’re telling (ie, what you’re saying). If you use an unexpected structure as well as trying to introduce new content and topics and unusual characters, it can be a bit much for a reader to get their head around. Sure, there are exceptions to this (ie, novels written in verse, a reverse timeline), but folks doing this really need to have their craft down. (I’m not saying you don’t have your craft down; instead, be ready for some pushback from your readers.)
“Writing to market” doesn’t have to be about content; it can also be about structuring your story in an expected way.
What do you write?
Are you writing what you want to write?
Do you have trouble structuring your stories?
Are you writing what makes you happy?
Further Reading / Watching
Derek Murphy, CreativIndie – How to write to market? | Plotting and Tropes in Writing
Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth
Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic
Storytelling Structure: The Pixar Story Spine
Helping Writers Become Authors – The Midpoint as the Swivel Point of Your Story’s Linked Structure
Remington Steele – Ep 1, License to Steele (about 14:20, if you’re curious)
Yvonne is the author of two fiction books, Memoirs of a Reluctant Archaeologist and Waiting for Fate (Book One) and several short stories. You can view her backlist here: http://yvonnekjorlien.com/shop/
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Do you need some help with your writing? Yvonne offers writing consultation to get you in the flow.
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