Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's All in The Balance

Notoriety means a lot in publishing, as it does with just about any industry. What I think is funny is that reviews and critiques, even by agents, are subjective to the person. One person might think a beginning is slow, while another thinks the same ending is just the perfect pace.The advice given to me has always been write what your heart wants, and find the agent that fits it, not the other way around. I guess it depends on if you are writing to write, or writing to be published. I don't think, however, that the two are mutually exclusive.”

You are correct: Writing just to write and writing to be published are not always mutually exclusive. However, there is a fine balance that must be struck between the two for a writer to ultimatley be successful. There are not many writers who can do this overall.

Also, notoriety is not the same in publishing as any other industry. Notoriety in publishing means you already have an audience, something that it might take years to build just writing books. Publishers know and understand the marketing aspect of celebrity and play to it. This leaves the beginning writer at a disadvantage that may never be overcome.

Yes, I agree that a writer should always write what’s in his heart to write, but that has nothing to do with beginnings, transitions, character, point of view, title choices, setting, description, voice, dialogue, interior monologue, climax or endings. These choices and techniques have nothing to do with heart, but have to do with writing skill. There is only one person a writer has to please, and that’s his reader. Readers demand that novels begin a certain way, usually with change or with something happening in your character’s life. Today’s readers were raised on television where you have, at the most, a very short time to tell a story. Readers will not wait for a writer to fall into his pace, nor will they wallow in the fluidity of your language just for the sake of it as they might have years ago. If you don’t give them something right up front that lets them know that this is going to be an exciting story and well worth their time and investment, your readers will resent it and will reject you.

I heard a writer the other day arrogantly proclaim, “If it wasn’t for writers, publishers would have to close their doors.” Well, this may be partly true. However, when readers stop reading what writers write…need I say more?

Writing for publication can be writing from your heart, but it is always writing for your audience no matter what, and it is imperative to remember that.

6 comments:

Rene said...

I think one issue writers often fail to understand that writing is a craft. Writers think they are artists and in a sense that is true, but even an artist learns technique in the medium they've chosen. "Da Rules" don't weaken creativity, they strengthen the work. I also think a writer needs to think about writing the book of their voice rather than their heart.

NL Gassert said...

Hmm. There are two driving forces directing my writing: I write the book I want to read but can’t find in the store, and I write from the heart. That doesn’t mean I ignore popular trends or plot devices or marketability. On the contrary. I want someone to read the book I’m writing after all.

Aren’t all books meant to be read? If a writer ignores what readers want, he/she isn’t writing a book but a journal (never meant to be shared).

DanStrohschein said...

Nadja, I think we share this in common with many writers. I also write what I want to read but can't find on the shelves - and everything that I write is written the way I want it to be. I don't sacrifice or change anything to meet the market.

However, when I query the manuscript, I submit the story that will work in the market (gathered from sources like publishers marketplace and other agents' blogs).

Writing is limitless - can be done in any format, for any audience. Write what you feel, what you want to write. Publishing, however, follows trends in waves and is sometimes even cyclical. It's a business, and therefore I only try to publish what is hot. That doesn't mean that I only write what is hot.

There is a seperation there that I think most writers (especially new ones) don't see. Writing is art honed and sharpened by skill. Publishing is a business with deadlines, accountants, sales people, and a bottom line. To be successful, a writer must understand and embrace both. I strive to do this with my own career.

DanStrohschein said...

One other comment - "This leaves the beginning writer at a disadvantage that may never be overcome."

This is the folly of the author who doesn't set the streets, airwaves, and bookstores on fire with their own marketing. Don't leave it up to the publishers - it's YOUR book... Take responsibility and shove down the throat of everyone within TV distance.

Jude said...

I hope that we can find a balance between writing what we really want to write and what publishers want to market, but sometimes we have to compromise to get what we really want, don't we?

Johnsjud said...

"If it wasn't for writers???"
If it weren't ...
Ultimately...
So many details, so little time!