Monday, June 13, 2011

Should you Write what you Enjoy or what you Think will Sell?

If you want to imitate someone else, you probably will have a tough time. But what you could do is study the techniques of writers you enjoy and then see if there's something you can borrow from them and then restructure or rewrite it in your own voice. In advertising, there's a saying: "deconstruct" (the original idea) and "reconstruct" (refashion and reorganize it in your own words with a fresh idea).

You know that if you want to write something as long as a novel, you have to write about something you enjoy. That's really why we all started writing, isn't it? For me, it was writing about mysteries and suspense with a romantic twist added to heighten the tension and raise the stakes. The subject you write about should be something you feel comfortable with, because of your own personal experience--loss, divorce, vengeance--or something that fascinates you and you've studied or want to study. It could be a particular period in history or a place you've visited. If you've ever read the biographies of many famous authors, you realize how much of themselves they put into their work. And then you understand the focus of their writing--divers write diving and archeology books, attorneys, stories about law, etc.

No offense to vampire novelists out there, but I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to write a vampire story and the few times I've been bitten, I haven't enjoyed it. But if that's your bailiwick, go for it! It's a hot genre and if you like writing about it, great. I have always enjoyed suspense stories, not the slasher movie, car-chase, everything blows up kind, but the edge of your seat Alfred Hitchcock kind. Will the bomb go off or won't it? Will she see the murderer in the closet or won't she? Wringing out every last second of tension so that we can't turn the pages fast enough. I recently enjoyed reading Sandra Brown's Chill Factor where the main character was snowed in with someone she thought was a serial killer. Was he or wasn't he? It was a great book.

I also enjoy reading stories about lost treasure, World War II, unsolved mysteries and disasters and political assassinations--Titanic, Hindenburg, JFK, etc. I like the concept of the innocent person getting caught up in a maelstrom of trouble through a simple mistake or through no fault of his or her own. Amnesiac stories are another favorite and stories that center around vengeance, getting back at the person who wronged you. Or "Little Match Girl" stories where the heroine is a pitiful, ugly duckling mess in the beginning and then through her own gumption and tenacity, transforms herself into a tough, smart beautiful woman. I guess you could call them rooting for the underdog stories.

Just because someone made a fortune writing books about vampires or time travel or some other subject doesn't mean it can work for you, especially if you don't enjoy reading those kind of books. And perhaps that's the best advice of all--write about what you enjoy reading.

June 17, AJ Nuest will be my first blog guest!


Vonnie Davis said...

Interesting post. I see we like a lot of the same things. I'm writing a series set in Paris, my fav city. By doing so, I feel I'm revisiting those beautiful streets. There's a conspiracy woven into the books, too. I don't have the off-the-wall imagination to create new worlds or monsters. Sure wish I did.

Cara Marsi said...

I know exactly what you mean. The times I've tried to write to the market, it didn't work. I wasn't comfortable. I have to write books I feel good writing. I love the concept of an innocent person caught in a dangerous situation. I set Murder, Mi Amore almost entirely in Rome, Italy, and used settings from our visit there. I feel like Vonnie. Writing about Rome was almost like visiting it again.

I can't read or write about vampires. I do have one werewolf story out there. I love real wolves, but I admit I'm more comfortable writing romantic suspense or a nice, old-fashioned romance story.

Mimi Barbour said...

I liked this post because I feel the same way. As authors we need to be true to ourselves. For me - I've always liked humor...and I try and write it in my own kinda way - not chick lit but I hope witty just the same. I know not everyone is comfortable writing this, but I know everyone laughs most days and it's apart of the everyday life me, it seems so necessary.
And I love Sandra Brown's work too. She's gritty and real and funny enough - she can make me laugh!