Thursday, November 23, 2006

The business of writing

Funnily enough I don't think of writing as a business. Nor do I treat it as such.

I guess I've written five unpublished novels in total now (slightly shocks me that I can't remember exactly how many) and with none of them did I have a market in mind. The exact opposite in fact. I wrote them from the heart, and if you've looked into my heart you'll know that's a pretty grim and unprepossessing place to be. The last one in particular was almost wilfully uncommercial. The others just weren't very good.

And yet publishing IS a business. It needs to sell books - lots of them - to survive. Same goes for agenting. These guys live on commission, you can't blame them for looking for the next big thing.

Oh, I know all the counterarguments. Talent will out. They'll take a risk on a first novel because they can see the potential. And I'm sure they will. But the potential for what? The answer surely must be that one day you will make the big sales that will make the whole thing commercially viable.

So maybe if I ever want to get published by a traditional publisher - and that's looking increasingly unlikely unless I alter my ways - I need to be more commercial in my approach to writing.

Perhaps I need to write with a view to actually getting published. You know, find a genre that suits me, sit down and develop a killer plot, develop a sympathetic hero, leave everyone feeling good at the end.

I mean, it's not rocket science is it. Oh. I think I've covered that subject in the previous post.

Perhaps I'm talking out of my arse again, just like that soldier who fired the rocket from a similar location.


  1. Anonymous2:37 pm

    I do know people who set out deliberately to write a commercial book and have been successful (though that's a subjective term if ever there was one).

    Personally I think I'd really struggle to do it. It's a skill in itself. For me, writing is about the stories that HAVE to be told ie the ones within me, not the ones dictated by market forces.

    If I tried to fashion my words in any other way, I'm sure they would come out flat and featureless - which would mean they would have little chance of success anyway.

  2. I've tried that approach often Bill and it never works for me. that's the mistake I made with the TAPS scriptwriting thing. I wrote something based on what I thought would appeal to the TAPS people, instead of writing what I wanted to write about in the way I wanted to write it.

    Perhaps it does work for some people, but I have a suspicion you are not one of those people.

    You have a strong voice struggling to come out. Have faith in your own vision. It's such an amazing feeling when you write something true to your own voice - better than financial success as well.

    Just earn enough to pay the bills and write what you want.

  3. Okay, guys, looks like we're unanimous on this one.