How do you decide what to write?

I’ve recently been having a crisis. I would call it a crisis of faith, but that seems a little overly dramatic. Let’s call it a literary crisis.

I love writing, obviously. I love to write books, especially YA books. Ideally, I’d like to write about whatever I want, and then sell enough of these books that I can quit my day job and write books for a living. But the problem is that what I like to write, and what is currently popular, do not match up.

I recently read an article which outright stated, “If you want to make money, write Vampire Erotica”. And I have to say, I was tempted. I mean, vampires are in right now. If I were to write even a semi-decent book about vampire romance, I could probably make a good amount of money. But is that the sort of thing I want to do? And I’m not talking about sacrificing my integrity as an author. I mean, do I want to put myself through the process of dreaming up a story about vampires and humans and werewolves and all the other literary tropes that are selling right now? The answer is: I don’t know.

Money rocks. But so does writing what I care about. And I’m not sure I could care about vampires. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I quite enjoyed Twilight, but that was less because of the vampires and more about the characters. Everything I know about vampires is from TV and books, and most of that information contradicts itself. The original vampire looked like a demon, after all–hardly something you want your main character locking lips with. I suppose if I came up with interesting enough characters I wouldn’t mind churning out a vampire romance, but for all I know, by that point society will have moved on to the next YA craze, and I’ll be left with a vampire romance that no one will want to buy or read.

Maybe that’s the way to look at it. YA crazes come in phases, and ultimately, you should write what you want to write. Even if the book doesn’t have an audience now, it might very well in a year or two. I guess it comes down to whether you’re writing for love of writing, or for love of making money. And if I’m writing for the second reason, I might as well throw in the towel now, because the best sellers are non-fiction, and I am worse than useless at writing anything other than fantasy or sci-fi. So I’m going to keep on typing what I know and love, and hopefully I’ll be able to find an audience out there someday to appreciate my creations!

What do you think?

Is it important to consider potential sales and marketability when writing a book? Should a real writer care whether or not they make the New York Times Best-seller List?

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “How do you decide what to write?

  1. Personally, I think a writer should write for the love of the writing. If you’re in it for the money, like you said, you might as well quit. There’s no guarantees that even with a vampire romance you would be able to sell your novel right now.

    I write the stories that I want to write, how I want to write them. I don’t set out thinking ‘oh, okay so it’s a fantasy with some romance and there’s dragons, kids like dragons. This will totally sell and make me millions!’ I set out to tell the story that I envisioned and don’t even think about the rest of it.

    In fact, I’ve only recently considered publishing my novels, even though I’ve been writing seriously for seven years. I guess different aspects will be more important to other people, but this is just my thoughts 🙂

    • You should absolutely publish your novels! I would read them 🙂 And after thinking about it, I definitely agree with you. What’s the point of writing if you don’t enjoy what you do?

  2. Shira Windschitl

    I’m in luck. I like writing paranormal fantasy. Which is totally in right now. However, I also enjoy writing other fantasy. I’ll have to worry about this more when non-fantasy is in.

    • Hopefully fantasy will always be in! Are you publishing all the paranormal stories you can while the iron’s hot? 😉

      • Shira Windschitl

        Working on it. Hopefully I’ll hit the market at the right time. If not, I still enjoyed the process.

  3. Sahm Ataine King

    My girlfriend once suggested to me that I should perhaps get into writing romance novels. Why? Because Romance takes up something like half the literary market.

    I don’t care about writing to make money, however, the reality is, to break in to the market, one may have to sacrifice something of themselves at some point. For instance, I’m going to write a nocturne romance, laden with the tropes you speak of. I’m doing it for the money, and because I can. Why? Because, I need to get in, and I need to make my skill, and peoples’ desires, work for me. When I am at where I want to be at, I can market my other works, which are largely fantasy / science fiction. Incidentally, I won’t be publishing the nocturnes under this name. Have to save some of myself….

    Forgive me the rambling. 🙂

    • That’s actually a really good idea. I’ve been toying with the concept of using a pen name, but then I worry that I’ll have built a following under a different name. And if that happens, when I try to market my fantasy/sci-fi books under my real name, I won’t have that following to back me up with purchases. Unless I reveal the pen name as myself… but I don’t think I’d want to do that! lol

  4. wordsaremagic

    If you don’t enjoy writing what you’re writing, then it’s just labor! I prefer to work a day job for money and write for fun. I’m trying my hand at fiction and working on a book about an ordinary 32-year-old divorced mother of 2 who just tries to get through the day. Is there a market for such a story? Who cares?

    • I bet you there is a market for that. Probably 30-something mothers with kids, would be my guess. And I agree with you! Now, ideally I would somehow be able to make myself enjoy writing vampire romances, and then I could have the best of both worlds. I’ll let you know how that goes, lol.

  5. If the author of a piece of art doesn’t enjoy the piece of art the author put together, what makes you think anyone else will? My opinion here. Write what you know and what you love so others can fall in love with it, too. Still, simultaneously, we, as writers, shift and change based on our own opinions. What we learn changes us. We put a piece of ourselves into what we write every time we sit down to write. That piece, some people would say is lost. I say, that piece, attracts others to us like a lure, which in the end, only makes us stronger.

    Write for the reasons that you decide. Then, decide if those reasons are worth writing for.

  6. Sean

    Write what you want to write, you can keep your integrity that way. Who knows…maybe what you write can be the next big thing anyways!

    Since I am not as well versed in the literary realm as the musical one, I will have to use a musical example. Many bands that had previously been popular suffered major fanbase losses when they gravitated towards mainstream music (Def Leppard jumps to mind quickly). And then there are some that start with the “in” sound to start with, and fade into oblivion very quickly (Jonas Brothers, anyone)?

    The best acts in the world of music stay true to themselves and do their own thing. They also tend to be the ones that maintain popularity the longest as well. I would have to imagine the same thing holds true in the literary world. Write what you like, hope YOUR thing gets big, and remain true to yourself, even if the style changes.

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