Am I tackling too big a topic today? Maybe. All I know is that this discussion has been creeping up on me and my author friends lately. With the state of the economy and the writing market being what it currently is (Print v/s epub, Kindle, self-publishing, cutting of mid-list authors for the big names, etc), you may wonder what you really need to do in this business.
I cannot speak for everyone but I can definitely speak for me. Most of you know I write Indian/Mauritian cultural stories. I thus wrote my first story about a divorcee in Mauritian society (The Other Side) and instead of giving it the heavy and tortured flair of Mauritian literature, I chose to make it a light and breezy romance with a definite HEA. Spurred on by the success of that book (it was picked right off the bat by a local publisher and is still in print today), I started my second book in and around the same kind of society, this time the focus being a young woman of traditional origin who's on the fence with modernity.
Both stories featured behind-closed-doors or barely-mentioned-in-passing love scenes, which worked because of my 'conservative' market and because culture-based stories do not generally include racy sex scenes.
Then I tried to branch to mainstream - a whole different kettle of fish, I was told. The advice I received? This - you need sex in there.
My first instinct was to say no. I wasn't comfortable writing sex scenes (always thought my very traditional and conservative mum and aunties were reading over my shoulder!). But hey, I was told this was the rule of the market - no sex, no sale. And keep the works short so you have ample opportunities to rack up the heat! I bit the bullet.
The result was a 2oK-something time-travel set in the Regency era. Of course, it had the 'required' rake, and he bedded the heroine graphically at every opportunity. That, as I was told, was apparently what sold! And sell it did, right off the bat too!
But this story, thanks goodness, never made it to the e-shelves. Why? Well, when I got an opportunity to grab the work back before it came out, I jumped on it. You see - I wasn't comfortable writing graphic sex, even if that's what the market wanted. This just wasn't 'me', neither as a person, neither as an author.
So before you jump on any market fad or any market advice or market trend, ask yourself this question - will I be comfortable writing this? Right - you never will know unless you try. Fine - try writing it and see if your heart's in there.
Is it? Or is it not?
That's the question you should ask yourself.
What I'm getting at is this - if your heart is into something, it shows in what you do. How many times have you dragged your feet to do a chore? Granted, yes, you got the job done, even got it done well, but the fact remains, you had to drag your feet to do it. Now imagine doing something you're all revved up for. You can hardly remain still until you can get to this task, and when you do get to it, you immerse yourself in there so much time flies, and when it's over, you're like, that's too soon, I want to hang on to this feeling.
Ask yourself then if your writing is a feet-dragging chore, or an elation-filled endeavour. If it's a chore, you might need to reassess your position. Is it the writing itself that's drudging, or is it that this just isn't 'you'?
The fact remains that while writing should be a labour of love, it should also be a task you undertake with all your heart. When this is the case, have no doubt that the story that flows out of your pen (or keyboard) is one that is bound to be strong, solid, and overall a round story that covers all aspects of what constitutes a good story. Why? Because you wrote it with your heart in there, not just to fill a slot of the market demand and to make a quick buck or to get a shoddy credit.
Ask most good writers what they are after, and they'll most probably tell you that their goal is strong stories that they have invested all their heart and soul in.
Is it that hard to do? No, but you need to sit down and decide what you want. A good story most often brings you all of publishing contract, publishing credit, readership, and some money. Add to it that there's also the elation-filled author satisfaction that can tide you through weeks on end. Take all of these elements apart - contract, credit, money - and without your heart in your work, you may end up with any or all of these, but all of it may not last long - it may not bring you more contracts, credits or money. Whereas a good story, well, it can pave the way for your future career path.
Think with your brain and common sense, think with some logic - find what you want to do, and then think with your heart when you are writing. A story that has author investment and the author's heart and soul into it will shine out of the lot without you needing to do much work, and that, I believe, should be every writer's big goal.
Any questions, just holler!
From Mauritius with love,