WHAT will you write?

Words written in blood

Image courtesy of http://www.torange.biz.

We continue our series of blog posts on the who-what-when-where-why of writing (see previous posts about who, when, and where).

We turn now to WHAT gets written. Here we’re talking about the content of your fiction or nonfiction.

And here I’m planning to go against convention a bit.

We hear much about building a platform, writing for the market, carving out a niche, and author branding. Nearly all of these encourage a singular voice or genre or series. And granted, if this is what the editors and agents are telling us, then this route probably does provide better odds for getting something published.

But I’d still like to state my case (which does not eliminate the importance of a solid platform, mind you).

You are not a salesman or marketer or advertiser. You are a writer. And instead of spending your time trying to follow or predict the market, your time is better spend putting words on paper.

You are also not an automaton, I trust.

You are not robotically programmed for one topic; your interests span a broad literary spectrum. You have ideas for how-to books, short stories, a children’s book, a parenting book, and a full-length novel. You have ideas that fit better in the general market and others that might do better in the Christian market. You have book-length ideas and article-length ideas. And you have a series of articles that might work nicely as chapters in a complete book!

NO! Says today’s agent and editor. Pick one thing and make a name for yourself in that space.

And what should I do with the other ideas I’m passionate about? Let them die.

I disagree.

Write what you are interested in reading, which is likely pretty diverse. Am I right? Your writing interests should be no more programmed than your reading interests.

In the end, you are your own ideal reader. Instead of limiting your reading to those books that are already published, spend some time dreaming about the kind of book you’d like to read…and then write it yourself.

Don’t be like Stephen King who only writes gory horror. Oh wait, he also wrote The Shawshank Redemption, “The Body” (from which came the movie Stand By Me), The Green Mile, and the nonfiction writer’s guide On Writing. His body of work is refreshingly diverse.

C.S. Lewis is another good example of this diversity. He wrote fiction and nonfiction. He wrote books on Christian apologetics and critiques of Medieval and Renaissance literature. He wrote children’s books and contributed substantially to the Oxford History of the English Language (which he affectionately referred to as O-HEL). He wrote poetry and science fiction fantasy and an autobiography. Hard to get more diverse than C.S. Lewis.

That’s because he was an honest writer. What I mean is that he wrote what he wanted to write, and he didn’t allow the market to dictate his topic nor dilute his passion.

May you do the same.


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