Fear and Ignorance

(Props to those who recognize what that’s from.)

So in my last post I lamented that I hadn’t really written anything not aimed at whoring myself out in one capacity or another.  I rectified that; I wrote yesterday.

I’m 5,000 words in on a targeted 20,000 word middle-grade novel.  My kid is my target audience, and so far he’s said he wants to keep reading, so I figure I’m on the right track.

And yet …

Today I read an agent’s wish list on Facebook. And I started wondering about what I’m writing.

Part of the hard thing about writing fiction is that there are so many different avenues you can take with a story.  I set out with a plot, a goal, a voice and an audience in mind.

And then I think, “But this story would be so much cooler if I could write it with some older, sexier, darker subtext. That guy should really WANT that girl, and not get her. Can I write that into middle-grade fiction? Pretty sure my kid doesn’t get the whole unrequited love concept. Nope, take it out.  Or should I just start writing the other version? Can I write the same book twice, from two different perspectives?”

And then I think, “Bah. I can’t even get one book published. Why would I write two of the same thing?”

And then I think, “You know, this story would be so much more saleable if I say they are all vampires.”

And then I think, “Perhaps I should stop writing and go eat some cake. Like, forever.”

And then I sigh and go back to Plan A.  Because I like Plan A.  I think it’s got legs.  Or at least a captive audience of one who will read it if I bribe him with chicken nuggets.

I just wish I knew someone who actually worked in the business who could tell me whether I’m right.

As a journalist, I know reporters are supposed to cover the things they think are important. I know that newspapers run what editors think should be known, not just what people want to see.  I know that if “give ’em what they want” was the guiding principle, there wouldn’t be many stories about water board meetings or fiscal policy or what have you.  Or those stories would run, but they’d require a tie-in to Katy Perry. (Is she still trending, or has her time passed?)

As a “writer” I know I’ve been told to write what I want/know/love.  To write my story, not the story I think will sell.

So, OK, fine.  But here’s thing: Doesn’t everyone want their story to sell? How do you untangle that knot,  O Editors?

Meh.  Back to writing for my audience of one.  There’s some satisfaction in that.


About arwenbicknell

Editor by day, author by night.
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2 Responses to Fear and Ignorance

  1. ellenholiday says:

    I went through this for years. I wrote a story that I second-guessed the whole way through, and it died on the vine. I wrote a novel that tried to be something trendy, and it was terrible. It was only when I decided to write the kind of story I love writing that I started writing stories that sold. Cliche? New-Agey? Whatever, it’s TRUE.
    It comes through in your tone, in the effortless nature of the plot that moves forward, when you really care about the characters and aren’t trying to force them into a situation where they don’t belong. In the end we don’t just want to write stories that sell, we want OUR stories to sell. It’s not as satisfying when you fake it. 😉
    Believe in your unique point of view, in the characters that have come to reside in your head. Believe that you have enough insight into the human condition that your story will have resonance. And write it like it’s your mission to do so. Then worry about selling it. Your passion for the story will come through in every word, and that — not a trend or a gimmick — will be what sells it. And it will be so, so satisfying.
    Ellen Holiday

  2. Hee. Thank you for the pep talk, MIz Ellen. I know you’re right, and that’s why I generally wind up back at Plan A. Well, after cake. Of course.

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