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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Write what I like, or write what readers like?

As a writer, you have to decide if you write what you like and hope readers will like it, too, particularly today's readers, or do you write what you think today's readers like, and hope they  will also like it? Of course, if your mindset is "I like writing horror," or whatever, and many readers love horror, then you have the ideal situation, that is, you and the readers enjoy the same thing. Of course, I'm talking about writing for publication and financial survival. If you don't care about either, then the point is moot.

I've come to the conclusion that the majority of fiction readers today do not care much for nuances, subtle variation, or poetic language. What do they care about? They want extreme emotion: extreme hatred, extreme love, extreme sex, extreme friendship and the extreme straining of that friendship (maybe it's always been that way, now that I think about it [Sophocles, Homer, Shakespeare, Hugo, Camus, and on and on and on]). The more extreme the better. Of course, it has to work as a story and, preferably, a fast-moving story.

Perhaps it's the result of the television and motion picture industries that we've come to the point we're at now. Slow moving, "normal," has become boring. Abnormal has become appealing. We want our characters to be bigger than life, and their struggles titanic (and violent). We want our characters to be beautiful, but flawed, but beautiful just the same. We want our stories to enthrall.

This is a pretty tall order. But it is doable. We writers have to realize the reality of today's literary marketplace and go for it. Otherwise, our chances of being published and reaping financial success are limited at best.

I'm attempting something that is, for me, new. I'm venturing into crime fiction. I've completed three short stories that I will self-publish as part of a collection when I've written enough to complete a decent-sized collection, say a total of twelve- to fifteen-thousand words. Right now, I've written almost eight-thousand words with the three stories I've completed. I've written a story a week for the past three weeks, and am planning a forth one now. I'd like to write a story a week to reach the five or six or thereabouts stories, revise (proofread primarily), and self-publish. Hopefully I can have a Beta reader or two. But I'm really not too concerned about that. I'm following what I perceive as the Jack London plan of action: just write it; don't worry about perfection. Not every story written by every great writer was a masterpiece. As long as the reader likes it, that's what matters.
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