Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mind Your Own Business

The quote below made me think once again about trying to write for a specific audience or an editor, maybe an agent.  I’ve written about this before, but I think it’s worth writing about again.

You can’t write what you can’t read.  I could never write a science fiction novel because I don’t care to read them.  The same goes for spy novels.  I’m sure you have your own genres you can’t read.  If so, don’t try to write one.  It won’t work.

Don’t try to second guess who will like what.  It’s impossible.  I’ve been reading some writer’s blogs where the author wonders if he/she should put a romance at the beginning or start with the weather.  Should the protagonist be sympathetic?  If she/he is angry will that put an editor off?

Does a woman have to have sex appeal?  Does a man have to be macho?

Will the agent like it better if I start with place or person?

How will readers feel about a woman killer?  Should I throw in a dog or cat?

Does it have to be resolved by the end?

Thinking this way would drive me crazy…and I’m sure it drives the people asking these questions, crazy.  It has to.  How creative can this be if you’re trying to tailor your work for X, Y or Z?

Years ago I tried writing a Judith Krantz-type novel.  Some of you probably don’t know who she is.  In the 70s and 80s she wrote sagas about glamorous women looking for love or losing love in various countries with gorgeous men.  I think almost all her books were made into TV specials.

Now, really, does that sound like a novel I could or would write?  But I wanted to make some money and it seemed so easy.  I did have to read one of the novels and it was agony.  My writing partner and I mapped out the characters lives, the men, the conflicts, etc. all on a big white board.  We alternated chapters and rewrote each other’s work.  We stayed friends but what we came up with in the end died on the page.  Still, we didn’t know that until our agent told us.

Then there was the spy novel and the romance novel and who remembers?  What I didn’t realize is that the people who write these novels are good at what they do.  They believe in their work.  One has to, to make it live. 

We were trying to write for a particular audience and there was no way we could do that and have it be any good.

But even if you’re writing in a genre you like (crime) you can’t decide to start the novel with action because you think an agent will like it better. And on and on.

You have to start it where you want to start it.  Where you think it should begin because that’s how you hear it in your head.  Characters have to sing to your tune and not to the tune of some imaginary editor.

Believe in your story, your setting, your protagonist.  If you do you might have a chance of writing a good book.


Anonymous said...

Man, did I need to hear that today. Thanks.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too. Ditto.

Patricia said...

This entry and the one before it have meaning for virtually every endeavor. Busy trying to find out what they want, reducing what we are/create. Helpful.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Great post, Sandra. I lost myself a long time ago... trying to please.

Misque Writer said...

The first book I wrote, was, of course, before I was published, and I wrote it mainly for myself. However, afterward, my editor wanted me to write a sequel. I even had a sequel in mind. But I was paralyzed by the thought of whether the readers would like the sequel, what could I do to correct the mistakes reviewers had complained about in the first book, etc.

It was torture, and instead of writing the sequel, I wrote an unrelated book (which was also published). However, I dread the thought of being unable to ever write a sequel to anything!

Do you find it different working on sequels than you do on independent books? Do you read reviews of your books, and do they distract you from writing.

Cap'n Bob said...

Like the man said, to thine own self be true. Great post and a sterling does of reality.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

misque writer

I wish people would leave their email addresses if they're asking questions.

Do you find it different working on sequels than you do on independent books? Do you read reviews of your books, and do they distract you from writing.

Yes. I don't like doing sequels or a series because I enjoy the discovery of character. In a sequel it's already there.

Yes, I read they don't distract me anymore. As a new novelist a bad review might put me to bed for a week.

Misque Writer said...

>I wish people would leave their email addresses if they're asking questions.<

Sorry! I thought blogger provided it automatically. Here's my email and website:

Thanks for answering anyway! I'm glad to know one can develope a tougher skin toward bad reviews. I'm going to work on that.

Backyard Urban Gardening said...

I'm on my third serious attempt to write a novel. The first two died after about 12 or 13 chapters.

Recently I've learned that by attempting to write like someone else or to steer things in a particular direction was limiting my work.

I'm trying to put all that aside and just write it down.

It's amazing how much my writing has improved with this approach. Others might not think so, but I think my characters are gaining more depth too.

ezrafox said...

Well, I've never written anything until recently while working on my genealogy. I ran across a great story when reseaching my greatgrand mother. It inspired me so that I thought I could tell her story. I have a question for all you writers especially Sandra.
Have you all had a great deal of schooling or writing classes before you actually started writing? Appreciate imput.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Ezra...I don't know why you asked this question here. This was a Feb. post. Got to the beginning...which is the last post I wrote and ask your question there.

But I'll answer here. I had no training and didn't go to college. My training was reading everything I could and writing every day.

Go for it.