I just read an article by Naomi Rose that speaks to my own difficulties in balancing the commerce side of writing commercial fiction with the art side. I often fret at the confines of “writing to the market” which include keeping the readers’ expectations in mind, word counts, in the romance biz ensuring a happily-ever-after, word count, what subgenre is hot, and almost always includes the admonition to write fast and publish often… as if I had any control over either of those aspects of this thing called writing.
In the romance fiction world the common wisdom is that you have to get your name out there a lot to build a readership. You have to publish a lot of books and you need to write them quickly so that your publisher can bring them out as close together as the marketing department can swing it. I know a lot of authors who can do this well and happily, and can make a living at it.
My process does not lend itself to that model.
So does that mean there’s no future in publishing for the writer like me who needs time to let a project marinate, to mull over ideas, to consider options? I don’t know. In the literary world that seems to be an acceptable process. In the literary world you can have a slim book (by commercial book standards) come out every couple of years and make a good career of it. The question is, can one write commercial fiction at a literary fiction pace and make a career out of it? I wish I knew.
Perhaps the better question is, does it matter? It will matter if your primary aim at writing fiction is to make money (and if it is, let me suggest a quick reality check). But if your primary aim is to write the book, explore the story, figure out what happens to that character that will not stay out of your head, then the process of writing is what matters. And in fact, the process of writing is the only thing you-the-writer have any control over — and many of us would claim little control even of that!
So do you write for the love of the process, or for the promise of the payoff? Is that story you are writing art, or is it commerce? Fiction can definitely be both and some writers are more adept at walking the art/commerce line than others. I think the important thing to do is to honor your process, whatever it may be. If you, like me, lean toward the art side, upsetting the balance with commerce, then revel in the art side until the project is complete. Then suck it up and put on your marketing hat and see if there is a place for your art in commerce.
Filed under: A Writer's Life |