Not What You Want to Write; What They Need

I read a fascinating comment by non-fiction author and publisher Bruce Gehweiler, co-author of Breaking Into Fiction Writing!, in a short article in Space and Time magazine. He said, “A universal truth that I have learned is that it is easier to get published by supplying a publisher with what they need, than by trying to find a home for your original work.”

I had never thought of it that way, but all my limited experience with the business of publishing suggests that he’s right. It’s not art; it’s commerce. Decisions are not made for artistic reasons; they’re made, especially in these inceasingly lean economic times, for business ones. Whatever the suits think will sell gets published, and whatever they don’t think will sell doesn’t. They are often wrong, of course, about things on both ends of that equation, but that’s the defining principle.

But it’s also the exact opposite of what the hodres of hopeful writers out there are doing. They have their own worlds and characters, in some cases captivatingly original and in many others numbingly trite. They do yearn to be published, but I think most of that drive is to see their original material in print, not merely to publish anything they might write.

Even though I recognize the business realities, my own first reaction as a writer, as a strong proponant of originality, was dismissive. My original worlds are a huge part of my fiction. Developing their cool visuals and their interesting societies is one of the main reasons that I enjoy writing (and reading). The themes in my fiction often emerge organically from those worlds and the characters. I rarely do well with writing exercises where I’m supposed to take a setting or a theme from someone else and incorporate into a world or a story. I just don’t think in that way.

So am I writing for myself and not to get published? I certainly want my own stuff published, and I’m quite pleased that some of it has been. I do take commercial and appeal considerations into account while writing. But I don’t know that my interest or my writing process would hold while doing work that wasn’t largely original.

We’ll see if I ever get the opportunity to find out. After all, Robert Jordan did get his start with Conan novels, and it would certainly be great fun to write a D&D novel–umber hulks and Drow and shambling mounds, oh my!

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Not What You Want to Write; What They Need”

  1. fritz blog ยป Link dump for Dec. 19th, 2008 Says:

    […] the fiction of Scott H. Andrews ? Blog Archive ? Not What You Want to Write; What They Need (Writing… […]