PUT YOUR WRITING IN THE RIGHT BOX. Maybe you’re wondering what that means, exactly? Well, let me explain.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that a writer has to “know their audience.” It’s a topic for heated debate. Literary fic writers love to say that “anyone can enjoy their books.” If you love romance, suspense, magic, and everything else under the sun – says the literary fic writer – then you’re going to love MY book.
But that’s not the way the cookie crumbles. People like to have things divided neatly into categories: boxed up in clean and pretty receptacles that hold the things they love. But they don’t want everything in ONE box.
For example, say one of your favorite foods is steak. Say your other favorite food is pea soup. But if someone poured pea soup all over your steak, and then said “Bon appétit,” you’d be a little mad, right? You’d be like – what the hell? Why did you just pour pea soup on my friggin’ steak?
Most people don’t just like one type of book. In fact, most people love many types of books. But they still only want to read one kind at a time. Maybe they’re in the mood for a thriller – or maybe they’re craving a passionate romance. They want to know what they’re reaching for on the shelf, so they can satisfy their craving quickly.
But I learned that the hard way. In the past, I wrote for a small and singular audience: ME. The problem is, most people’s tastes and preferences don’t match up EXACTLY with mine. This isn’t to say that, every now and then, I don’t find someone who really enjoys one of my old books. It also doesn’t erase the literary merit of old work. I’m only saying that, if you want to be commercially successful – and trust me, I haven’t managed that yet! – you have to cater to the needs of your audience.
I’ve always written stories with a lesbian-based theme. If you’re a lesbian, you’re going to want to write books with main characters who are lesbians. That just brings you back to the basic adage, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.
But I was a little too all-over-the-place. I had too many sub-genres, and my work was too heavily influenced by classic literature. My favorite author has always been Charles Dickens, so my writing style, as a younger person, was very old-fashioned.
Now, don’t get me wrong – some people still love ‘em some good old classic lit. But other people don’t care for it all that much. And you have to WRITE FOR YOUR AUDIENCE. So I worked long and hard at simplifying, and clarifying, my writing style.
Now, as an author, you can’t forget to READ WHAT YOUR WRITE. If you’re writing a thriller, read some hair-raising thrillers. If you’re writing a romance, read some sizzling romances. Let the voices of other talented authors, who have already managed to become commercially successful, guide your own writer’s voice.
Recently, I’ve been reading The Chess Machine by Robert Löhr. It’s a historical novel about the famed Mechanical Turk, an amazing chess-playing automaton that was eventually proven to be a hoax. The book I’m finishing up at the moment is a historical mystery, and The Chess Machine has helped a lot with getting me focused and centered.
So, to sum it all up:
- Simplify your writing style. Make it clean and easy to get lost in. (And, by the way – I don’t mean “clean” as in kid-friendly. Most adults don’t want to read novels that their own kids could read. A little sex and violence thrown in for spices is only going to help, as long as you don’t overdo it.)
- Select a major genre that you can have fun with, and stick with it. Don’t be afraid to throw in your own creative touches — but make sure that the genre is clear-cut. Personally, I’ve decided to go with murder mysteries. The main characters are still lesbians, but the genre is, as we said, clear-cut.
How do LESBIAN MURDER MYSTERIES sound to you? It’s mildly intriguing, right? The trick is, I think, to still try and be original, but to not be so original that no one knows what the hell you’re doing.
And that about wraps it up, my friends. I hope I’ve touched on a few important subjects, without merely repeating what fifty million other people have already told you.
Thanks for reading!