Last week, I shared my first gif post on the art of writing. The essentials for writing a successful novel were included. Today, I’d like to discuss the role of the author within the larger writing community. More importantly, I’d like to address this question.
Should an author write for himself/herself or the reading community at large?
This is a trick question. The answer is actually both. I’ll explain why now. First, an author has a unique vision and story to tell, as explained in this Neil Gaiman quotation:
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.”
This individuality will allow the author to write about things and think about things that no one else has. Just as a scientist or historian will conduct research relevant to his or her own interests, so too will an author write something that is of personal appeal. This is encapsulated through this Toni Morrison quotation:
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
It is also important to retain this individuality because chasing trends or capitalizing on current interest does not guarantee sales. Likely, a category will flood the marketplace, or if the author is published through traditional channels, the lead-time from writing to publishing means that this trend may already be over by the time the book hits the market.
|Reading and Writing- Book Multiplication depends on it
More important this this even, though, is authenticity. If a writer tries to write what he or she thinks others want to hear, it is likely that the book will come off as a forgery, a farce, a parody or an imitation. It is better to deliver a rich and full story, filled with detail and with certainty. In other words, as a writer
Be True to Your Story.
Now, for the second half of the answer of who a writer should write for. Unless, a reader lives in isolation from all books, chances are readers have encountered previous books. The very notion that the reader can read seems to necessitate this. That being the case, it is important than an author be aware of what has come before.
What books are classics?
Why are they classics?
What do their plot structures or memorable characters reveal about the longevity of literature and the timelessness of certain elements?
It is also beneficial to be aware of what is popular at present, though, and specifically within an author’s genre. To write without exposure to other writing is to deny the brilliance of others that can be built upon.
What do I mean by this?
Imagine that a chef has a bag of groceries. There might be some pretty interesting combinations that are created, but there will ultimately be limitations. No one person can think of everything. Now, imagine that the chef makes a recipe from a cookbook. The recipe will taste fine, but is unlikely to garner much attention: everyone’s doing it. This is what happens when writers try to copy a style or plot that has popularity for a time. Now, imagine that the chef tries out a few recipes and then creates something utterly new based upon the knowledge of what elements have been tried together and what is breaking new ground. This is the equivalence of writers who read the works of others and then create their own.
As a writer, your story will be more rewarding when you push beyond what’s previously been done. For readers, the books will be more exciting and riveting as well. This also is true because recent studies have shown that reading a novel causes the brain to be more creative for a full five days afterwards. A writer that reads a lot is thus benefiting from this added burst of creativity and is exposed to its creative influences.
Write your story, but do so as a part of the writing conversation: adding something new to say, in your voice, with your wit, that can fit among other writers as a bright spot of its own.
My best to you all,