Yesterday I had two different authors ask me questions about my writing that in some ways were related so while I answered them privately I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about them here. (Besides it means I get a “writing” post in with doing little more than copy and paste 😉
Question One: I’ve read about writers writing for writers, and writers writing for readers. From the brief excerpts I’ve read from your books so far and the reviews I’ve read, it seems you write for readers. Is this so? Unfortunately it seems these days many of the “gatekeepers” are editors that don’t know how to find fiction written for readers. They like the other stuff. I’m encouraged by your success. Maybe the genre is going to trend back in favor of the reader. I’ve grown wearisome of tossing down books one hundred pages in because I can’t find a story anywhere. This seems to have especially plagued fantasy.
Actually I don’t write for either…I write for me. Each time I write a book, I’m really just writing what I want to read about. Many readers have asked me to write the “early days” of Royce…I won’t spoil things for you [this person hasn’t yet started my Riyria series and maybe some of those on this blog are in a similar situation] but let’s just say he wasn’t a nice person “back in the day.” And I don’t want to “be with him” during that time, so that book has little interest for me and probably won’t be written. This is a huge disappointment to many of my readers, and I think the book would “sell well” but just because it would make me money isn’t enough motivation to write.
As to your second part about gatekeepers…It’s really hard to know what they will approve of. They are groping in the dark as much as anyone else and have no crystal balls as to what will sell well. I think as long as I keep focused on writing things I like that there is at least some segment of the population who wants to read that. It will be interesting to see how Hollow World will go. As a number of the “experts” seem to think that it won’t sell…but I think it is an exceptionally good book and even if it doesn’t, I’m still glad I wrote it. I did get a publisher that offered me a decent advance for it, so there are some that believe in it…but to be honest, I’m not sure if that offer was predicated more on my past success than the strength of the book itself. As they say, “Time will tell.”
Question Two: Did the transition from writing being a hobby to a money-making activity make it less fun? I was wondering if needing to support your family with words added too much pressure, or if writing just became a job/business you happen to really like, or something else?
I can understand why someone would ask this question, and I suppose every author will react differently this. It’s probably worth considering because if earning is going to change how you approach writing in a way that takes the joy out of it…then maybe it’s best to write without submitting/publishing.
Here was my, personal response:
Writing for me has never been either a hobby or a money making activity. It’s just what I love to do. It is true that for years I wrote and made nothing at it, and at some point it started providing some income, then more, and yes now I support my family with it – but for me that is a bonus that came along as a “nice perk.”
For years we lived off of my wife’s income…and she was able to quit her job a few years ago – and I’m grateful for that. I really enjoy giving back to her the freedom (of not having to report daily) that she gave me for so many years. So to that extent, I would like to do what I can to keep the stream of income flowing. That has more to do with “how” I publish rather than the fact that i “keep writing.” The writing I would do even if I didn’t earn anything, but I’m choosing to either do “self” or “traditional” in order to maximize the income that my writing will produce.
On the writing front, I hit a snag this morning. I talked over some things with Robin at lunch and while she has no idea what exactly the issues are (I speak in vague generalities) it did help me to come up with a possible solution.