I was having a discussion with my mother just yesterday where she was complaining about how a book series began. I told her fantasy readers value “world building.” The novelists had to set up the world before they could capture their readership and roll out the plot. She said she didn’t like it, but she’s not necessarily their target audience. This got me to thinking about the world of independent authors.
If someone spends any time in writer discussions or blogs, they will discover this new trend of bypassing publishing houses. Writers as their own publishers; it is an intriguing idea. No gatekeepers. No sending letter after letter to try to capture a busy agent’s attention for the shot at a chance of success. The door is now wide open for authors. Wrote a book? It can be published in the matter of a click of a button. In the “old days,” which was five years ago, I couldn’t attend a conference without sessions about how to “write to the market” or “how to capture an agent’s attention on the first page.”
Now that this isn’t a roadblock, writers are free to write whatever fancies them. Want to mix cowboys with evil dragons? Sure. Want to write a murder mystery set in ancient Greece with Merlin as the main character. Why not? Maybe because, while this topic interests the writer, it won’t interest anyone else? To a certain extent, writers are selfish people. Yes, I’m lumping myself into this and please hear me out before hating me. We got into the writing business because we love to create. We build worlds and fall in love with this picture in our minds. Sometimes, the joy from this creation is better than the real world. After all, I can’t control other people’s actions—not to mention know exactly what the other person is thinking/feeling—in the real world. The created world is easier to engage in…if you get over the whole “it’s not real” thing. It is all about us and our joy within the creation. But, I do believe that we need an outsider to tell us what is not transferring from our head to the page. I also believe we need someone to tell us that maybe people would baulk at the idea of Merlin hanging out in ancient Greece…unless there is a really, really good/intriguing reason.
Sometimes I think too much freedom is a bad thing. We live in a world where I could stay up all night, party and not go into work if I don’t want to. Is that a good idea? Not unless my goal in life is to be a bum and burden on my family for the rest of my life. Likewise, we live in a world where I could write whatever I want and throw it out into the universe. But, I believe some of the old standards should still apply. I still need to think of the genre and what appeals to my market. I still need to have others edit and help me polish my work. We need to acknowledge that maybe publishers had certain standards for a reason. What do you think?
I think the question of intention is important. I find a lot of people wanting to get credit for breaking the “rules,” and thinking that breaking them is the BEST way to get that credit. So they decide to have mixed genres or even spelling errors, not because they like it, but because they think, “No one else is doing it this way!”
I find a lot of authors go through a self-rejecting phase where the characters “aren’t like me,” and “I don’t like this, but THEY will like this,” where they stop using themselves as a gauge for the norm. But really, while we are all weird in a way, we’re also all average in other ways, and there is something to be said for writing what you want to read whether or not the market indicates that other people also want to read it. We’re not as unique as we think, and the things a writer wants to read about and can’t get are often what others want to read about and can’t get.
It tends to be a niche market, though, and the audience might not be high, which is why it’s not marketable, which is the benefit of not having a gatekeeper. Or, no one thinks that it’s desirable because people have, as of yet, to do it in an appealing way. Many times, authors bank on weird ideas to carry the rest of the story, not thinking about actual execution. I believe that has a higher effect on not being appealing than the idea itself.
Sorry it took so long to see this. For some reason the program stopped letting me know when I have comments. 🙂 I like your comment that we need to write what we would want to read. There is something to be said for knowing our instincts. Many times, when I ignore an instinct thinking it’s just my mood but others will like it, my beta readers highlight the issue.
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