Tuesday, August 23, 2011
... Even Rich Uncle Pennybags wouldn't know a bestseller if it hit him in the ass ...
Sometimes, when I’m really into a story and the flow seems unstoppable, ugly thoughts invade my transom: words like ‘accessible fiction’ and ‘mainstream' start to taint my resolve. And I start to question my work, too; is this story marketable enough? Can I sell it? Who will care about it? Am I wasting my time? My phone bill is due, what the hell am I doing?
The reason: as I get older (and bills start taking precedence) I find it harder to justify sitting at my computer for hours on end producing stories, stories that might not even sell or get published. Not a very lucrative business model. As writers, it becomes an act of faith on our part. And it doesn’t help when I keep hearing how J.K. Rowling hit a grand slam and is rolling in the dough.
But is that the ultimate aim? I would think producing quality work would be, because the money usually follows, maybe, possibly. Taking a purist point of view, I would tell you that we should write for the pleasure of it, and most of us do. But there’s that itch in the back of my mind that says I will be a failure if I don’t manage to make a living at it. Lord knows I have enough people in my life who tell me that all the time.
As I said, the older I get the harder the ‘money’ thing is to ignore. Friends, family, acquaintances, they all wonder why my ‘book’ isn’t finished, published, and sold in all the book stores yet and why I’m not on a yacht sipping champagne and smoking cigars. I begin to wonder this too, but …
It ain’t that easy, folks!
I write for pleasure – I have to or I’d go mad – but somewhere there’s a little gremlin muse tickling my ear telling me I need to write something for a mass audience or I’m doomed, doomed I tells ya! And I shoo him away, hoping he’ll go back to bothering Danielle Steel or Dan Brown.
Sometimes I listen to this evil muse – I conjure up a mainstream idea that I can write and possibly sell and go laughing all the way to the bank like John Grisham.
The eternal internal struggle!
I want everyone to like my book, certainly, but I also eschew mainstream; my mind is too unconventional, too quirky, and also I don’t know what mainstream is, or how to write it. I just write like me. When I tell myself I should target a book to a mass audience and make a truck-load of cash I only kid myself. I wouldn’t know how. Even if I did, what constitutes a ‘hit’ novel anyway? Ask anyone, bestselling authors, literary critics, J.K. Rowling; they’re just as baffled by what constitutes a success these days as I am. As William Goldman said once, “No one knows anything.”
Point of information: If I write a book, my own book, without residual thoughts of avarice and mass appeal and worldly love and it becomes a hit, I’d feel better. Baffled, but better. It’s The Stockton Paradox – Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
One last thing. I have nothing against mainstream authors or their resulting genre, far from it. If someone writes and this is what naturally results, great. They have a marketable commodity (Hello Stephen King! He once said “You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile) and I applaud them. But forcing myself to write this way goes against my grain. If I have a hit novel in me, wonderful, but if not, I can always host a gardening show in Amarillo. And even then I can write a book about it.