Why Do You Do That Thing You Do?
Wednesday January 25, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Uncategorized
How do you pick what to write about? Do you have a favorite genre? Do you read more than one genre or do you stick to one type? I think most of us have interests that lie in many areas. I love to read science fiction, but I also like paranormal romance and historical fiction and some fantasy. I like scientific books on cosmology and books on how to write better. Does that necessarily translate into what I will write about? The short answer is probably.
If we aren’t interested in what we’re writing about it will likely come through to the reader. We often hear the mantra to “write what we know” but I think it is more crucial to write what you have a passion for. You can fake it pretty well these days with a little research. There is so much information at our fingertips that just a few minutes of our time can bridge a lot of information gaps, but passion will drive your interest and give your writing LIFE.
So we will choose something that sparks our interest, but which genre? Do you want to write something that is market driven? Do you even care about that? Professional writers that work on commission know what they will be writing about because it’s all figured out in advance. It might be based on a certain appeal in the marketplace for certain types of stories, like vampires in love or cop dramas. Something they know will sell in the current market. But the market often moves very swiftly and without notice. Why does that happen? It happens because a writer did something on speculation and went out on a limb and it caught fire. The Twilight books or the Harry Potter series are great examples. The publishing industry is not a gambling institution. They like a sure thing and so they’re blind to these speculative endeavors. So what does that tell us? We can probably sell a story that fits the mold of what is currently selling but it might prove difficult to find a buyer for your more speculative work. Do you take this into consideration when you’re deciding? I‘m curious, what are you all are doing?
For me, the ideas come as they will. You never know when one is going to pop into your head, be it from a dream or something you read or often times from an odd amalgam of things that fit together to spark a new idea. They can be as different as night and day — Steampunk to Far Future to Historical Speculation and everything in-between (those are mine). So you have all these ideas percolating but which one do you choose to flesh out and give life to? I can’t give you an answer. It is an individual choice that each writer needs to decide for themselves. It’s like my kids asking me what they want. I laugh every time they do it, and patiently explain they I can’t read their mind; they need to decide for themselves what they want.
I don’t know why you write. There are as many reasons people write as there are writers. Is it because it is your only job and you need to eat? Are you writing because you are hoping to have a career as a novelist and trying to break in? Are you an established writer that knows where they are going? Are you a fan of a particular genre and just want to do fan fiction and don’t care about ever selling a story? The answer to this question probably drives the train on what you choose to write about.
When I first started writing it was not quite fan fiction but it was established in a pre-determined setting. There was no end goal other than just writing because I felt like it. It got posted on a website for others to read but that was it. I didn’t care about doing a follow-up or making a career out of it or anything of the sort. The writing bug started out for me as a very small little tape worm that didn’t really bother me a whole lot. But it has grown over the years to something that bites the insides of my intestines and makes me pay attention. I’m developing a career. Slowly, albeit, but it’s happening. When people ask me if I am going to sell my work I give them a definitive YES. I know it will be published when it’s ready, whether traditionally or by my own hand. There is no question any more. The current project has twisted to life and grown out of need. I can no longer hold it back. I’ll be doing this for the long haul.
I have several projects lined up already. One is Steampunk, one is fantasy, a couple of stories are near future sci-fi, and one is an extreme far future adventure. That’s not even counting the next two books in my Clear Ether trilogy. I wrote a blog about genres a while back and whether or not they are a hindrance or a help for advancing your career. Will that weigh in your decision on what to write about? I guess I’m not all that worried about being pigeon-holed, but everyone’s circumstances are different.
I would love it if you took the time to share why you write in your specific genre and are you considering branching out.
I, for some reason, always pictured myself writing literary fiction. I love little, over-embellished vignettes about real life so much that, when I discovered that I wanted to write stories, I figured those were all I would produce.But then the first time I wrote a relatively long story, I realized it was more in the neighborhood of magic realism. And my second extensive work–which is my longest work to date–is, I believe, SciFi.It took me a while to realize that it was SciFi, though. It's all perspective. It's a story of a few people who get to know each other, and grow to love one another while they're chasing a mutual goal. I remember that while I was writing it, I didn't want it to be defined by the setting, because really it was about the people. But it's set in the future after a disease has reduced the lifespan of humans to age twenty-or-so. By definition, that's SciFi.Anyway, all this rambling is really only to describe something simple: The things I've spent the most time on–the things I've become the most emotionally invested in–are things I never expected I would write in the first place. So nobody should ever be afraid to try new things.
I think the writer that hides in all of us wants to be \”known\” as a literary fiction writer. I think it comes down to validation at some level. It's interesting that the things you thought you were going to write about changed once you started into it. The ideas come of their own volition and we can choose to give them life or let them fester. Do you think you'll go back to literary fiction at some point?Thanks so much for sharing your story!