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A poster left an interesting comment on one of the many NCP posts on the blog earlier today. It wasn’t the NCP related stuff that caught my interest, but this little gem:

I had a friend who told me once that I should write from my heart and everything else will come along on its own. I disagree. I believe you should write what people are interested in reading. Otherwise, you’re not going to make any money, which is pretty much the point of writing isn’t it?

Well, we know that a lot of authors have jumped on the various bandwagons out there, (Read: paranormals) but does this mean that they are likely to sell more books, just because they chose a popular sub-genre?

Is this poster correct? Does it really make more sense to write what is selling in the market, rather than what you’re passionate about?

As readers, do you prefer your fave authors to write from the heart, or would you be just as happy if they jumped on the bandwagons?


  • For me, it’s Ben Affleck’s line in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back:
    “You gotta do the safe picture. Then you can do the art picture. But then sometimes you gotta do the payback picture because your friend says you owe him. [They both take a beat and look at the camera] And sometimes, you have to go back to the well.”

    Writing what’s selling is the safe picture. I try to keep my eyes open, see what’s selling, what I enjoy reading. If a plotbunny strikes, I write it. The easy stuff, the vampires, the western, the gay pirates, what have you. Easy, safe. Maybe market driven.

    Writing from the heart is the art picture. That’s where you get stuff the editor has to be willing to take a chance on: Transgender Maid Marion, undead strippers in love with demons, dystopic kinky gay pygmalions. Some of it sells. Some of it doesn’t.

    Writing when your editor says “Hey, I need— can you have it for me by Friday?” is the payback picture. This is a guaranteed sale, almost, but you pay in stress.

    Each author has to decide what she’s comfortable writing. I want my authors to feel passionately about the characters and scenes. I can tell when they’re phoning it in.

    Writing is the process of getting paid next year for what you wrote last year. Trying to jump on the bandwagon means predicting a trend two years ahead of time.


  • Does it really make more sense to write what is selling in the market, rather than what you’re passionate about?

    If you are passionate about more than one thing, I think you ought to go with the one that will sell better. But to write something you aren’t passionate about, just because it’s popular, speaking for myself, I can’t imagine doing that.

    I can tell when they’re phoning it in.

    Yeah, I think most of us can…


  • Lori
    August 13
    11:47 am

    Wow! I didn’t know the point of writing was to make money *slaps head in disbelief*. All this time I’ve been doing it wrong!

    Some people write just because the joy of putting words together is, well…. it’s joy. Even when it’s undead strippers in love with demons. Or gay pirates in love with undead stripper demons *g*.

    Actually that writer’s comment leaves me a little sad. And explains why there’s so much crap writing out there if it’s just being used as a paycheck. I always thought good writing was art. Or even literature.


  • I write because I have to. It’s in the blood and what makes me happy/keeps me sane. Granted I haven’t written much lately due to health issues, but it’s still there just itching to get out. I see getting paid for it as just a special extra. Even if I never sold another book, I would continue to write because it’s just a part of who I am.

    If one writes something he/she don’t enjoy, it will show in the writing and I doubt sales would be very good. If it’s a good book, readers will come. But you never know until you sit down and write it.

    I write paranormals and sci-fis because that’s what I love…that’s what I grew up on. Even if paras weren’t the “hot” market right now, I would continue to write them. But that’s just me.


  • poorwriter
    August 13
    1:01 pm

    I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive. I think you can write what you love and write what sells. Of course at the end of the day if you want to be a professional writer who earns a livable wage (more than $20k per year from writing at a rough guess) from writing you are going to have to look at writing what sells. Not ever writer who writes for the paycheck is going to produce sub-par work. Just as not every writer who writes from the heart is going to produce excellent work. It all depends on the writer and every writer is different.


  • The market sure wasn’t looking for Betsy Taylor, but I jammed her down everyone’s throat anyway. Sometimes the market doesn’t know what it wants until you show ’em. 🙂


  • Interesting question. I just got back from Denvention 3 (SF Worldcon in Denver) and several panels discussed this question.

    One panel was titled ‘After the day job goes: writing full time to pay the mortgage’ (Colin Harvey, Robin Owens, Russell Davis, Steve Miller). Russell Davis in particular was saying pretty much what your poster said. He has 6 kids and he writes whatever sells or what he gets asked to write.

    In another panel titled ‘The ages of a writer’s life: writing to get published, writing for fans, writing for posterity’, however, participants Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert Silverberg and Suford Lewis, pretty much said one ought to write what’s close to one’s heart.

    My slightly cynical view of this is that the latter panelists have achieved a financial position where they can afford to say that, whereas the panelist on the earlier panel are making a living, but are by no means famous or as famous as the second group of panelists and make a lot less money.

    I thought the second panel interesting, because Robert Silverberg has been very prolific and been a writer who’d write for anybody who would pay him (at least in the early years before he retired the first time).

    I think folks like him and Russell Davis are the kind of writers who can do this, because their passion is for anything written and they are good at writing on demand. That’s not true for most writers.


  • If it’s possible for me to write both, I do. If I have a plot idea and it happens to coincide with a submission call or a genre that’s hugely hot right now, I’ll maybe focus on that idea more than others because it will probably sell better. But if it’s a choice between something I feel compelled to write and something that sells really well that I could try to come up with an idea for….I always go with what compels me.

    The market is fickle, as are readers, and if I spent my career chasing trends I’d never get published because they change so fast. By the time I finish writing a trend-targeted book, it might not be hot anymore anyway.

    So yeah, wordy way of saying “Write what you love. If you love it, the chances are that someone else will, too”


  • Every writer, published or otherwise, is different and has different motivations and capabilities. Every writer produces at a different speed and has a different “heart”. No one way is better. What I don’t care for is people claiming there’s only one good or true way to be a writer.


  • As far as I can see there is space for both.

    Am I a ‘story from the heart’ writer? No. I can’t see myself getting that emotionally involved in one of my stories. I might write a story I love ‘lots’, and that I’m particularly proud of, but so much so I’m debilitated by a publisher declining it? No. I like the money to much.

    What makes a good writer? One who excels at one note, or one who can hum along to the whole song? (Wow, that was a really bad mixed metaphor, wasn’t it.)

    There is nothing wring with either, but I’m going to attempt to be the writer that hums along, able to adapt. Hopefully that will keep the $$ rolling in 🙂


  • Jamaica Layne
    August 13
    3:23 pm

    All good writers write from the heart—-whether it’s formulaic “for hire” stuff or the most far-out, original literary stuff. Writers must be passionate in order to write anything that the public is willing to pay good money for. And if that means being passionate about writing something that is market-driven, so be it. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, it will show in your work. (i.e., it will be low-quality)


  • DS
    August 13
    3:28 pm

    Subgenres are killed (or at least seriously maimed) by publishers shoving out books that aren’t real quality just because they fit a popular theme. It’s been ages since I have seen a time travel romance garner much enthusiasm– and I’m rather worried about Urban Fantasy because there’s so much of it and a lot4e3r of it sounds like the same book. I am getting much pickier before I buy.

    As far as I am concerned it is ok to write what is popular as long as it is well written.


  • That’s one of many false dichotomies. I write roughly in the overlap between what I want and what will sell. That is gay romance with the sex and happy endings turned up a bit. Some people [heart] to write stuff that is already commerical, some people have to make more of a choice, but it isn’t an across the board, all-or-none, mutually exclusive category thing.

    The way I see it you weight the factors according to how much you need money and how easily you get bored doing stuff that doesn’t thrill you. Just like in any job.


  • Ghetto Diva
    August 13
    3:48 pm

    I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive. I think you can write what you love and write what sells.

    I do agree with this, because I have put both into stories that have been published, and done well.


  • What MaryJanice said. Unfortunately, creating the wave (vs catching it) is totally a matter of luck (IMNSHO). However (and? but?), I firmly beleive that you have to write smart and that you shouldn’t completely disregard things like commercial appeal when you’re writing.

    Not sure how much sense that made…I’m tired.


  • Seeley deBorn
    August 13
    3:57 pm

    I write what I want to read. It’s not so much that it’s from the heart, but since I’ve never seen a call for submissions for blue collar medieval heroes, I imagine it’s not any kind of trend I can cash in on either.

    Maybe this phenomenon of authors of writing to trends is why so many of the Aphrodisia books seem lacking. They’re writing to a heat level rather than a story. Nothing cools sex off faster than obligation.


  • Now that I’ve had some sleep, let me add that most of this applies to fiction. I can’t think of anybody who would write a computer tech manual from the heart. (And I went to an engineering school!)

    Given two story choices, one for a call (that’s all right but not moving me) and one on spec (I’m chomping to get at), I’ll write them simultaneously. I’ll have more fun with the latter, and I know it shoes.

    MaryJanice, your comment sums up perfectly what I was saying in the last para about being two years ahead of the trend.


  • Emmy
    August 13
    4:53 pm

    As a reader….

    Write what you want. If it’s not a genre I’m interested in, I’m not going to read it because I have a limited book budget. I limit it to books that actually interest me.

    However, if/when you write something I do want to read…if I really enjoy the book, I may go back and catch up with your backlist of stories I passed on the first time around.


  • I have always written from the heart. Every so often, if a publisher is looking for a particular kind of story, if I can fit it in with what I write, I’ll contribute.

    It’s very much a hard-won battle if my books get contracted, especially when they don’t fit any particular genre “as is”. For instance, my shape-shifters are aliens. My urban fantasies contain no wwolves or vamps. I have to fight to get people to even LOOK at my books because of preconceived notions when they’re placed in a particular category.

    But I would not give up a single moment of my time to write what I didn’t really care about. Because I’m afraid that if I did, then the book would reflect that it wasn’t given my soul, it would be labeled as “not one of her best”, and I would have to be content to live with that for the rest of my career, no matter how many “good” books I wrote after that one.

    Just my observation. Thanks for letting me pipe up. 🙂


  • Maddie
    August 13
    5:39 pm

    As a reader

    I want authors to write from the heart and I feel this way because most of my auto buys from the beginning were from authors that wrote from the heart, I felt that way because each book was different and wasn’t the formula that seems to be used today unfortunately by my auto buys.

    I still to buy their books but it’s not the day that the books hits the shelves, but maybe a month later.

    I also think that if you write whats in trend instead of what is in your heart it’s doesn’t make a good read (curl up with a cup of tea or coffee).

    I have maybe close to a 1000 + old Harlequin Presents and Romance books that I re-read more than what Harlequin puts out now. Why because they have become a baker with what they put in their books with is sad because because I grew up with them.


  • Randi
    August 13
    6:32 pm

    I’m totally going to misquote Nora here, and I wish I could find her quote over at SB’s (I just tried), but she responded to something once that essentially said, “You [the author]are responsible for the words you put on paper”, ergo, “You should take some pride in them.” Which seems to be what everyone here is really saying. Whether you’re writing from love or mortgage, do the best you can do, because in the end, people will notice and it will reflect on you. Obviously, Nora said it better. 😉


  • Writing has always been an important part of my life. I’m passionate about it and find the process joyful and therapeutic. It’s immeasurably rewarding to know something I’ve written has positively touched someone, perhaps brightening their day when they most needed it.

    There’s nothing as satisfying as doing what I truly love and getting paid for it too. That said, I do write from the heart–with the understanding that what I choose to write certainly won’t appeal to everyone. (Yoohoo, Karen! LOL) But that’s okay. I just yearn to reach those readers who will find the same enjoyment from a story I’ve written as I experienced while writing it. I want to make readers smile; laugh; cry; to touch their hearts. I want them to get so engrossed they’ll forget their daily cares for a few hours. That’s more important than the money.

    However, since I’m a fulltime writer, I do need to be savvy enough to tailor my stories to what’s selling in the marketplace. That means if paranormals or shape-shifters are hot and I already love reading or writing those stories anyway, I’ll go for it. But if I have a total lack of passion or zero interest in those sub-genres, I’ll stay away from them because I know the story quality would suffer. I wouldn’t feel proud of books I’d written just to boost my paycheck. They’d lack heart.

    I need to feel good about what I’m writing and trust that the readership and money will follow. With that mindset I realize I may never make it to the number one spot on the bestseller lists, but I’ll be having one hell of a great time doing what makes me truly, sincerely happy and fulfilled–until the day comes when the words no longer flow.


  • Why not write what sells (or might sell) and write it from the heart?

    Actually, “what sells” is a damned hard call to make. Depending on which blogs you visit on any given day, you’re going to get umpteen different opinions of what material readers currently embrace and what they spurn.

    All I know is, none of the various subgenres in which I’ve written has made me financially secure. Every book is a crapshoot. So, ultimately, I gravitate toward what moves me, exercise the finest craftsmanship I can…and hope for the best!


  • Wow! I didn’t know the point of writing was to make money *slaps head in disbelief*. All this time I’ve been doing it wrong!

    Ritin. Yur doin it wrong.

    I don’t know the answer to that question. I wrote for years to the specifications of the submission guidelines, read all the lines, knew all the requirements and yet…I still missed it. Sometimes by a squeak and sometimes by an inch, but never more. It’s one thing to know you aren’t writing what sells; it’s another to try and fail by a whisper.

    I write to read what I want. I write to be read. I write because I must. I finally came to terms with the fact that there is no room for what I write and that what I really want to read isn’t on the market.


  • Seeley deBorn
    August 13
    9:23 pm

    Where the hell is it grabbing that picture of me from??


  • There’s a middle ground. Most authors are able to find a line that works for them, writing what interests the author but also what will appeal to the reader.

    Writers who plan on staying/becoming published writers who write full time for a living have to be practical. To some extent, at least. We know the book has to be commercially viable. It has to appeal to readers. But I bet most writers also know that plunking out one book after another about a genre or subject that doesn’t appeal to you is also going to get old. Fast. If you don’t enjoy what you are writing, chances are your readers won’t either.

    I definitely walk the middle ground.


  • Peggy P
    August 13
    10:59 pm

    I am a reader only and admire the hell out of those who write with a good story and can make people (characters) interesting enough that I want to know all about them. If you have the talent and the skill to do this…I don’t know that I care so much what your motivations are – be it for love or money, what’s the difference to me, your reader? If you meet my conditions (write well and hook me with a great story) I’ll buy and keep buying. I’m not sure I’ve ever wondered why an author writes…I’m just (usually) glad they did (or do?, this is exactly why I don’t write!)


  • Dorothy Mantooth
    August 14
    1:52 pm

    I write what I love, because I put my own spin on it until I do. If my name is on it, I want to be passionate about it.

    But when my agent asked if I would be interested in doing some ghost-writing stuff, work-for-hire, under a pseudonym, my answer was “Oh, yeah. If it pays I’ll do it.” I can’t afford not to give it a try, I have a family, you know?

    But the stuff for me, the stuff with my name on the cover, I want to be passionate about. And I think if I can’t be enthused about it, how can I expect the readers to?


  • Why not write what sells (or might sell) and write it from the heart?

    I try to straddle the line and write some books that I would choose to read as a rather offbeat reader. I hope they’ll do well, but know they’re a little outside the box.

    I also write different types of stories that I think are more saleable even if they aren’t really my cup of tea. But I usually find, once I get into the story, I am writing from the heart.


  • If I write stuff for the market, it doesn’t work. I wrote one last year, and I’ve just rewritten it heavily, the way I want it to be. I held back far too much in the original.
    If they like it, fine, but at least I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.


  • Gail Dayton
    August 14
    6:41 pm

    I shifted from writing contemporary series romance (Desire) to writing romantic fantasy/fantasy romance–but not because it was “suddenly hot.”

    I loved fantasy back when I was young enough that I still thought kissing was icky. I LOVE fantasy. And now that I’m old enough to find kissing interesting, I like the blend.

    Thing is, I have a very broad range of things that I love. I adore historical romance. I really like contemporary romance. I like romantic suspense if it’s not too scary. (Vampires and demons scare me a lot less than serial killers and psychopaths–probably because I have actually looked psychopaths in the eye in the real world. *totally creepy*) And of course, fantasy/science fiction is my first love. So it is entirely possible to write a lot of different things “From The Heart.”

    And people who love a lot of genres have the privilege of selecting among them for the market. I switched to romantic fantasy because Luna was looking for books. I never intended to totally give up writing the series romances–but what I like doesn’t seem to fit in their editorial guidelines any more. Still, I do have historicals in process and others I’d love to write–and some day, I hope to be able to pull them out. (Maybe when I learn how to write faster.)


  • Keishon
    August 14
    6:53 pm

    Idealistically, I would prefer the author to write from the heart. I’m not much with trends but then I’m not in the majority in thinking that everything written must have demons, vampires, werewolves or a hybrid of them all in it. I agree with someone else, if you can write smart and be commercial – then half the battle is won.


  • I started writing in earnest when I couldn’t find what I wanted to read on the store shelves. I wish I could be more business-minded, but it’s all about heart for me. I figure if I’m not feeling it, my readers won’t be, either. But I do admire the writers who have struck a happy medium, and whose careers reflect their savvy on both sides.


  • What Shiloh said…and to my happy surprise, I’ve found I love writing in genres I never thought I’d explore as much as I do romance.

    Just because a writer hops genres, doesn’t mean we’re (they’re?) following a trend. Maybe they really had been waiting to write a paranormal, or they had a super-sexy book they couldn’t sell until the market turned.
    I KNOW I’m not the only writer out here with a wide variety of ideas in a wide variety of genres. 😉


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