Last summer Allyson, a wife of a co-worker, approached me. She was thinking of writing a book in her spare time and did I have any advice.
Let me say, generally, I encourage everyone to write. Writing is cathartic. It clears the mind of clutter and lightens the soul. And while not everyone will finish a book, it is also not everyone’s goal to be published.
If, in fact, during the process, the writer discovers that rather than write a book on sheep dogs, he’d rather teach sheep dogs to herd, then his writing, regardless how far he was from finishing, totally served its purpose in that it helped the writer define his true goals.
Did I have advice for my friend’s wife?
You’d better believe it.
Do I have time to give it to someone who might write a novel, one day in her spare time? No.
Politeness dictated I needed an answer, but I can spend days discussing this topic. To narrow it down, I asked,
Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Had she answered non-fiction I would have wished her luck and told her to keep me posted. However, she said fiction. And it turns out that I have an opinion or two on fiction writing.
Literary Fiction or Commercial?
While I am not a big fan of labeling, sometimes it helps a new writer sharpen her pencil as she develops her story.
Most labeling is a result of practicality. How will publishers market it? Where will bookstores shelve it? However, with the advent of on-line publishing, genre mash-ups are coming into their own. While you can now self-publish, it still doesn’t mean the world is ready for a thousand-page civil war saga written from the point of view of an onion.
On-line publishing has not changed the basic tenets of a good story.
But Allyson had no clue what I meant so I defined my terms by using the short definition.
Commercial fiction generally has broader audience appeal and includes genre writing – sci-fi, paranormal, graphic novels, westerns, fantasy and of course, romance. It also tends to sell better because more publishers, like authors, want a book that sells.
Literary fiction has more snob appeal. I am not the only writer who thinks this. Here is Agentquery.com definition.
"If you marvel at the quality of writing in your novel above all else, then you've probably written a work of literary fiction... Although some literary fiction can become "commercial" by transcending its niche market and appealing to a broader audience, this is not the same as commercial fiction, which at its core has a commercial, marketable hook, plot, and storyline--all developed through literary prose. "
While I find this amusing and somewhat snarky, I find the majority of writers are not working for the esoteric thrill of seeing their name in print. They would also like the financial rewards that goes with it.
Allyson was no exception.
My next question, of course, was:
Would you story fall into a genre category?
Unfortunately, Allyson interpreted this question as, “Please spend twenty minutes telling me your story line.” And she did.
Online Publishing is both a blessing and a curse to writers. This year I am publishing both fiction and non-fiction. When asked I claim romantic suspense as my genre and most of the time I’m faithful to it. But not this year. I am planning on publishing a book a month, both non-fiction and fiction. Romantic Suspense and Historical Paranormal.
Several questions, come to mind? Should I be published under multiple names? Should I publish books of a series all together or interweave them? If I self-publish, am I prepared to spend the time it would require to market the book? The answer to this question may be the most important. My husband recently sited a statistic from who-knows-where that the majority of independently published books sell about one hundred copies, largely to friends and family. While I understand this, am I prepared to do what it takes to become a break-out author?
Back to Allyson, I gave her universal advice. Finish the damn book. Send me fifty to a hundred pages and we’ll see if I can help at that time. I also told her to buy books on technique. Here are some of the new writing book available on today's market.