In the current issue of Newsweek (July 13, 2009), Lawrence Block is quoted as saying, "I think the less attention I pay to what people want and the more attention I pay to just writing the book I want to write, the better I do."
Earlier today, before stumbling across Block's comments, I happened to (re)read reviews of my books that readers had posted at www.barnesandnoble.com, and I had spent a goodly part of the late afternoon wondering why the fiction I've been writing lately would probably not receive the same kind of glowing reviews. Much of what was reviewed was written with no particular market in mind and much of what I write these days is for specific markets with specific requirements. I was pondering whether or not I have been putting too much emphasis on writing-to-guideline and not enough on writing-for-self.
It's been a bloody long time since I wrote a story with absolutely no market in mind, with no goal other than to please myself. Oh, I've come close a few times, starting stories with no market in mind but knowing before I ever finished the final drafts exactly where I intended to submit them. And that knowing causes subtle shifts in both the writing and the revision. (The violence is too graphic/not graphic enough, the sex is too explicit/not explicit enough, etc.)
So I've been asking myself, what would I write if I could completely block out my knowledge of editorial guidelines and write something just to please myself?
Damned if I know.