Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Writing-to-guideline vs. writing-for-self

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.


Carol Kilgore said...

Try it.

When you think, "I know where I'll send this," send that thought out to play in traffic. Keep writing the story for you, the way you'd write it with no market in mind.

After you finish, see what you have.

You can always go back and edit for a particular publication, but you can't go back and make it just for you.

Michael Bracken said...

It's been so long since I've written something just for me that it's difficult to discard the "I know where I'll send this" thoughts.

Difficult. Not impossible.

sandra seamans said...

Maybe after your required work is done, you can "hobby write" just for fun. Sort of a bus man's holiday from the usual grind of having to produce to pay the bills.

Gonzalo B said...

This is a bit off-topic but have you ever thought about selling some of your stories (or better yet, an anthology) via Scribd or similar places? I don't think people make a lot of money with that but it's better than nothing and it's a way to republish stories that no one else has access to and will not see print anywhere else in the near future. How about those old men's adventures stories or some of your uncollected noir/adult stuff?

Michael Bracken said...

I haven't explored the possibility of using Sribd, but I do have some older stories available at www.AnthologyBuilder.com, a site where you can select stories by a number of writers and the stories will be collected, printed, and bound into a book for you, making you the anthology editor.

It's a cool concept.

Gonzalo B said...

Thanks! I'd never heard of it before. Sounds like an interesting concept indeed. Have you tried Ramble House? They have a pretty interesting catalog and several authors like James Reasoner, Bill Pronzini and Richard Lupoff have reprinted some of their stories through them.

Jarmara Falconer said...

How interesting! At the moment I write for myself as I haven't had a story published yet. who knows in the future how I might feel.