Friday, May 30, 2008


Commercial fiction writing today is a hybrid because it is both a money-making endeavor (I refuse to call it a "business") and a means of creative expression. When professional fiction writers get together they tend to talk a lot about things like marketing.
I've been talking with fellow writers a lot recently about changes in the market and how to respond to them.

Quite simply, if you're going to write for money you can't ignore the marketing and commercial aspects of your work. However no matter how commercial you are you've got to complete what you write in order to get paid for it.

If you're not really, truly interested in what you're writing you're unlikely to complete it. If you don't finish it you can't sell it.

This, incidentally, is one of the problems with writing pornography for money. Back in the days when there was still a booming market for "stroke books" nearly every writer considered writing them and not a few tried. After all, the money was almost decent and how hard could it be?

For most writers it was very hard indeed. The problem is that very few of us are than interested in pornography (at least to write) and it quickly tends to become a death market. Writers who tried it found that porn was excruciating boring to write. Some managed to get through one book. Very, very few managed two or more.

The market, fortunately or unfortunately, is no more; killed by the amateur porn on the internet. (Which, be it noted, is often of higher quality than the average stroke book.) However the principle applies. You can see it today in the occasional writer from other genres to decides to try his or her hand at writing romances. The ones who aren't really, truly interested in romances can't stick it out. And because they don't have the interest they produce lousy romances.

Which leads to a critical question for any writer contemplating a book-length project: Will this hold my interest? If the answer is no, don't try it. No matter how commercial the project is and no matter how mercenary you are.

This isn't just a matter of a burst of enthusiasm in the beginning. That's easy and will get you through maybe 10,000 words. It's keeping your interest in what you're doing over the long haul.

Nearly every writer goes through a stage in a book -- usually about 60 percent through -- where the enthusiasm has evaporated and the thing becomes a slog. It can be a real death march, worse than any programming marathon. You've got to have the internal resources to get through that period and if the story and the characters don't grab you you're not going to make it..

Wiz 6 Update

Well, the project is definitely still on. But it's taking a little longer than I thought it would.

For one thing the manuscript is a bigger mess than I remembered. The first 20,000 words or so are pretty much in rough draft form, basically clean and narratively connected, but the rest is pretty bad. I'm not really writing any more but I am trying to clean things up.

This is taking time. More than I imagined. (You know how it is: The First 90 percent of a project takes 90 percent of the time and the last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent of the time.) However I'm pushing forward with it as I can and I will have it up -- as they say in fandom -- Real Soon Now.

I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to comment on this idea. Your enthusiasm has kept me going through a couple of rough patches. And I want to assure you that it will be rewarded.