What to Write?

This topic is a tough one; whether to write what I think will sell, or what is in my heart waiting to come out. Since the beginning I have practiced the latter. I don’t enjoy the majority of books that sell – weird, I know, seeing as I love reading and have at least three books on the go at any one time. I think I enjoy not enjoying them, in a way. It gives me satisfaction to throw a novel down and say ‘I can do better than that!’

In the meantime I continue writing my own masterpieces. Marion Keyes says you should write the type of book you want to read. That was her pathway to success. No one was writing funny, but serious, novels about sexually active single women until she came along. Similarly, Patricia Scanlon broke new ground with her novel Apartment 2B. I ate up her novels when they first came out, and there’s been a multitude of similar novels on the market ever since. But now I want to break new ground. I want to, and am writing, the kinds of books that I can’t find on bookshelves in shops – a novel that is easy to read, but has the subject matter usually reserved to literary fiction. It’s not an easy road to take. My ‘soon to be I hope literary agent’ classifies my writing as commercial literary fiction. Yes! I like it. That’s the kind of book I like to read, but there aren’t many of them about.

I am currently doing a re-write of my latest (and best) manuscript. After recently meeting with my dream publisher, my ‘write from my heart’ mantra has been severely tested. It’s taken me over six weeks to sort out what I think and believe from what this editor thinks will sell. And I was sorely tempted to throw away my beliefs (held on to tightly for seven years) and jump in with the commercial view point. However, my heart groaned at the prospect. I barely wrote a word in weeks, and what I did write was akin to the type of material that I throw down in disgust. I was thoroughly miserable. In the end I had to ask myself what is more important ‘Getting this novel published or being happy and peaceful?’ Being peaceful won, and it suddenly seemed so simple that I wondered what all the fuss had been about.

It’s not easy though, following ones heart. It’s usually inconvenient and goes against what everyone else (publishers, sometimes friends, husbands and families want you to do). I’ve done it though, for the last seven years. And where has it got me? Through very difficult times, actually. I’ve also experienced an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement in doing what I was made to do (whether or not anyone likes the outcome). It has brought me a job that I love – teaching Creative Writing, and my own working hours. It has not brought me what I expected and hoped for – international fame as a published author – but, hey, maybe that is yet to come.

It’s every day that counts though, isn’t it? I’m doing what makes me peaceful and happy today.