We writers are constantly being given advice about how to be successful. We’re told how we need to treat our vocation as a business – to create a plan and a strategy. And, in particular, we’re provided with templates and guidelines for how to craft a written work that is guaranteed to connect with its intended audience.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of this. I’m definitely not suggesting that any of this advice isn’t valid (although my feeling is that even if every writer followed this advice to the letter, you would still only have a small fraction achieving a significant level of success, given the laws of supply and demand when it comes to readers and writers,).
The difficulty I have with programs that suggest there’s some magic formula for success is less about the formulas themselves and more about me. I reckon that even if I tried, I would have trouble following all of the required steps. It’s just something about the way I am. Maybe I’m a bit odd. Maybe I’m a little bit broken, or I was never put together properly in the first place.
No matter how disciplined I tried to be, there would always be a little voice in the back of my head, tempting me away from the straight and narrow. Maybe it’s subversion. Maybe it’s just self destruction. Either way, I’d end up having to do it my way.
The biggest difficulty would be complying with those formulas for constructing a narrative. In particular, I’d struggle with whatever conventions of genre I was supposed to be applying. I could never create a straight, generic, piece of writing. As soon as I start, I’d be wanting to undermine the key foundations. I’d want to find a way to subvert whatever genre conventions I was supposed to be conforming to, or even to mix it up with other genres in unpredictable ways.
I know this willfulness isn’t doing me any favours on the marketing front. I can see for myself exactly what sort of writing is successful. Only just last week, I read a newspaper article about a new, unknown writer who’d just signed a huge international book deal. When I read an outline of the story, it was clear straight away that it was basically a rewrite of the Harry Potter scenario. Well, I suppose if we know it works, why wouldn’t you find a way to write your version of it?
So good luck to all you writers following the tried and true formula for success. I’m going to keep following that little voice inside my head, no matter how far astray it leads me. I may not ever get that million dollar book deal, but hopefully I’ll end up somewhere interesting.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as