What genre should you write in? Thriller books sell a lot of copies. So does science fiction, romance and even erotic fiction books.
A few years ago, a book marketing expert told me self-published authors earn a good living writing in these genres.
I wanted to earn a good living from writing books too.
So I spent a couple of months trying to write a thriller book that I could sell. I got up early every morning to work on it. And I hated it.
The process felt a lot more like work than anything enjoyable, and I couldn’t get the story right, let alone finish it.
I felt like I’d never become an author.
1. Are you writing the truth?
Robert McKee is a screenwriting guru that film companies like Pixar call when they have problems with their scripts. He’s also the author of the popular book every writer should read: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.
A couple of years ago, he gave a storytelling conference in a hotel in Sligo, in the West of Ireland.
At the end of the conference, I got a chance to meet McKee. They say you should never meet your heroes, and I was a little nervous.
I thanked him for his talk and then asked, “How does a writer figure out what to write about?”
Suffice to say, I didn’t elaborate on my attempt to write lousy thrillers or erotic fiction.
He took a copy of Story from me and autographed the first page of it with this piece of advice,
“Write the truth.”
I didn’t think much about how to apply it for a couple of weeks until I started writing thrillers again.
2. What books are in your library?
One morning, I got frustrated with the manuscript for my thriller and ripped it up. I was nowhere near the end.
I turned around and looked at my bookshelf. My bookshelf was full of business books, biographies, memoirs, and books about creativity and even some self-help.
I wasn’t reading any thriller books or much science fiction or erotic fiction. And yet, for some reason, I was trying to write those types of stories. Instead of writing my personal truth, I was in it for the money.
It was no wonder I felt blocked and miserable.
So I started writing non-fiction about problems I had at work and in my business. I started writing personal essays about creativity, fitness and parenting. I found writing my form of the truth, like McKee advised, felt much easier and more enjoyable.
So, if you’re feeling blocked or frustrated, consider what type of books fill your bookshelf or Kindle library.
Writing what you love to read will help you find ideas for your next project.
What’s more, because you’ve already read a lot of these books, you understand the conventions of the genre. So you know what readers expect.
3. Are you mindful of your influences?
Conflicting advice alert!
When you’re in the middle of a creative project, be careful of reading too many contemporary books about a similar topic.
What you read informs what you write.
Even if you don’t consciously set out to plagiarize, the ideas and stories you read will seep into your subconscious and will influence your work.
Sometimes it’s best to approach a creative project with a blank slate.
Your influences include books, music, television shows, people you talk to and blog or other writers you read or follow.
If you’re worried about inadvertently taking on a contemporary writer’s voice, consider cultivating older influences. Instead of reading something new, review the bestseller lists from 50 or 60 years ago, or classics out of copyright.
You may find an interesting idea or angle for your book or story that other contemporary writers have forgotten.
On the other hand, if you spent a lot of time reading books that were published today or yesterday, you’re more likely to regurgitate somebody else’s ideas.
Deciding what to write about is a big question for every writer.
Sure, you can write to market and knock out a thriller, romance or science-fiction book. But the happiest writers focus on revealing a personal truth. It’s hard and worthwhile work.
So, what’s your truth?
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