Last week I tackled ‘Write What You Know’ and this week, it’s the turn of ‘Write From The Heart’.
This is often phrased 'as write what you love' and it gets wheeled out as the opposition to 'writing for the market'. However, if you take a closer look, the most useful advice is actually a mash-up of them both.
First off, I think there has to be an element of writing what you love, especially for novels. Those suckers are long. And difficult. And they take twenty rounds of revisions with your agent/editor/critique partner. If you don't have at least some passion for the story you're telling, you're just not going to make it through.
However, it's disingenuous to tell you to ignore the market. For starters, it's useful to have a clear idea about the genre you are working in (and expectations of that genre, even if you are planning to subvert them), especially when you are trying to break into the publishing industry or build a readership.
What doesn't work is attempting to follow the market. If dystopian YA is hot right now, by the time you've written a book and submitted it, the trend will most likely be over. On the flip side, if you have a burning desire to write a vampire book or a dystopian book or whatever is currently trending, don't let worries over a saturated market stop you.
Personally, I favour a little tweak to the language. I think we should substitute 'audience' for 'market'.
The market changes. The market isn't predictable. The market is the 'business side', something you should (I think) leave as far away from your creative space as possible.
Your audience, however, is different. Your audience are your readers. The people you hope to entertain, enlighten and emotionally manipulate (insert evil laughter).
You should always write with them in mind. Maybe not during the first draft (Stephen King talks about writing the first draft with 'the door closed', when the story is just for you, and the second draft with 'the door open'), but certainly later on.
If you intend to show your work to another soul, you have a duty to consider your reader. It's impolite (and foolhardy) to do otherwise.
To do this, you need to decide what kind of story you're writing (or have written). Is it a scary book? A comedy? A romance? What age are the main characters? If you walked into a bookshop right now, where would you expect to see it shelved?
Working out your intended readership isn't a betrayal of your art, it's a tool to help you hone your art into its best possible shape.
Plus, if you write the stuff that you love to read (or the book you want to read, but can't find), then you are your ideal reader. Your audience (or market) and your heart are one are the same. Huzzah!