All writers face the inescapable quandary of readership.
Do you write what you want in the hope that other people will find it? Do you write for a segment within a specific genre? Do you write to the tastes of your editor or publisher?
As a professional writer there’s an extra dilemma too: for whom do you write who’ll pay the bills?
I’d like to say there’s an easy answer to the above. A formula if you like. Yet, the reality is unless you’re writing for the art of the endeavor, you’ll likely have to face some sort of restriction on your craft.
I learned a while back in my reading, that genre writing is a major hurdle for many “artistic” writers to overcome. Some markets strictly dictate the manner in which stories evolve; even more so the word counts to work with. It’s easy for a writer to feel discouraged within these bounds.
Rarely, however, a writer arrives who defines his or her own format and forges a licence that others shoulder: the Wouks, le Carrés, Clancys, Rowlings, and Kings.
Before Tom Clancy, the genre of techno thriller didn’t exist. Suddenly doors opened to a rash of artists unbelievably skilled in blending politics, military, and technology with the realm of fiction whose books churn out to this day.
Clancy taught me about geosynchronous satellite super-platforms decades before cars hit the roads with global positioning systems.
For most though, the quest morphs into one of earning enough to find the freedom to write in the manner desired. Very much a different version of “write or die”.
Still, I wouldn’t be too quick to wave off the craft’s restrictions in this way. For like a labyrinth, there’s immense satisfaction in finding a readership by tweaking the status quo—within editorial limits.
That’s where reading and being intimately familiar with the publications and industries you wish to write for become imperative. It’s how you work out what the existing audiences are, and where your potential resides.
You then carve out a niche with the deftness of a teaspoon and the tenacity of an earth mover.