Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one’s self on paper — that is what is called good writing. -Joel Chandler Harris
There are so many different philosophies on what people should write:
- Write what you know!
- Write what you feel!
- Write what you love!
- Write what you’re passionate about!
- Write to fill a void in the market!
- Write anything – just write!
These are absolutely valid – every single one of them. But if I may, when contemplating a novel you’d like to write, I offer this suggestion:
WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO READ.
I cannot stress this enough. I’ve been seriously trapped in the revision cave for the last two weeks, and I’ve reread my manuscript at least seven more times in just the past 2 weeks.
To put this into perspective, the only book I recall reading more than three times was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, which I think I read about five or six times. That means WTRPCPSU is now, by far, my most-often read book. Oh yeah. And I’m not even done with my revisions yet.
Before I even send WTRPCPSU back to my agent, I expect to read it at least another three times. After she sells it to a publishing house, I expect to be working closely with an editor and will probably read it another seven or eight times. Then I’ll get an Advanced Review Copy and read it again. And once it’s released to the public as a real book, I’ll read it yet again.
This is a manuscript based on characters in my head who reside in a world that I created. I know them better than anyone else does, and because of this, I should be the one to read it the most.
Now, just imagine what this would be like if I wrote something I really didn’t want to read?
“But why would you write something you don’t want to read?” I hear you ask.
Fine. You got me.
I like to read what I write. I like glossing over old blog posts from time to time. When I was in high school, I kept fairly detailed daily journals that I remember flipping through from time to time, just to see how much I’d changed as a person.
But these aren’t things I necessarily want to read over and over and over again.
It’s writing, though. It’s writing what I knew. It’s writing what I felt. It’s writing what I loved. It’s writing about whatever drove me to pick up a pen and put it to paper!
It is NOT, however, writing what I want to read.
I came across my high school journals about three years ago, nearly 20 years after writing them, and flipped through them. Bad idea. Horrifically bad idea. Not only were many entries whiny and horribly written, they were just silly. Maybe some random person would have enjoyed reading about my angst, but I opted to toss them into the recycling bin instead of saving them for posterity. Why?
Because I don’t want to read it.
Look, when you’re writing a novel, you’re essentially expecting people to spend money to read your work. (When you write a blog post, you have no idea if it will even reach any eyeballs. And since there’s no exchange of money, there’s no expectation of the writing being any good.) And if you’re going to write a novel, it had better be something you want to read if you’re expecting others to love it. Moreover, as an author, I want someone to read my book over and over again.
But how can I justly expecting someone to want to read my book several times if I can’t even stand the sight of its pixels on the screen?
So by all means, write what you know. Write what you love. Write with reckless abandon about anything you want. But when it comes to sitting down to write a novel, save your sanity and write what you want to read.
Because you’re going to be reading it an awful lot.