If you’ve been thinking about writing fiction, there are a number of questions to ask yourself before you start.
1. Can I write what people want to read?
There are two key aspects you need to think about:
* Are you a great reader?
* Are you familiar with the bestsellers in the genre you want to write?
If you are a reader, you should have a good idea of what you enjoy. Chances are that other people will have similar tastes. If you tend to read the top bestsellers in your favorite genre, such as romance, mystery or horror, you will also have a pretty good idea of what sells.
It may sound crass to talk about bestsellers and money, but the fact of the matter is that publishing is a business. You might be disappointed to find out that it has very little to do with creativity or even talent and everything to do with providing a "product" that people want to buy.
2. Can I write something with broad appeal?
Since product is what it’s all about, you need to consider writing something with broad appeal. A lot of people aspire to write the great American (literary) novel, but the fact is that literary fiction is a small percentage of the book-buying market. If you want to be successful as a writer, a better strategy would be to aim for one of the top genres mentioned above, such as romance (55% of the US market) or mystery (27% of the market). Horror and fantasy are around 10%.
Each of these genres have avid fans, but they also have top writers who command attention every time they release a new book. Nora Roberts is synonymous with romance, but she is also associated with mystery and suspense under her pen name J. D. Robb. Stephen King is the master of horror, but he used to write other novels as Richard Bachman.
3. Am I prepared to be my own brand?
Even if you use a pen name, you will still have to be prepared to be your own "brand" and take the criticism along with the adulation. It can be intrusive sometimes. Success can actually make it tougher to find the time to write. It can be difficult to write a book and market it, and to not earn a lot of money, but sometimes it can be even harder to suddenly make it big and become the center of attention.
4. Am I a good writer?
If you haven’t picked up a pen to write a story since high school English, you might want to start small, with short stories and creative blogging, and get some feedback on your work.
5. What am I prepared to sacrifice to become a writer?
Most aspiring writers think about fame and fortune. They don’t think about the many hours alone working on their novel. Writing can be a lonely business. It can be even tougher if you have a family. You might have to sacrifice sleep, TV time and more to make your dream come true.
Be realistic rather than starry-eyed, and you should soon determine whether or not writing a book is the right move for you.
Herb is an author, speaker, retired college professor, and retired Army Reserve chaplain living in South Florida.
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Copyright © 2018, Herbert Sennett.
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