Writing for Yourself
Learning to Soar
Write what you know. That's what we're told when we begin writing fiction. Usually, we're kids then and don't know a heck of a lot. So, that advice goes out the window real quick.
Write what you like to read. This is what we're told when we're taking matters seriously and trying to get published. Even then, it's kind of bogus. I recall wanting to write a vampire series and being told by my agent and several editors that vampires weren't selling. Just from looking at books in bookstores I could tell that was bunk. Vampire books never go out of fashion, right along with loner cowboys and damsels in distress. But I was discouraged enough to put aside my vampire dreams because "those in the know" had decided that what I liked to read was dead. (Forgive the pun.)
Write what you'd like to be reading. Ah. Now we're talking. This is the best directive you can give to writers and it will save them a lot of trial and error as they attempt to write what they know and then try to emulate what they're reading.
Writing what you would like to be reading fills a void and, therefore, makes your novel different enough to stand apart from all others. Why? Because it has your unique fingerprints on it. You aren't encumbered with only relating what you've personally experienced or by trying to fit your ideas and characters into a neat, prefabricated box that other authors have constructed. You are writing a book from your head, your heart, and your own creative imagination.
You pay homage to other writers' styles by using them as scaffold while you construct your story and create your characters. No doubt, you're comfortable enough with a specific genre to use it as a blueprint. Beyond that, you're free to entertain yourself.
Ask bestselling authors and most will tell you that their "big breakthrough" novel was one that they'd wanted to write for some time, but they were either discouraged to do so or they weren't brave enough to attempt it for a few years. However, once they shook off the bindings and wrote what they really wanted to write, they made believers out of the nonbelievers.
My advice? Once you know your craft and yourself, don't worry so much about what others think you should write. Write your story the way you want it written. You won't please everyone and you might even write a book that most of your acquaintances won't read, but someone will read it -- and love it. Many someones just like you are waiting to read your next book, even if they don't know it yet.
As Garrison Keillor says, "Be brave and do good work." Excellent advice.