“Write what you know.” It’s probably the biggest cliché there is in writing, but everything we write is about us whether we realise it or not. I’ve written a fantasy novel on the origin of vampires called The Vorbing, which you might think is completely divorced from reality and from myself as a person, but you’d be wrong. It has my imagination in it, my sense of humour and, you could argue, that the structure of the world I have created in some way reflects my perspective (obviously, there are embellishments that do not tally with how I see things, but you get my point).
Mary Shelley was 18 years old when she wrote the novel Frankenstein in the year 1816, now what could a young woman of that time possibly know about a man making a creature from the body parts of dead people? More than you would think. Mary Shelley gave birth to a premature baby girl that died. She had a dream that she put the child in front of the fire and warmed it up to bring it back to life which became the basis of her book. So she was working out her grief, fears and desires through the framework of the story.
Which brings me to the next fork in the road. I’ve read contradictory advice on writing this week. One website said that you should not even commit one word to paper before thinking about your audience and who wants to read it. Then a writer’s magazine I read today said that you should only write what you are passionate about. I have to say I agree with the latter. All the great writers wrote classic books because they were obsessed with the story, it wouldn’t leave them alone until they wrote it. The idea of tailoring what you’re writing in advance for the market seems cold, calculating and cynical to me. It smacks of hack work, to be honest, although there are some writers than can and do write like that and make a very good living out of it. I would not be one of them. I guess when it comes to book sales, you’re back to Quality Vs Quantity. I’d much rather have a book I’m passionate about out there that a few people are reading, than a piece of fluff that sells twenty thousand copies. Sure, having the money would be better but you can’t take it with you when you go. Only the work remains and that is the true test of time.
© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.