Mistake 59: Writing for the Market

Author:
Publish date:

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: It’s already too late to write for today’s market. Book-length publishing is a three-year-ahead business for a writer. Even magazine writing requires quite a bit of lead time. So what’s hot now might not be hot when you’re ready to start submitting. In fact, it probably won’t be. Many people try to ride the latest writing fad, which means you’ll be lost among the crowd.

Image placeholder title

Also, when you’re writing for the market, you’re probably not writing what is important to you, and this usually results in writing that’s shallow and not the best quality.

The solution:
I was listening to a panel at a recent Romance Writers of America event where participants were asking questions of a couple of agents and an editor from Harlequin. And all the questions seemed to be a variation of the same thing: “What’s hot?” and “What’s selling?” which is the same as “What are publishers buying?”

I hear that a lot at conferences. And I’m not slamming it. But I’m not too thrilled with it either. Because underneath it is the feeling that if someone said, “You know, vampire-lesbian-nun-slasher-paranormal novels where the hero is redeemed and becomes a monk at the end are really hot and selling,” there would be ten such books cranked out within two weeks of conference, whether or not those authors gave a damn about writing V-L-N-S-P monk redemption novels.

I think the questions of what’s hot and what’s selling come out of a degree of frustration with publishing (which is bad) and also a degree of business savvy (which is good). But that business savvy can be taken too far, and often is.

I wrote military techno-thrillers in the late 1980s. That was stupid business-savvy wise. In the early and mid ’90s when those books came out, the military techno-thriller market collapsed. Only two or three writers survived, and even a lot of the ones who had been best-sellers went under or had to find new genres to write in. But—I got published. And I learned about writing. Even though my career kind of sucked because I was in a not-hot field. But I was writing what I wanted to, and I think that’s why I got published. Lawyer books were very hot then. I imagine I could have written one of those. But you know what? My lawyer book, if I’d written one simply because the market was hot, would have sucked and never gotten published. It’s a vicious catch-22.

Write what you really want to write, what you’re passionate about regardless of market.

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_talking_about_the_work_in_progress_robert_lee_brewer

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.

capital_vs_capitol_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Dulan_1:14

On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.

Brandt_1:14

Gerald Brandt: Toeing the Line Between Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Science fiction author Gerald Brandt explains how this new series explores the genre boundary and how he came to find his newest book's focus.

plot_twist_story_prompts_moment_of_doubt_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Moment of Doubt

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character experience a moment of doubt.