For some writers writing comes extremely easy. Like breathing. They are blessed humans who can write a first draft that is often also a final draft. Then they can have a Martini, or party all night long. After that, the following morning they start afresh on a new novel that, again, will be finished in no time.
It seems impossible, but this is how they have it. For example George Simenon was able to come up with eighty pages a day. He could write a novel in a couple of weeks. Eleven days, to be precise.
However, for the overwhelming majority of writers writing requires a certain dose of commitment, attention, and old plain effort.
It’s not a matter of being particularly talented or not. To start with, being prolific doesn’t correlate in any meaningful way with writing excellence. If anything it tends to be the opposite.
In addition, the vast majority of the most important literary works were written by authors who worked painstakingly to find the right words and polished their stories as much as possible. For them writing, good writing, wasn’t exactly effortless.
Finally, some of the few works that were written in a blaze became important not exactly for literary merits.
Of course, having a grain of talent can be helpful when starting out. This is so because as children we all tend to take an interest in those activity we happen to be good at. In fact there’s nothing as effective as passion, commitment and deep practice to create real and undeniable talent.
Greed vs passion
Now, given that writing is usually a task that requires our full commitment, we may be tempted to write in genres that appeal to a wide public, so as to grant ourselves a bigger chance to “hit the jackpot” and sell a large number of books.
There’s no denying that at first blush this plan seems to make sense.
Unfortunately it is also a perfect example of the old adage that goes like: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The reasons for me saying this are simple.
First of all we have to consider the writing process itself. In fact, if we set out to write a book in a genre we don’t like just because we might make more bucks, we’re bound to experience a rude awakening.
We could grow dissatisfied with writing itself; we might end up suffering from a major case of burnout. We could also discover we are unable to finish anything of what we start.
I don’t know about you, but these reasons are enough for me to decide to always write what I really love writing, and not what the market seems to point out as particularly lucrative.
Sure, if you are an extremely prolific author then you can probably force yourself to write in any genre you want.
But also this reasoning is misleading. In fact if you are an extremely prolific author, let’s say one who can come up with five books a year or more, you don’t really have to hit any major jackpot.
The reason is simple: provided your books are any good and you put aside a bit of time to market them, you should be able to make a perfectly decent living irrespective of the genre you write in.
In fact, provided it’s made up of quality books, your ever longer and longer backlist is going to provide you with a constant stream of income. A stream that should make unnecessary your switching from a genre you love to one you just try to exploit for commercial purposes.
If writing isn’t exactly effortless for you, you’d probably better stick with the genres you love most if you want to make writing a stable part of you life.
If you’re a prolific author you don’t need to write to the market.
As a result writing to the market is almost never a good choice.
Instead you should write in a genre you love and know perfectly well. And try hard to expand your literary horizon, researching and experimenting not out of greed but out of curiosity.
In case you don’t already have a long backlist and writing isn’t exactly effortless for you, this is also why having a day job, as dreadful as it may seem, can help.
In fact, with a day job you can say no to unacceptable compromises. So that even if you write less, chances are your prose will benefit from such intellectual freedom.