Recently I--among many others--was asked on Facebook (the only place people interact anymore) what my advice would be for someone who "wants to be a writer." My immediate impulse was to tell the person that s/he is either a writer or not already and if there's any doubt, s/he is probably not. But I knew what this person was really asking so I decided to forego that answer because it was obnoxious. I'm on a new kick of trying not to be obnoxious. We'll see how long that lasts.
I gave the question some thought, but not a lot because I already knew what I wanted to say. It's what I always tell people when the subject comes up (as it will when one is foolish enough to identify oneself as a professional writer). Because it really is what I think any aspiring published author should do.
There are many strategies for getting published, all of which are perfectly legitimate if they work for you and some of which include the idea that you should publish your work independently. Again, absolutely fine if that's your strength.
But there is an equal number of theories bouncing around that are aimed at making the person espousing the theory money. Many of these purport to analyze the "current publishing market" and reveal what is being purchased from authors in the hope that you, the aspirant, can write something that's "hot" right now and get your foot in the door.
Don't fall for those. They are the equivalent of saying you'll build a wall on the Mexican border to keep Mexicans out and Mexico will pay for it. Seriously. Who'd believe that?
The fact is that writing to some magic formula that analyzes the market is a sucker's game. For one thing, you'll write a book you don't care about very much, and that means your writing will be considerably less good than it should be. For another, you'll be writing a story that might be in vogue now but won't be in the 18 months or so it takes to hit bookshelves, and editors and publishers know that. So scrap your plans for The Gone Girl on the Train and move on.
Instead, write the book you want to read. Write the story you would immediately pick up if you saw it in a bookstore. Think about what isn't being written because you haven't written it yet, and make that. You'll be more enthusiastic about your own work, you'll be writing something only you could write and even if it doesn't get published, you'll be creating something that will make you proud.
Next week I'll tell you about the down side of following this particular advice, but suffice it to say it won't have any effect whatsoever on your getting your work published. The down side is about you personally not about your work. That's right: I can tell you something about you that you don't know yourself yet. Tune in next Monday.
Until then, get to work. Write the book you want to read.
Pitchers and catchers report in 35 days.