Why?

Let’s start with “why.”

This is the most important question you can ask yourself during your writing process, and it’s one that I’m going to just address for you now in the context of this blog and its purpose. Truthfully, I don’t even know if people read blogs anymore. But I know that people are certainly still writing, so my hope is that some of the advice I offer here can reach those who might benefit from it.

That’s my “why”—that I want to help people and maybe entertain them, too. Without a doubt, your answer to the “why” question should be the same.

But that’s not fair, right? It’s not that simple, and that advice ignores such a host of reasons why people might write.

Well, yes and no. It’s true that people write for a number of reasons—they want to get rich, they want an outlet for emotional energy or stress, they’ve always wanted to bring their fictional heroes to life, and so on. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these reasons.

However, if you want to write a story that others will read—and you expect them to pay for it—you should always be asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader, not the writer. There’s that great Toni Morrison quote about writing things that you’d also want to read, which is great advice.

As for those who don’t give a damn and want to write the story that they, the writer, not the reader, want to write, then you may want to consider pursuing writing as a hobby rather than pursuing it as a serious profession. If you’re not going to write something that someone would reasonably enjoy, then why expect people to pay money to read your book? If you want to write and it’s your passion, then by all means, write until your eyes glaze over every evening. Just don’t expect your author’s darling to become a roaring success among adoring fans.

If you want to write to make money, I’m not sure what to tell you. Plenty of writers become successful, especially the self-published ones, and they go on to lead comfortable lives while accruing passive income. Many writers make nothing or next to nothing. On a somewhat related and definitely weird note, I’ve seen blogs brag about breaking into the e-book business by publishing bogus content in mass quantities, then even going on to outsource (English) writing to non-English speakers in developing countries. (…Yeah. I have no idea how people pull that one off other than just saturating the market with their ethically questionable trash.)

To get back to the blog, my hope is that I can offer a bit of advice than can apply to many genres, audiences, and skill levels. I’ve always held that writing isn’t really a gift; it’s a craft. Don’t become discouraged if you struggle: the pleasure of working at something you find fulfilling—whether or not you even finish a single novel or project—will be worth it.

Good luck out there!

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