Sun Tzu, the Chinese general and military strategist said: “What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.”
I think we can all agree that knowing, in advance, what will win would be valuable indeed. But a writer, writing for the edification, entertainment, and enjoyment of an audience, can never really know what will win with readers. It’s totally hit or miss. Even Stephen King (who nearly always bats it out of the park) has released a stinker or two, and he’ll be the first to admit it. Writing to market isn’t really a best practice in the fiction-writing industry, and hardly any of us are really in it for the money—there are literally thousands of easier and more lucrative jobs.
So, why do I do it? Passion.
From the time I read my first Nancy Drew and felt the thrill of suspense, I knew I wanted to make that happen for others. To create worlds, to paint pictures with words, using imagery and alliteration as brushstrokes against a palette of imagination, building a story into a foundation of experience for the reader, providing an opportunity to climb, to feel the rush at the summit, to fly. That’s why.
For a fascinating and inspiring look at why we write, watch this short video. It’ll be four minutes well spent.
And how do I decide what to write?
That question is almost unanswerable. Ideas sprout and blossom in my head with such a maddening pace that it’s difficult to grab onto a single grain and look at it long enough to say—this is the one! There are certain ideas that strike with such force and repetition that they are natural choices for focus. Other times, I use prompts from a competition or a particular editor to narrow the scope, and then it’s like scooping a bright and squirming fish from a stream teeming with them. The trick is to snatch one out and go with it, while the temptation is to gaze, captivated by their whirring colors, until the deadline looms large.
As a writer, I get no guarantee of any return on my investment—
not in terms of money, recognition, following, or reader fulfillment. While I hope some, or all of that, will come of its own volition and in satisfyingly rich degree, I must be willing to face that it might not, and do the work anyway.
If any have found solace or excitement in my words, if any have felt a pleasurable prickle of suspense or a life-affirming tug at the heartstrings, I am grateful for your participation in my life’s passion, and hope you’ll give me the opportunity to do it again. Thank you!