In the nether-reaches of the internet, shadowy figures argue whether authors who write for money are sellouts. These are their opinions.
If you push aside enough cobwebs, wander down enough dank corridors, and tiptoe through enough iron-bound doors you might find yourself in the nether-reaches of the web where shadowy figures debate the question of whether writing should be about money or art.
I confess I have no strong views on this matter, but that’s not an interesting way to approach a question, so for the purposes of this post let’s pretend I have all the strong views.
In case your socks got too wet and your candle burned out before you reached this nether-web, here are some of the arguments that may or may not be bandied about.
Against art: Writing only thinking about yourself is self-indulgent.
Against money: Trying to write what you think readers want is the best way to produce vanilla, derivative stories.
For art: You should write what inspires you, the stories you need to tell, and if you write honestly and deeply your work will find an audience.
For money: If you’re trying to make a living off your writing, you’d be naive not to consider the audience for your work.
Against money: Anyone who cranks out stories they think will sell is a sell-out to their art and a hack.
For art: Writers should be artists. It’s so crass to think about the business side of writing.
Against art: Writing is about communication. If you write something that only a few people in the world can understand it defeats the purpose.
Against money: You can’t make much money writing anyway, so you should focus on creating something deep and literary that adds to the world’s culture.
For money: If you can make enough from writing to live on you’ll have more time to write.
For art: You can’t write a worthwhile book in six months or even a year. Take the years required to get every word right and you will create something valuable and lasting, not something that might be interesting for a few months and then will be forgotten.
For money: Writing in popular genres isn’t selling out, it’s being smart.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea and it’s awfully cold and dark down here. Plus I think there are spiders.
Time for some opinions.
Should you write the genre that sells best even though you don’t enjoy reading it?
No. (See? I can be opinionated.)
You won’t do a good job unless you’re familiar with the genre, which means you need to read widely in it, and if you don’t enjoy it why would you do that to yourself?
If you’re disdainful of the genre you’re writing it will show. No one wants to read a book by a writer who’s sneering at them.
If you publish multiple books every year are they necessarily rubbish?
Though you could probably make them better if you spent more time editing. (What? I said “probably”.)
On the other hand, anyone who publishes multiple books each year is producing a lot of words, and it’s hard to write that much without learning something.
And some people write quickly because they know exactly what they’re doing.
Must you consider the reader, or is it okay to write purely for yourself?
If you never plan to share your writing there’s no need to consider the reader.
But if you plan to publish and intend others to read your writing, you need to ask how your words will affect your audience. You don’t have to try to cater to everyone, but you should try to cater to someone. Even if it’s kittens.
Does writing for money make me a sell-out?
Um, I think writing for money makes you a professional. (That’s the definition, right?)
You can write for a small, cultured audience of individuals who enjoy sophisticated and subtle literature, or you can write for a mass audience of people who read two books a year and still think sparkly vampires are original. Either is a valid choice.
Did you see all those opinions? And they were all mine.
Kind of. Yea, not really.
I only have one opinion on what and why you should write: whatever and whyever you like. So long as you don’t insist I read it.
What do you think about the (possibly non-existent) writing-as-art-versus-writing-for-money debate?
Always hear when I write more stuff.