I haven’t posted on this blog in quite a while (19 days to be exact). Editing my manuscript has taken up all of my ‘writing’ time and there’s not been a book review recently because I’m currently working my way through The Stand by Mr King – it’s certainly a long one, and most enjoyable.
So what better way to jump back in to the fetid bog of blog with a piece on writing? It’s a kind of a ‘what’s the point?’ post, but not in a self-deprecating or defeatist sense.
Why do we write, or more specifically, who do we write for?
The obvious answer I suppose would be, we write for ourselves. Great, that’s the main purpose for opening the laptop and hammering out some words. That feeling you get when you hit ‘save’, satisfied with the number of words or quality of sentences you’ve unloaded on to your unsuspecting computer, is a nice, warm snuggly one.
Some people, I’m sure, see writing as a great way to unwind after a hectic day, getting those feelings and thoughts out whether they be happy, stressful, or angst-filled. That feeling I mentioned can be enough to help you relax, allowing time to concentrate on other trivial matters that might otherwise drive you to insanity. Phoning the dentist, booking that chimney sweep, cooking the evening meal or making the sandwiches for work the next day, and so on. The boring parts of real life.
When you write with this purpose you just don’t care how ‘bad’ your writing is, or who it may offend. Your thoughts have been transferred into the cosmos via some tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard and sometimes that can be enough to bring on the satisfaction. Well done, you.
But if you want to take this hobby, this stress-reliever to the next level, that’s when you have to ask yourself the question of who you are actually writing for.
Do you want to become famous for your writing, have a best-seller on your hands that is instantly turned into a box office smash in cinemas? Yeah, that would be sweet, but is that the real motivation in your writing?
I suppose your writing goals would depend on the genre you choose, or the genre that chooses you, more like. If you love writing crime thrillers, romance, or vampire-werewolf love triangles (is that still a thing these days? I don’t think it is) then you’re more likely to achieve a modicum of ‘commercial’ success than the writer of gore-soaked depravity. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s easier to make it writing in the aforementioned genres, I suppose it’s actually more difficult because of the greater competition, but sshhh for a minute well I bang on some more.
As someone who enjoys reading and writing in the horror genre my arguments are probably (definitely) a little biased, but I’ll try and be balanced in what I say.
(Draws in breath for a sweeping statement).
No one writing horror is in it for the fame, the money, or the groupies.
If this is true, then these writers of horror are surely just writing for themselves and to make their inner demons shut the hell up for a while. Maybe, but still, if you’re a horror author with a published or self-published title out there, you are writing to make yourself heard. It’s not writing for fame and fortune, but writing for the mini-fame and recognition in the genre. People who love horror are most supportive to those souls creating the terrors and chills that they so crave. I am certain that this is the same in other genres, too.
I’m not just a lover of horror, I’m also a lover of metal music. And this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve mentioned on this blog that I think the musical world and literary one hold many similarities. Musicians growing up with heavy music who it influenced so much they began to learn an instrument, are more likely to start a band playing homage to that much-loved musical style. It’s the same for writers. Your favourites are going to influence you to get started. For me, reading HP Lovecraft creeped me out so much that there was just something inside that said ‘Hell yeah, that is some fucked up shit, I needs to get me involved with some o dat!’ OK, I didn’t put it quite like that, but it was pretty similar.
During the years of listening to music, there have been a few bands I’ve loved that have evolved in their sound, away from the very thing that made me love them in the early days. Now I’m not naming any names here (OK I am; Slipknot, Incubus, ‘Chili Peppers) because I’m sure we’ve all got our own examples. I wonder whether any of these musicians thought to themselves that even though they were all about the heavy guitars and the ‘do what we want’ attitude, the chance to play some possibly radio-friendly, watered-down versions of their original stuff had always been something they’d love to do. I’m absolutely certain it had nothing to do with record company pressures.
Is this the same for writers of horror? I don’t think so. Imagine a writer reading Lovecraft, King, or Barker, then crafting (Lovecrafting?) their own story with these influences at the forefront of their writing style. They manage to sell the book and it gets a small but highly appreciative following. Now imagine that author then releasing a romance novel that appeals to a wider audience and lands them a six figure income overnight. I can’t see that happening.
So like the musician who spends years cementing themselves in that cult niche of subterranean noise, the horror author will write what scares them, always pushing the boundaries of what is terrifying. They’re still writing for themselves, but surely they’re going to be hoping that those die-hard fans they’ve earned are going to be with them for the ride.
When you stop writing what you love, or for yourself, you lose the passion and the creative spark that got you on this writing road in the first place. Just like music lovers will hear when a band’s heart is not in it anymore, your readers will sense you’re not feeling it either. I’ve made it this far without using the term selling out, wow!
When I’m writing or editing, I’m trying to come up with the best stories possible, ones I hope to look back on in months or years and feel proud of. But I’d be lying if I said that’s the only motivation. No, I’m hoping that people, readers in my chosen genre of horror will enjoy my stories, too. If it brings in a couple of quid along the way, even better. I look at it like it’s leaving something of yourself on the world. Sure, the greatest part of yourself you can leave behind is in your kids, some people say, but having something creative you worked hard to produce living on long after you’ve gone is something I crave. It may be a bit egotistical to say that but I don’t care.
Of course, I’m missing out probably the most important part here. Writing is fun. Not just the act of typing the story on the computer either. Thinking of story ideas and jotting them down, editing your work with a text-to-speech reader (which is funny, especially if your writing contains lots of profanities or graphic descriptions of gore), imaging scenes as you drift off to sleep, coming up with complex and interesting characters, searching for places to send your completed stories, and so on. I’d add marketing your book to this list, but I’ve yet to try this and I suppose, from what I’ve read, it’s not going to be that fun after all.
So why do we write, or why do I write? It’s enjoyable, it stimulates my mind, and I’m a weak-minded narcissist who just needs a big ego-cuddle.
Thanks for reading!
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