“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you: figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”`~ Barbara Kingsolver
I’ve heard the above sentiment said in different ways from agents, editors, and other writers: “Don’t write to the market.” “Write what you know.” “Don’t follow trends.”
The market changes too quickly. By the time you see a book genre that hits it big on the bestseller list – the Harry Potter fantasy books, for example – the trend is over. Readers are always looking for something new, not something rehashed.
The “write what you know” admonition has always bothered me somewhat, however. If I stuck to only what I knew, I wouldn’t be able to write or learn new things, and isn’t that the fun of writing? Even writers of contemporary fiction have to do a little research to get things right. And historical fiction writers often spend months, if not years, learning about an era or historical event before setting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.
But Kingsolver’s quote hits home. Don’t sit around trying to think of something that will sell, instead write the story that has meaning for you. Because chances are, if it has meaning for you, it will have meaning for others. And then, it might actually be marketable.