The question

Every writer (likely every artist has their version of this too) has been told to ‘write the story you want to read’ or ‘It’s your story, write whatever you want.’

But every writer has also been told, ‘You have to give the audience what it wants’ or ‘People don’t read x’ or ‘People are tried of vampires  x’.

So which is it? Do you write your story or do you write to sell stories?

You have to sell to the market.

But sometimes the market doesn’t know that it wants something.

Boarding school stories might be a thing in Britain, but Americans were mesmerized by Harry Potter’s originality. Which is not to say that Harry Potter isn’t wildly imaginative, but the basic structure of the story is one that JK Rowling probably grew up with. Americans had no idea how much we wanted to hear about British boarding schools. Yes, my American friends, there book series after book series of very mundane British children and their boarding school adventures.

Very few ‘hit’ movies are memorable outside of their time and place. It’s the cult classics, the sleeper hits, that really endure. Why? My guess is that the answer lies somewhere between excellent marketing for ‘hits’ that really aren’t that good, and the fact that people needed to time to really watch that lesser budget movie, to see how good it was. Because the media never told them about it. (The Princess Bride, Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost).  At least, not to the same extent.

So, do you write for the market or you do write for yourself?

I don’t know.

I think most of us try for something in between. Write the story you want, even how you want to, but always keep in mind that you want other people to enjoy it too.

Hopefully, somewhere in the middle, you can make a living.



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