Okay, so I’m going to write about writing today, but stick with me and I’ll do this amazing thing at the end where I stun you with my brilliant insight and make my point universal. Ready? Let’s go!
I read this really great post by Jane Friedman, whose blog, There Are No Rules, is one of the best I’ve found for practical advice on the business of writing. Her post “Are You Ready to Be a Bestselling Author? Then Listen to Alec Baldwin” uses arguably the best scene in Glengarry Glen Ross to teach 7 lessons to writers.
I know the advice is sound because it made me squirm, and I believe that every serious writer suffers from the tension that exists between the art and the business of writing. Jane’s piece focuses on the business side, and I actually agree with everything she says except one. Lesson 5: Always Be Closing.
I’ve heard this advice before, and I understand the logic behind it. Just as you would for any business, a writer should understand her customers. “Before you even write the first word of your manuscript,” Jane says, ” you should have an audience/readership in mind, and know how to close agents/publishers on buying your work, but more importantly, your readers.” I can see the wisdom in that. Knowing how you’ll close with an agent before hand would certainly make the prospect of talking to them after the manuscript is done less scary.
In chasing the market, in writing to a perceived audience, in trying to find and capitalize on the ever-changing literary/publishing trends, isn’t there something essential that gets sacrificed? Don’t you thwart your own best instincts as an artist when, instead of focusing on the story you want to tell, the truth you want to share, you’re focused on what you hope will sell (which is, of course, a moving target at best)?