Thursday, February 19, 2009

What would you do to get published?

Detective mystery writer Dennis Lehane was recently interviewed in Entertainment Weekly. After five bestselling whodunits, he's hanging up his detective hat for historical fiction. He says, "I was never comfortable with them anyway. I'd be writing these figgin' whodunits and I could care less. I wanna tell everybody on page 2, he killed so and so, he done it! If you look at my books in that regard - and I'll be 100% honest about my flaws - you can see how I was whipping out the kitchen sink just to obscure s---."

So he's done with them.

Which begs the question, if he didn't like them so much in the first place, why did he write them?

Because they were marketable? Because he could garner interest with them? Did he like to read them and think he could write them?

I find this so interesting because, with the publishing industry as tight as it is, I've found myself asking, what is more marketable? What kind of book is more likely to get my foot in the door?

And I tried. I tried to write something I thought might be easier to break into the industry. I just couldn't. Not that I couldn't put the words on the page, but I couldn't fall in love with it. It felt like crap.

I've contemplated the idea of writing as a job. Sometimes jobs aren't always fun. Sometimes, you do what you have to in order to make a living. Do I want to write badly enough to veer from what I am most drawn to? Is that smart, or selling out?

For those of you who are writers, why do you write what you write? Would you write something else if it was the only way to get published? And is that the smart thing to do?


  1. I can't do it. part of it is my passive-aggressive rebellion... whenever I think about writing something for somebody else, it reminds me of high school and I can't do it!

    I have to write my own stuff.

    I can tell a story, but I can't lie worth a crap.

  2. I've considered that question so many times. I was always a horror girl, but would think maybe...just maybe, I could do a cookie-cutter romance, something "to get my foot in the door". I even outlined a couple. But same thing, once I started working on it, I just couldn't do it. It felt fake, like drivel. Contrived. Ack. Just thinking about it makes me feel...dirty.

    The YA thing happened completely by accident. A friend of mine, who was screening books for her 13 year old, read a book she liked and passed it to me. Honestly, I loved it. And then another. Pretty soon, I was on Amazon myself, scouring for new YA books. I simply molded my love of the spooky stuff for a different crowd (less gore, less language, less violence and sex).

    I say, write what you love...success will follow.

  3. Jeez, sorry for the long "comment/post"!

  4. Heidi - I never thought about it as a lie, but it does feel that way. Like I am lying about who I am and what I care about writing.

    Kim - I love how you said it feels dirty! That's exactly it!!

    I'm not sure that what I love to read is always what I love to write, but I'm with you... I have to love what I'm writing. I think readers can tell. I've got a whole post about Patricia Cornwell running around in my head. Now there's an author that started not liking writing a certain way, and it really started to show!!

  5. I agree that what I read and what I write are not always the same. I *read* everything...even romance. I LOVE me a good romance! But what I like to write is completely different. And I think that can change. Maybe someday I'll be writing cheeky slapstick comedies! ;)

  6. Kimberly - isn't that what your blog is?? :)

  7. I write what I write because I couldn't do anything else but that. I tried once to write something I thought a magazine would publish--one of those fluffy romance things--and it turned into something far different. I liked it!

  8. write what you love (not what you know or what sells)