Why write?

I don’t usually do this, but I would like to pose a question to the public.

I’m sitting at my desk sifting through the never ending slush pile. Most of the cover letters are quite standard (which is good), but some state that they are willing to change their book to match whatever the current selling trends are at the moment. In theory, this isn’t bad. I would assume that most publishers would be more than happy to work with authors who aren’t precious about their manuscripts and who are willing to make adjustments to their work. But why would a publisher take on a book that needs a complete overhaul? Instead, I assume they would pass over that author and contract a writer whose piece is already suitable for the market.

So, where does this leave the unpublished novelist trying to break into the market?

After spending a month sifting through unpublished (and often unpublishable) material, my answer to this question is, just write what you want and then hope you can sell it to a publishing company that will put it in an appropriate market.

This may seem obvious, but I have come across a number of cover letters that suggest the author is only writing with the hopes of becoming the next John Grisham/James Lee Burke/Stephenie Meyer/Dan Brown. Whereas the manuscripts that have gone into my ‘maybe’ pile (and one ‘yes’), seem to write for other more altruistic reasons.

Here is my question to the public: Why should someone write a novel?

Please be honest, as I’d love to see all sides of the argument.

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3 responses to “Why write?

  1. Over the years I’ve taken my share of creative writing classes and I love when this question is raised in class. Everyone may have a different style of writing but almost always writers write because we have to. I would write even if no one read it. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog so that my pages and pages of writing doesn’t go to waste. But also I don’t care if no one reads my work because I’d write anyway.

  2. Far be it from me to try to answer a question that took Sartre a book to answer, if I recall correctly. However, as a life-long scribbler as well as a writer of two half-decent unfinished novels and one finished but decidedly indecent Nanonovel, I would like to take the liberty of asking a corollary question: why keep writing when you don’t finish anything?

    Like the first commenter, I also write pretty much because I have to, because I can’t not write, and because when I’m not writing something crazy and dangerous starts rattling away at its cage away down in the dark somewhere of my mind. God. That sounds creepy. Doesn’t that sound creepy? God.

    The thing is, writing is no problem. It’s finishing things I start writing that’s the problem. What the fuck is that all about?

    Love this blog, btw.
    😉 xo

  3. Hi Cate. Wow, you really do bring up a good point. There are so many reasons for writing, and compulsion is often the most prevalent. But yes, why do we keep writing when nothing is ever getting finished? I’ve got boxes of half filled notebooks, and so many half of first chapters. But, it’s so easy to get distracted and not finish, or even get bored and start another project. I wish I had the concentration to write just a little bit every day, but it never seems to work that way. Anyone out there with some handy tips on how to keep writing and finally finish that big project?

    PS-Thanks for complement on the blog. Very much appreciated.

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