Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why do you write?

The market for westerns is soft. That means editors aren't buying many. A group of western writers I interface with have been talking about this with several saying they weren't sure they wanted to try to write them any more. Keep in mind this group has bibliographies up well in the hundreds. The discussion has been enlightening. One writer summed up the thoughts of many when he said:

"Now I don't know about the rest of this crowd, but I for one write for the love of writing. And I write westerns for the love of the American west. I write for the love of Bob Steele and Hoot Gibson and Randolph Scott and John Wayne, those people who birthed my imagination back when a bent stick could be a blazing six-gun and my old dog a faithful steed. I write, I suppose, because I've never really grown up."

I love westerns too, always have. I haven't tried to write traditional westerns because I came to the party late and I knew it. I've had some small success in writing some in the time period for the Christian market, and I'm trying to reach out to some new readers of the old west with a YA series. That's a tough sell too.

But is that why I write? No, that's why I have written in that time period, for the love of it. The long answer of why I write is on my website, under the writing testimony link. The short answer to why I do what writing I still do, and my efforts to help other writers get their words out is very simple. After much soul-searching and foot-dragging, I believe God has asked me to do it, and until I am relieved from one or both tasks I'll continue to do it.

Some write to achieve recognition, some for financial gain, some because they have words on their heart and nothing will do but to get them out. A secular writer who doesn't sell books well up in the five figures does not impress the mainstream publishing industry. A Christian writer who makes only a single sale but that sale changes someone's life would be considered a success. Having said that, I don't know a single Christian writer (including myself) who only wants a single sale. We all want to get our words in as many hands as possible, and sales is how we measure how well we are doing that. I write out of love and obedience . . .

. . . why do you write?


BK said...

I've really been wrestling with this subject intensely this weekend. Both what and why I write.

The predominant reason I write is because I am absolutely enthralled with Arizona history and the myriad story possibilities.

Whether I publish or not, my desire is to write a string of historicals set in the early territorial days of AZ before the Tombstone buzz, etc. The story possibilities are endless and I literally tie myself up in knots trying to figure out which story I want to tackle next.

I also write because I like stories driven by male protags, lots of action, and broad and sweeping historical perspectives. I'd like to see the equivalent of a Lonesome Dove done for CBA.

But the more time that passes and the more I write, the more I realize my interest doesn't lie in traditional westerns. Nor does it lie in traditional historical as defined by CBA (female protag, romance driven). I seem to be in a no man's land somewhere in the middle. Or sometimes it feels like being on the outside.

Some of my novel concepts have faith factors. Some do not. Ultimately, I write to please myself. I know that's contrary to all the advice given, and maybe it's not very noble, but that's what I have to do. Writing historicals is a considerable time investment. I have to love what I do. And I long to bring the history of Arizona to life through the pages of fiction. I will consider my life investment time well spent if I accomplish that task.

Terry Burns said...

I was just at a conference in Oregon and we talked about this in class. I told them that anybody who COULD quit writing SHOULD. Those who have the staying power for it and the discipline to grow and learn are committed, they can't quit. But being successful it at surely isn't easy, it takes persistence.