Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Creativity or Marketability?

Did I mention I have a harem of WIP?  It’s a growing Harem. Every couple of months I add a new bride when the idea bug bites me. I am infatuated with that new bride and spend countless hours with her until life takes my attention away. Sometimes, like any good husband, I go back to my old WIPs and spend some time with them.  That’s just what I did last week. In spite of adding two new brides in the past six months, I went back to my old bride from almost a decade ago. What a ride!

That old WIP was written before I published. It was actually my third manuscript. I wrote it while receiving the many rejections of my second book, A Marriage of Convenience. You see, I have a policy: if publishers reject one manuscript, just keep writing. My first manuscript had already been rejected into oblivion, when I wrote my second novel. This old WIP was my consolation for the second round of rejections. But somewhere after 110 pages of writing, A Marriage of Convenience got accepted by Dorchester Publishing. My attention now diverted to edits and rewrites and deadlines, and promotions, this third bride was abruptly abandoned. I revisited it briefly a few years back, but it didn’t fit into a genre mold: it had elements of romance, but it didn’t fit the formula of romance. It didn’t quite fit neatly into any category that was hot on the market at the time. Consequently I abandoned it once more and worked on other “publishable” work.

As I read that old WIP I was amazed at the flow of my writing. It was raw and unpolished, yet it gripped me so that I couldn’t put it down. Back then I didn’t worry about POV. It was written in a God-like omniscient narration where the storyteller knew everything that every character was thinking, feeling. It was not written for a particular audience. It was written because I had a story to tell and I wanted to tell it. It was also written in discrete bits that left it up to the readers’ imaginations to fill in the blanks. It had a unique voice, my voice, and I loved it.

I picked up another manuscript that I had written after publishing my first two books. The writing was different. This one didn’t hold my attention as much, but it was polished and written to a specific readership. It had all the things I had learned going through the rounds of editing for my first two published books. It was marketable. 

Why was my writing before publication different from my writing after publication? You guessed it: the emphasis had shifted from creativity to marketability. I was now writing what I think could be published rather than what came out of me naturally. I had transitioned from writing as a hobby, to writing as a profession. Some things get lost in that transition. One of those things is creativity and sometimes even your unique voice. It can become formulaic. 

So what’s more important in writing? Is it creativity or marketability? For those professionals who make a living by writing the answer is obvious. For the hobbyists creativity is more important. But for those of us who are transitioning from writing as a hobby to writing as a profession it is an agonizing question we wrestle with constantly. And if you think that you don’t have to choose, just be aware that for publishers, even indie publishers, the bottom line is the most important thing that determines whether a book is published.

So for all reading this post, I pose a question:  which is more important creativity or marketability? Why?


Charles Gramlich said...

well, considering that I don't make a lot of money from my work, creativity is more important to me

Liane Spicer said...

That's a tough one, Jewel, and one of the reasons I stopped sending work to my agent after the second book. So I focus on creativity for my literary work, and try to focus on marketability with my indie work--although I still have problems with that.