If you hang around people who write with the goal of publication in mind, you will most likely encounter a discussion about how much an author should consider the market when writing. Most authors that I have heard address this topic advise writers to compose from their hearts. I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me that writing the story that holds my interest to the point of giving up food and water is the way to go.
And yet. . .
I have to admit that I often dwell on what kind of story my readers most want. Considering the marketplace is like considering the chocolate cake on the counter. I know I should ignore it, yet it is there, tempting me to come closer. So, I am aware of what kids are not just reading, but devouring. But how much does awareness affect my writing?
After watching a certain thirteen-year-old that I adore finish his intense video game, I asked him (once his heart rate settled and he stopped sweating) about what books he has most loved reading. Answer: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Later, when I returned to my work in progress, I wondered if the previous chapters I had just finished writing were too quiet. Hmmmm.
And then I read a piece by Jerry Spinelli in the July/August Horn Book Magazine. Apparently, his first four books went unpublished. “I wanted to be read. I wanted to touch readers,” Mr. Spinelli wrote. For book number five, he stopped thinking about readers and focused on the story. This novel was published. “When I stopped aiming for readers, that’s when I got them,” he wrote. And: “I’ve since tried to write strictly for the story. . .” He won the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee in 1991.
I think Mr. Spinelli has nailed it. Write for the story. Write from the heart.
What do you think?