Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Thoughts on Branding, Voice, and Dedication
Earlier this week, I pulled out a book about writing nonfiction book proposals. It's from 1995. To be sure, a lot has changed in the past fifteen years. But then again, many things remain the same. A writer still needs to have a saleable idea, a marketable product, and the dedication and enthusiasm to see those ideas and products brought to frution.
That's not exclusive to nonfiction. Fiction writers, too, need to have those elements in abundance. My fiction tends toward "literary fiction" and with that often comes slow, character-driven plots. There simply aren't as many people willing to spend their time reading the work of an unknown writer whose story is slow-paced.
But if a writer can sell his product fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry — and become virtually synonymous with his own style of writing, he can develop an audience who loves his work. That's not easy, but I think that's what separates the wannabe's from the superstars.
I used to hate Stephen King. I hadn't read his work, but back when I was in high school, it seemed that he could put all his disjointed nightmares on paper and sell a few million copies. What kind of writer would allow himself to descend to such levels, I wondered. After I saw the movie Stand By Me, which I later discoverd was based on his novella The Body, I softened on Mr. King. I softened further when I met the woman who is now my wife and who loves King's work. And I softened even more when I read his work On Writing.
What happened while I was getting all squishy is that I realized what I thought I knew about King was completely wrong. He wasn't a horror writer — not that I have anything at all against horror. He was a masterful story teller. He wa not always a great writer, but he could spin a yarn as well as spider could spin a web. First and foremost, he wrote about people. But he also wrote to, knew, and appreciated his audience. Read his forewards and afterwards. You can't help but get to know the guy. And like him.
I wouldn't call myself the biggest Stephen King fan in the world, but I've read enough of his work now to say that he's got a definite style. The marketing folks would talk about his brand of story. Others would reference his voice. To me, his work shows that he's put his time in and still does.
How about you? Are you able to put as much time in as you need to your writing? What would you need to sacrifice to meet your goals for yourself?