Don’t Be Afraid to Write the Story You Want

A lot of blogs and publishing websites will tell you to research your genre and see what concepts or ideas are currently trending in the market. If you can quickly develop a similar concept, write the story, and publish, you could ride the coattails of similar books and sub-genres to a better launch.

That’s a solid strategy for selling books, but I personally do not feel like it’s a great strategy for writing meaningful stories. If you’re writing a concept that is meaningful to you, and it also happens to be trending in the market, that’s great! You’re probably on your way to some good sales numbers.

But I would argue that telling the most meaningful story should come first; sales and marketing come second.

Tell the Story You Want to Tell

Beyond the sales side of it, it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own expectations for your ideal story. You have a great concept in your head, with your main characters and a good sense of where the plot will lead all lined up.

But you can’t start writing… you actually avoid trying to craft that first line. Why? Because the concept is so perfect in your head. Before it touches paper or a computer screen, it doesn’t require revisions or editing. No one can criticize it. You don’t have to worry about disappointing sales numbers or lack of readership. In your head, that story is exactly what you think it could be.

I realized I was doing this recently with a new concept for a two- or three-part short story. I’ve had a lot of ideas to diversify my writing projects and to get smaller things published while I work on WoEL, which will certainly not be ready to publish for at least another year.

One such concept is a multi-part short story that I can publish in parts on KDP, then as a single volume in print. I’ve outlined quite a bit, particularly for my protagonist, and I feel like the concept is solid enough to start writing.

But I have yet to actually start writing. Instead, I was getting ready to start another project, one with much lower stakes. This one would be a running travelogue-style series on Wattpad — just short entries every couple of weeks following one particular character.

I like both of these ideas, and I want to pursue each of them, but I haven’t had any movement on the short story.

Now, what are the key differences between these two ideas?

  • One, the Wattpad series, is very low commitment. I can casually write a new chapter every couple of weeks, publish on the interwebs, hope some people read it, and keep going.
  • The other is a story I want to publish professionally: cover art, revisions, book design… the whole nine yards. Then, I would try to sell these stories online and at conventions next year. That means I have to get it done in a reasonable amount of time.

See the difference?

This short story is the one I really want to write, but it comes with a much greater commitment of my time and energy, and it will be exposed to a wider audience (I hope).

I’ve neglected actually writing it because of the risk it involves. I can’t get it done in time, or people won’t like it, or it won’t sell. I’ve let the fear of those things keep me from writing, but I can’t control any of those things until I actually write the story.

So, it’s easy to get caught up in all the what-ifs involved with writing and publishing a story, but if that idea sticks with you, lingering in the back of your mind for months on end? Leave the fears behind. That’s the story you should be working on. Worry about the rest later.

Steve D