The publishing industry seems determined to keep writers on a tight leash of fast and easy fiction, but I don’t see any reason why a good writer can’t find a way of saying something important in readable stories.
In all these years I’ve been writing, I never really considered what I wanted to say to the reader, or what role I wanted to play in their lives. I knew I wanted to be a good storyteller, but that’s all. Odd to find myself thinking about this now after having written four (unpublished) novels instead of at the beginning.
One theme that has run through my books is, “Beware. Nothing is as it seems. You are being lied to and have always been lied to,” but other than that, I’m not sure I ever considered what I wanted to say to potential readers when I was writing a novel. I wrote for me and I concentrated on telling a good story with the hope that someday someone would like to read the book and be entertained.
I no longer know where I am going with my writing.
The first book I wrote was a fictional autobiography (sort of). I had a lot of matters I needed to work through and thought it would be a good way to do it. It worked, but the book was so bad I don’t consider it one of my finished novels.
The first real novel I wrote because I wanted (needed) to make some money. Silly me! I also wanted to talk about the Vietnam war and the misconceptions that people have about it. I ended up deleting most of those parts in the rewrites.
Then I read Albert Zuckerman’s book “How to Write the Blockbuster Novel” and decided I wanted to write a blockbuster novel and make a ton of money. In many ways, that book is my best work, but the one that has the least interest for agents and editors.
The third book I wrote because I read “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler and I wanted to write a mythic journey story. And debunk the Hollywood myths about the mafia. And make a lot of money.
The fourth book was a compendium of conspiracy theories — a different way of looking at the world. (Interestingly enough, it was also the first novel I conceived. It just took me five years to get the whole thing worked out.)
My current book was supposed to be my declaration of independence from the dictates of the publishing industry. It was supposed to be a silly story, but it’s metamorphosing into something deeply metaphysical, and while it’s doing that, it’s changing the way I look at my writing and myself. I’m not sure where I want to go with my writing, but I do know I want to be better than I am. To learn how to make every word count. To create a vivid world. To make it mean something.
I wanted to be a good storyteller. I never really had any interest in writing the great American novel, but because of the changes my WIP are bringing, I’ve been getting the feeling that I want to get so good at both storytelling and writing that I will not be ignored. In the end, I want to make a difference, even in a small part, in the lives of people who might someday read my books. And yes, I want to say something important.