So…Where to start…
Surfing around Twitter the other day I dug up a Russian writer I’ve been thinking about now and then, Victor Pelevin (I liked his Babylon aka Generation P). So I became a follower and then I saw this recent Tweet of his.
У меня нет вкусов. То, что мне нравится в литературе, музыке и кино, нравится мне не потому, что подчиняется каким-то принципам или правилам
— Виктор П. (@VictorPelevin) February 7, 2013
Allow me to translate to the best of my ability (I have spoken some Russian in my day).
I don’t have any such thing as tastes. In literature, music and film, I like what doesn’t follow any principles or rules.
I saw that and I thought, “Yeah. Ain’t that right.” You see, I’m trying to submit my works and I’m already so damn tired of genres and genre marketing. And I know, I get it, I understand publishers are trying to make it easy for readers to find books they like and make profits, etc. etc.
But man, I never read stuff because it’s one genre or another. Growing up I read science fiction, fantasy, “literary fiction,” and satire. And I never thought, not for one second, about what genre it was. I just cared if it was good. That’s all that mattered. The Lord of the Rings, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Brothers Karamazov, Candide. I read whatever, I didn’t give a damn what genre people stuck it in.
And if you’re thinking now that as a writer I’ve changed one bit, you’re crazy. I don’t go in thinking, like a marketer, “Gee, what genre will this fit in?” I go in thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if somebody wrote a story about X?” And then I write it. Nail it down on the page until the last line. Which brings me to the next point, a kind of confession.
I decided a few months ago, NOT to follow this advice and write something in a marketable genre. I admit it, I wrote a fantasy short story with an erotic twist. Yeah, it came to that…And you know what? It came out all wrong. Stilted, clichéd, boring. I tried to sell it to a few mags and after awhile I gave up because it wasn’t that great a story. And I knew it.
So, lesson learned. No more writing what vague markets or a mythical readership demands. I’ll stick with writing what I want. Those books I wish somebody else had written, but the idea just never came to them. The exact sort of books I would most like to read.
After all, I do this for me. Is that narcissistic? Selfish? Fine by me.
PS…I’m starting off each writing day listening to the intro to this song. It’s my caffeine, gets the juices flowing every time. First 10 seconds are the best.
PPS…Pelevin has many followers on Twitter, but he “follows” no one.