Writing Tidbit #4–How to Write Something Popular and First Draft Rules

The title is probably confusing right now, because that’s the question literary agents and editors have been trying to figure out since day one. I mean, it’s their JOB to answer that question: figuring out what is popular and what will sell and blah blah blah. A lot of us at one point even fall into the desperate idea of trying to figure out what kind of story would get them into ‘best-selling’ status, or at least what might get them down the publishing road of fame. But, if not that, we wonder this because we WANT our stuff to be read, right?

So, how do you write something that will be madly popular? Aka, how do you find and catch a trend?

Now, get me right this time, I’m not talking about how to make an interesting story (which involves a balance of conflict, suspense, characters, plot, etc). I’m talking about how to know what to write and knowing if people will like what you’re writing about, whether it be vampires, romance, time-travel, etc.

And the answer you’ve probably anticipated: you don’t know.

In fact, no one will ever know. Agents and editors will act like they know, but even they will admit that they’re really just making an educated guess. Human nature, while predictable, is also very predictable, and the mood and tastes of our time change vastly with both the kind of audience you reach as well as what might be happening in your day and age.

So, right now, right here, stop. There’s no way you can guess. So write whatever the freak you want.

Which get’s me to my first draft rules, of which there really is only one.

THE RULE: When you’re writing your first draft of any story, shut the door. Shut everyone out and stop caring what anyone will think of you or your story. Don’t write it with the intention to make it interesting or best-selling, or even to just make it popular. Just write whatever the fwoop you want.

Which also goes into a bunch of sub-rules, as I like to think about them.

1. Don’t worry about offending people.

–Gal, people are so annoying, they get offended at freaking anything and everything. Watch, I’m going to offend half a million gajillion of people on this planet with seven words: fat people, gay people, black people, housewives. Bam.

What I mean, though, is that if you really want to make amazing art or a truly worthwhile story, you’re going to have to be true to yourself and what you’re thinking about, even if it might be offensive. For example, if I wrote a story about how it was bad to have sex before you were married and how it was a horrible crime, I’m going to offend a lot of people. But is it what I want to write? Is it what I really think about? Does it interest me? Then, for the first draft, I need to not worry about it. Because if we keep monitoring ourselves and worry-warting about what every little thing people might think, we will never value ourselves or what we think, but always be weighing it against what is popular and what is right with everyone else. This, my friends, will give you stories that are bland, unoriginal, and often times a far cry from what you really mean to say.

2. Don’t worry about how well you write it.

You heard me. All those stupid little rules they teach you in creative writing? That’s for the second draft. For the first draft, use ‘was,’ ‘like,’ ‘that,’ and every ‘ly’ word you freaking feel like writing as much as you want. It will leave you with a lot of work for the second draft, but at least your first draft will come out smooth as butter, with less writing blocks, and with words a bit more truer to how you really want to tell your story.

3. Don’t try to be interesting.

If the story is interesting to you, that’s enough, because for your first draft that’s all that matters. Worrying about whether someone else is going to find it interesting is for later drafts. For now, the world is your play ground. You can even be a real perv and write nothing but straight sex scenes, though I don’t want to know of what that says about you. Good thing what I think isn’t important for your first draft, huh?

In short, there is no point worrying yourself about what is popular, what is trending, or what is interesting. And, in the end, I can promise you that, whatever you write, there’s going to be someone out there who thinks the same way you do and is looking for a story about the stuff you’ve written about. No one is ever alone in how they think or feel in this world. Believing you are alone is one of the greatest lies of depression and unhappiness. And aiming to write just for the approval and popularity of the world is going to suck a lot of the greatest fun from storytelling and writing, or any art, for that matter. I mean, if your boat is papered in green, that’s your show, all the power to you.

But, really, don’t worry about it. Just write. Know there’s going to be someone out there who thinks like you, who wants the same story you do, who has your beliefs and opinions. Even if you offend a lot of people on the way, catering to their whims isn’t going to make you feel satisfied, is it? It’s just going to clog up your muse, wear you down, and make you unhappy with the awesome unique writer that you are.

Totally got sounding like Oprah just then.


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