Man vs Nature / writers / writing

#IWSG Do you write what you want? Or what readers want?

This post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s question — When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

The awesome co-hosts this month are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

xx

This question’s answer in my case is a mix of both. I write prehistoric fiction which is a niche genre. That means anything I write tends to be unique, original, and fresh. The disadvantage is that not many read or write it, but the advantage is, those drawn to these storylines find me and hopefully read all of my books (because there isn’t much competition).

That doesn’t mean I can get lazy as a storyteller, though! I must give readers what they expect from any great historical fiction piece or they won’t finish the book. This includes:

  • The story includes lots of factual historical events that are fundamental to the plot and characters.
  • Characters are based on real people, the plots on real-life events. They just happen to have occurred in a time before history was recorded in anything other than rocks and bones.
  • My stories like all good stories rely on a series of problems that are solved only to beget more serious problems–rising action, turning points, reactions, and a final climax.
  • The story revolves around a main character who experiences significant change over the course of the novel.
  • S/he has an interesting (hopefully) cast of supporting characters to keep readers intrigued.
  • Setting is treated almost like a character which is why the series is called Man vs. Nature. Back in prehistoric times, early man’s actions were determined as much by Nature as personal goals.

Let me know in the comments what you think.

I’m eager to read what you-all have to say about your writing.

#iwsg #amwriting

@TheIWSG


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Fall 2022.

125 thoughts on “#IWSG Do you write what you want? Or what readers want?

  1. I think both is a good approach, Jacqui. We have to be original while, at the same time, following the “rules” about what makes a book compelling. A book without one or the other tends to fall flat for me. Great answer to the question, and I liked your list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think writing should be a bit of both however I agree that if you hook someone and you have hooked me, Jacquie I have just finished “The Crossroads Trilogy” and now downloaded “To Hunt a sub” after that and 24 hrs I will be back to Man v Nature between Diana and Meeks plus you, Jacqui my reading is mapped out for the foreseeable and most enjoyable 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have made my day, Carol. Thank you for the kind words! While my prehistoric fiction may sound completely different than the thrillers (like To Hunt a Sub), they both focus on moral people who are problem solvers with an internal drive that won’t allow them to quit. They are not as dissimilar as they sound! Thank you so much for reading them.

      Like

  3. Same.

    I write fantasy set in the very ancient world because that happens to be the setting that holds my interest long enough for me to do the research and write the novel.

    Maybe I should try writing “what readers want.” Not sure I’d be very good at it tho … 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for sharing!!.. obviously I am not a writer or author but when I do write something (blog, poem, etc.) I let my fingers do the walking and my heart do the talking and it is what is is… should I make it public it will be up to the reader to decide whether it is worth a second glance or put in File 13 (garbage)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think any writer is driven by the reader no matter what the subject of the writing is. We’re reaching out to “touch” others in a way that is unique to only those who love communicating with written words. Yet, the passion of the craft come from us writing for ourselves without a thought about what the reader wants. Visual art and music are fields that had the same paradox.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sorry am a little late to yr posts. My laptop has been throwing up a ‘Dangerous website blocked’ sign by Norton every time I clicked on it. Strangely, the same Norton has been sending me messages for over 6 months saying I am not protected by Norton and I shd renew. Finally I decided to override the warning and here I am 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Those are all good story points with the majority of them being necessary for any fiction writing. I write fantasy adventure stories for me because that’s what I love. Being in that genre, they do include magic and/or swordplay, which the reader would expect, so in that way, it’s giving the reader what they want.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good for you Jacqui. You have a niche that specializes and gathers its own following. That’s something we all hope for in our writing. Me, you know, I write from heart and experience. I’m mostly a nonfiction girl. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A lot of thought, research, and talent goes into your novels, Jacqui! I guess if an author wants to sell books, the reader is important and needs to be accounted for within the writing. Or, the style/genre elements, at least, have to be met. Great answer to the question!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. At this point, all I write are blog posts. I think they are mostly for me, to share my experiences, writing and photography with others. However, we don’t write in a vacuum. If our writing appeals to others, they respond and we form a relationship. That, to me, is the importance of blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m the same way, Jacqui. I write the type of book and style that like to read as well as characters and topics that interest me. Bu I’m always mindful of how my readers might respond. For example, are the characters relatable in some way, or are there too many? Are the plot and resolution realistic? Are there too many subplots? I pare down a great deal because I don’t think readers will want or need to know as much as I write in early drafts.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. When you wrote prehistoric fiction, I thought of Clan of the Cave Bear. That’s a unique time period. Write a good story and the readers will come. How’s that for a paraphrase? Have a great month.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Very interesting, Jacqui – I love how you focus on that one fascinating genre. I think it’s one that many people would be interested in but don’t think to look for it. It’s especially relevant for people interested in nature and the environment. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I am always writing what I want (ie the story that wants out of my mind). The only exception (partial exception) is when I participate in a short story contest, which already has a theme and I have to write something on that subject. But even then, if I am not inspired by that theme, I cannot write – and it has happened to me to give up good contests for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi Jacqui, a most interesting question and one I often consider. I don’t write to please ordinary readers. I decided that this week when I was having a conversation with a friend. I write because I have something to say and I want to say it my way. It rather my books and thoughts reached a limited audience and conveyed exactly what I intend to say, than they reached thousands of readers and said nothing or a dumbed down version of what I what to say. I suppose that is rather arrogant of me, but that is why I write. My friend said I was a pen activist. I rather like that.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Pingback: #IWSG Do you write what you want? Or what readers want? – Risks We Are Willing To Take

  17. Great post, Jacqui! Any writer who wants to sell commercially absolutely must consider the reader. And that doesn’t mean being a write-to-market hack. It means creating an interesting world with interesting people doing interesting things. Otherwise, what’s the point? And the conflicts, man v. man, man v. nature, man v. himself are universal. Excellent insights!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I agree with everything your said in your post, except one statement. It has me confused: “Characters are based on real people, the plots on real-life events.” What kind of real-life events are we talking about in prehistoric fiction? We don’t know what happened then? Are you talking realistic vs. fantastic? Something that could’ve happened?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I don’t have much experience giving an informed response, but I think it has to be both. I would never want to write just for readers because it’s important to be true to myself. How often have we heard the axiom, “Write what you know.” At the same time, how can a writer not pay attention to their readers?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I think the prehistoric niche sounds very interesting! I like that you address the points that you anticipate a reader would expect from this particular genre while remaining true to what you expect from yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Thank you for the points to be included in historical fiction. With true facts in the story, the reader’s experience is much richer. And I know you love researching those golden nuggets to include in the book.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. The trick to being successful in any genre, Jacqui, is to know that genre (and its narrative conventions) intimately — so you can deliver on reader expectations, yes, but also on occasion subvert them! So, for instance, in my genre, horror, a movie like Scream succeeds because it does both: satisfies the conventions of the genre but also upends them — to supremely satisfying effect!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I think that lately (maybe the last couple of years?) I write for myself but even then, especially on my blog, I think I wind up doing things I hope readers will like as well. I need to kick it all up a couple of notches, though.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Hi Jacqui – not writing stories … I concentrate on interesting the readers to my blog – keeps me happy – and keeps friends popping over – thank you!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I don’t get to write as much as I want while traveling. Silence is a huge part when it comes to productive writing for me. I’m currently lacking that silence and would love some of that to finish the sequel 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I think it is a bit of both. I wanted to write about my travels. But I needed to write them in a way that would catch readers’ interest. Writing from the point of view of a twelve-year-old girl made it more exciting.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Yes, there is a structure to a delightful story with all the elements you have mentioned. If I don’t feel it, I can’t write it. My editor calls me a genre buster because my story like Einstein’s Compass does not fit in one box. Amazon and search engines need the box for algorithms. Oh well, I write to inspire and entertain. I do my best to follow the writing rules of fiction, but you know sometimes I gotta break the rules. My fans are beginning to want more of my work. Also, the rules of writing and publishing change like the wind in the sails of the ship. Navigating the fickle sea of what is skillful writing and publishing can affect how books are written and published. For example, indie authors are driving the book market more than ever. Our creative work is making traditional publishers merge their big publishing houses. The doors to libraries and big box stores like Barnes and Noble are opening to sell our books. So, I say write what is in your heart. Then find a good editor and make it work. Who knows, the box you write in could stretch, like spandex and be more fun.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. I write fiction to find the emotional truth of characters’ inner lives, first for myself (because I HAVE to know), then to share with readers. With readers in mind when I revise, I cut a lot of scenes and chapters that don’t drive the book forward.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. If you don’t write what you want or for yourself first, will it be very good? Writing non-fiction is different, because if you only write what people think they want, then you’re probably no longer writing non-fiction as it demands a certain amount of honesty. At times I have to say what I feel is true even if I know others may not like it.

    Liked by 5 people

  30. Pingback: #IWSG Do you write what you want? Or what readers want? — – uwerolandgross

  31. Kudos, Jacqui! Your experience parallels mine. I used to write by the seat of my pants. When all I heard were crickets instead of ringing cash registers, I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when I discovered the “write-to-market approach,” which is really story structure.

    In you bullets, you’ve captured the essence of story structure, which includes the many writing devices that propel writers from good to great — writers can write to market AND still create original works — you’re living proof!

    Liked by 5 people

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