1. haribol
    Offline

    haribol Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    2

    Can we write world class stories and novels that sell well?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by haribol, Jun 1, 2011.

    Today commerce is the benchmark and the rest of other yardsticks remains outweighed by commercial success. It is not always the prizes or awards that count. Today the best selling books those that are not literarily marked off. In India for instance Chetan Bhagat's book sold staggeringly despite the fact that there are so many other better writers. Quality-wise Chetan is so so, but market-wise he is proven invincible.

    This baffles us, budding writers in point of fact. In the past they wrote for the class and now by writing for the mass we accomplish something and thrive. Today commercial success outperforms literary success. No matter what you write you will be outgrown of you cannot keep the modern generation or the mass in focus. It is the sale and sensation of the book that sets a benchmark of success. The one that attracts a big check or heavy advances is praiseworthy.

    Today we have no writers like Tolstoy or James Joyce or Dostoevsky who wrote classically and philosophically. What is more, people have no time patience to read such high-toned.

    I often as a writer dream of writing something classically elegant, something philosophically revealing, and stylishly presenting. But the problem is I will be deemed old-fashioned. I like to write the way D. H. Lawrence wrote, thrilling and in one go iconoclastic. Criticism does not matter and it did not matter to Salmon Rushdie for his Satanic Verses and that sensational book, despite the fact materially the book is not better than Midnight's Children. Artistically Midnight's Children is insuperable. But Satanic Verses was in more demand. That entails the fact that today what sells is important. Media has a role in brining up a book in focus and attention.

    I am indeed torn between writing a classic or writing something for commercial success.
     
  2. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    This is an old, tired argument only taken up by emo-writers who're too deep in their own struggles as an artist to actually get off their butt's and actually produce something, anything, to even see if it has a chance of success by any measure.

    Alas, do I express my art from the inner chambers of my artist's soul and resign myself to living in obscurity as my genius goes unnotice and not gaining the appreciation it deserves as a high form of artistic expression, or do I sell out by betraying my artistic muse and pander to the writhing, idiot masses that I loathe but who will at least make me a household name and give me the attention and respect I deserve as a writer!

    Grr, where's the eyeroll smiley.

    Yeah, yeah, I get it, people are just sooooo dumb and have sooooo little time these days.... right?

    No, actually. People are more educated and have more free time than ever before (this is a fact). It's also true that there has always been this supposed divide between the popular and the artistic. I say supposed, because mos of it is constructed by the have-not artists who wallow in so much sour grapes it's turned to wine and they're drunk on their own misery.

    Not to mention, we don't have writers like Tolstoy or Joyce or Dostoevsky "today." I mean, we can still read their books, but they aren't exactly contemporary. Sure, if you want to write an old fashioned classic, then my advice is first take up science, buy a DeLorean, and hope you can find a flux capacitor on the cheap, because you'll need a time machine to get any regard for such writing, whether in sales or acclaim.

    That's not to say one can't write a classic as a contemporary writer. All the writers you mentioned weren't writing classics, they were writing contemporary stories (by definition of the fact they wrote it in the space-time continuum to which they were bound and didn't write a story that didn't materialize for a hundred years). What someone writes today and published tomorrow may end up a classic in a hundred years. Who knows.

    All you can do is write what you want to write, what you're passionate about writing and the stories that can only come from you, and see what happens. Some people get rich, others gain a legacy long after their dead, and most call an exterminator to deal with all the crickets that plague the silence of their book launching.

    I can guarantee that no writer ever got anything from sitting around lamenting and bemoaning their condition, as if it were some sort of curse to be a writer and have to deal with all these tough issues like whether to write a classic or a best seller! As if! My guess is if a writer has the option, like they can just choose, then they're probably a time traveler, having spent centuries honing their craft and wouldn't need to lament these things, as they'd have the time, skill and inclination to do both, most likely, and we'd all be at such a disadvantage as to commit ritual hari kari via many thousands of papercuts.

    The point. Cut the BS, stop lamenting things that are not only out of your hands, but just silly non-really-at-all-pressing dilemmas anyway that are obnoxious to most people, artists, writers, readers, pretty much everyone but other artists who seem to think they need to struggle, but are probably privileged, so create these woe-is-me-the-artist scenarios that don't actually exist in reality.

    Or wait, do you think there was ever a time when commercial success didn't outperform literary success? It's just that most of the best-sellers from history were forgotten, not that they didn't exist.

    Basically, get over it and just write whatever you can manage and hope for whatever shred of success you're lucky enough to find. Like the rest of us. Like 99.9% of non time-traveling and/or vampire writers in the world who are also cursed with a limited time, but who choose to use that time learning craft and writing things that move them, not lamenting the perceived plight of the conflicted artist.

    In fact, feel free to steal that idea, and at least start actually writing, not worrying about writing, about a struggling artists who spends his whole life lamenting the fact he has to decide whether to pursue being regarded in classical terms or in commercial, and who, on his deathbed, realizes he is neither, and that the only art he ever produced was the sobs and laments of his plight as a non-producing artists... nay, he did produce, live-action drama! A performance artist! Surely he'll be remembered.... *he dies*

    Methinks you aren't torn between what to write, but are actually just using all this as a form of procrastination.

    Or maybe you could procrastinate by reading any of the number of amazing, high-quality, moving, relevant, powerful, and "classically elegant" authors I know whose works are buying their kids tennis shoes and in some cases second homes. And guess what, they were too busy writing to be torn between any artistically dramatic notions like those you seem to struggle with.

    But yeah, I agree with what you're saying, just don't see the point in saying it, much less spending time dwelling on it.
     
    3 people like this.
  3. Leatherworth Featherfist
    Offline

    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    Just write my friend. If I were you, which I may be, I would write for my own pleasure first. If the commercial scene doesn't fit your intentions then don't even try it. If you are looking for money and want to write commercially then do it. I don't understand how you could be torn about this topic. Write what you love. You have a better opportunity at making money, or ending up commercial if you write in your own style anyway.

    I do however, see a lot of good directors making commercial films just to make extra money for future projects. In this case it's reasonable, but writing requires more than just a commercial formula to gain popular success. Just write what you love. Seriously.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    This seems to suggest that you have an easy choice to do either. As if you can say, "I'm going to write a commercial success!" and disappear into your writing room and emerge two years later as a millionaire. Commercial success doesn't just come for the taking; it usually requires talent, effort, enthusiasm, and commitment, no matter how many exceptions you feel that you can point to.

    Similarly, you can't count on disappearing into your writing room and emerging a hundred years later as a famous world-loved author.

    And what's this "write for the class" and "write for the mass" business? Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and, oh, Shakespeare, were all pretty popular with the masses. Can I assume that you have contempt for all of them?

    Edited to add: Write something that you love and want to write. If you write some mechanical, formulaic your-idea-of-commercial thing that you have contempt for, that contempt will show and the piece will fail. If you write something that's self-consciously profound and intended to be above the understanding of those dreadful masses, then your contempt for your readers will show and the piece will fail. Write something that you love, but try to love your readers, too.

    ChickenFreak
     
    2 people like this.
  5. LaGs
    Offline

    LaGs Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2011
    Messages:
    390
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Co. Tyrone Ireland
    LOL, made me laugh, have some rep.

    If i was able to write truly 'world class' stories in the first place, i wouldn't be worried about whether it makes money, i'd just be basking in the glory of the fact that i can write world class stories. I wouldn't even charge people for them. I'd stand at the top of a building firing manuscripts at people as they walk past me, daring them to read it, sending them to random academics and challenging them to understand it. It would be a magnificent life.
     
    3 people like this.
  6. Ashleigh
    Offline

    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Messages:
    4,186
    Likes Received:
    143
    Location:
    In the comfort of my stubborn little mind.

    Still, at least you could call yourself officially clever...Or could you? :cool:

    Have some rep for makin' me laugh!
     
  7. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    I couldn't decide between becoming president of the USA or Oscar-winning actor, so I ended up doing neither.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    On a more serious note, the skills you hone writing popular fiction will be useful when you write "literary" fiction, and vice versa. As mentioned above in the thread, there are writers who've managed to gain a reputation for being literary despite being very popular in their own time. You don't need to feel you've wasted your time if you happen to choose the wrong path at first.

    I suspect people write just as deep and philosophical literature today as a hundred years ago, but that it explores different philosophical issues and is written in a different style.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. Sundae
    Offline

    Sundae Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2011
    Messages:
    362
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Astral Weeks
    I believe every single writer dreams of writing deep, time-tested, Classical literature. Often times, those classics do not become "classical" in your time but after your time... so in some ways, even that is futile because you will never reap the same deserved success in your lifetime.

    At the end of the day, you just write because it's what you do, and you do it to the best of your abilities.
     
  10. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I think it's entirely possible to still write classic lit that is well received commercially. Just because there maybe hasn't been for a while doesn't rule out the possibility.
     
  11. Lord Malum
    Offline

    Lord Malum Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Kansas City, KS
    The only thing I find baffling is how often the solution boils down to one of two things: "Read, read, read" or "Write, write, write". In this case, write to write. Commercial success or classic or mediocrity be damned. I can't think of one instance where an author wrote to write a classic and succeeded, so don't worry about it. And there's always a market for quality writing.
     
  12. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    Robert Jordan said it best when giving advice to new writers. "If you want to write, write. If you want to be a writer, go do something else."

    The point is, you should be writing stories because you enjoy it first and foremost. If you want to get rich from writing, you should probably find a new line of work. There are a lot of other jobs that are less demanding of your time and pay at a steadier rate.

    Furthermore, do you know what constitutes as a world class story? Today, Tolken's work would be a good example of a classic, but in his time, his work was seen more as a novelty than anything.

    Your problem sounds more like you dream too much and don't write enough. Writers don't start out knowing or anticipating they will become a famous or world renowned classical author.

    Stephen King didn't write his first novel expecting to become a best selling horror novelist. Tom Clancy didn't write The Hunt For Red October because he wanted to make lots of money. Rowling was still struggling financially and as an author even after she was into the second book of Harry Potter. But they still wrote the things they wanted to write. They didn't write to please anyone but themselves.

    Now if you are talking about the mainstream novelists that write mass produced paperback novels for various genres (romance, fantasy, etc) those jobs don't pay very much, and usually the novelist is writing material for someone else rather than themselves. At best, those novels can be used to build up a writer's reputation or style.

    Actually it does. Criticism, good or bad, draws attention to your work.

    Seriously you do not sound like a writer. You sound like someone afraid to 'waste' your time writing a book. Or even possibly afraid to invest the time writing a book because you fear your work won't become an instant classic.
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    If memory serves, Satanic Verses was "in demand" because an Iranian court had sentenced its author to death (in absentia, of course) for writing it. So, my advice is to write a timeless classic in which you insult Islam, mail a copy to the mullahs, and sit back and wait for your commercial success. Then you will have the best of both worlds. Just make sure you stay clear of Tehran.

    Frankly, I'm amazed more struggling writers don't hit upon this can't-miss strategy.
     
  14. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Quality will sell. Dreft will sell if it's in a sufficiently trendy genre, but quality will always have a market.

    The supply of great writing is woefully meager, though.

    Set your sights high.
     
  15. IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer
    Offline

    IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2011
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think that anyone who writes with the attitude that most readers are too stupid, uncultured, or unsophisticated to appreciate their prose is going to have a hard time writing anything worth reading.

    Do this, and do it well, and people will read it. Probably won't sell as well as "Twilight", but if you actually do this, there are plenty of people who would indeed enjoy it.

    But it's always easier to disdain those witless philistines unable to appreciate a timeless masterwork of unmatched brilliance.

    Edited to add:
    Even the most intellectual reader will partake of light entertainment from time to time, while not everyone who reads the lighter fare is going to have the ability to delve into the denser and more difficult material. Therefore, the lighter entertainment will always have a bigger potential audience, regardless of the ratio of intellectuals to lightweights. It's not a problem, it's just a fact.

    It has always been true: it only looks like things were "better in the past" because most of the forgettable stuff gets forgotten, while more of the brilliant work is preserved. Time is a powerful filter. Not an 100% accurate one, but still very effective.

    Write what you're passionate about. You can't complain about the philistines not appreciating it until you've completed it and put it out there. Hypothetical works that one COULD write are ALWAYS endearingly brilliant. Manifesting them is the difficult part.
     
  16. Three
    Offline

    Three Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Land of the Silver Birch
    Selling is never the object of a writer. If you're concerned with making money and getting famous, my friend, you are lightyears from the right field.
    We write what we write because it needs to be written. There's a story out there that needs to be shared and you're the only one who can hear it.
    Sure Twilight is famous, but mostly because so many people hate it.
    The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, however...
     
  17. Lord Malum
    Offline

    Lord Malum Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Kansas City, KS
    Not so. Selling is the object of the writer. At the end of the day we may write "because it needs to be written", but 99% of all published writers published to get paid. Case closed. The artsy side of writing is an after thought these days.

    By the way, Twilight is so popular because it is loved by millions, not because it is hated by millions.
     
  18. Ashleigh
    Offline

    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Messages:
    4,186
    Likes Received:
    143
    Location:
    In the comfort of my stubborn little mind.
    I couldn't agree more. Not only is everything you've just said completely true, but it's also a good example of most writers' fears. Getting paid to write is a daunting and unlikely thing for most people, and I think alot of them overcome it by slating popular works. It's easier for people to believe that they'll never be popular because supposedly "rubbish" fiction like Twilight is pushing them out the limelight, but that just isn't true.

    At the end of the day, writing is a business. If you don't treat it like a business, you won't be successful.
     
  19. kennychaffin
    Offline

    kennychaffin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    Snicker....:D
     
  20. Lord Malum
    Offline

    Lord Malum Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Kansas City, KS
    :D Yup!

    I don't understand those who hide behind an artsy mask that think writing is all about writing something that will change human thought, or some such. Writing like that just doesn't get published every day (or every decade for that matter). What get's published is what is entertaining and of readable quality. I'm no fan of Twilight, but it's success can't be ignored for what it is. Stephanie Meyer found a niche and exploited it with decent writing that gathered a huge following. As a writer, that's what I aspire to do as well. I think that's a more realistic way of looking at this career.
     
  21. Three
    Offline

    Three Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Land of the Silver Birch
    I totaly understand where you're both (Ashleigh too) coming from, but it just kills me to see of writing thought of like that. It's an art, isn't it? Is it the same with painting and singing too? ; . ;

    I think of it much more as a form of expressing things that can't be expressed any other way, and a form of exploring human nature. It's fun, it's liberating and it's certainly not meant to please a certain demographic.

    But of course I'd never dream of becoming a professional. This is far from career stuff for me. This is what I do to get away from the Big Bad Nasty Money-Grabbing World.
    Ah well. To each his/her own. :)
     
  22. dizzyspell
    Offline

    dizzyspell Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    Messages:
    421
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I totally agree.
    To be honest, I don't understand the stigma against writing to get published, or at least trying to. And there is a real case of "tall poppy syndrome" in many writing communities, because of this.

    There's nothing wrong with setting high goals! My personal writing goal is to write an entertaining novel that people want to read.

    If your personal goal is to write for yourself and never let it see the light of day, suit yourself. I don't think I'll believe you - who doesn't want their work to become a bestseller? But suit yourself.
     
  23. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    The black and white thinking in this thread is getting a bit silly. The commercial perspective folks snubbing their noses at the art oriented folks who snub back. I think if we all actually spend a moment thinking, instead of just reacting and arguing, we can all admit it requires a combination of both art and business to be successful.

    People who claim it's all for the love of art would almost always love (LOVE) to get paid for their art. And those that claim it's strictly a business would almost always love (LOVE) if someone said they were moved by a story.

    I guess, in the end, it's a proven fact that writers have above average IQs, but you can lead a genius to water but that doesn't mean he won't just invent something that pollutes it.
     
  24. dizzyspell
    Offline

    dizzyspell Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    Messages:
    421
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I agree 100%, pops. Sorry everyone, if my view came off as a bit polarised.
     
  25. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Hate having to do it, but so much of your posts are just wrong or slanted I have to respond like a jerk.

    Objective?

    And feel free to prove it.

    I'd love to see the proof behind these stats of yours. You seem to be mistaking coming up with a perspective with having done research, and having an opinion with knowing facts.

    Well, some would argue writing a commercially successful book is an art. Others would probably just argue you're full of it, again unable to see beyond your own experiences and assuming things that are true for you are somehow automatically universal truths.

    Both, I would say. As always, it's compromise and the area between black and white thinking that is probably the right answer.

    Just because someone agreed with you doesn't make it right, or cause to celebrate.

    Hey, this is something we can agree on. You really don't understand such people, as is evidenced by your stereotyping and talking down to them!

    Completely false.

    And yet, plenty of people may, if you dare to consider the possibility, be entertained by writing that is "artsy" or makes them think or changes their thought process.

    Oh, look, wow, amazing, some kind of anomaly, I'm sure... as I seem to have a bookshelf full of exactly such works.

    The dangerous think is [falsely] thinking Meyer "found and niche and exploited it" as that implies she was actively targeting a market. The hilarious thing is she very literally just wrote out a story she was compelled and moved to write, and then (clumsily by all accounts) sought to learn about the business side going so far as to google things like 'how do I get an agent' and 'how do I published a novel.'

    It's an easy and foolish mistake to see the results of success and attribute them to a concrete plan. In business in general, it's flawed thinking, but with literary business it's absurd. Most books aren't breakout hits because the author planned it, much less came anywhere close to expecting it. Hell, in general business where you can plan and make calculated moves based on researching demographics and identifying needs to target, it's still highly a game of timing and often downright luck.

    It's easy, as an aspiring whatever, to look at success models and think it was their plan all along, so you should plan similarly. The fact is, whether books or tacos or google or just about anything that finds breakout success, that success was often found by people who had a skill, a passion to use that skill, and a lot of patience, turmoil, luck and timing.

    By your own example this should be clear, as Meyer herself doesn't claim to have seen a niche and exploited it. She simply, very literally, had a dream and was compelled to write a story, not expecting at any point that it would become anything, and herself being as surprised as anyone it became so popular.

    So... yeah.
     

Share This Page