End of year lists are so 2014, right? Old fashioned, outdated, and frankly a bit embarrassing in retrospect, like the haircuts our parents had in our baby pictures. It’s 2015, which according to reliable sources means we’re getting finally getting hoverboards and self drying jackets. I say bring it on, let’s burn our history books and charge blindly into the future, never looking back.
And so, in the spirit of looking forward, I’ve compiled an extremely judgmental, beginning-of-year list of goals that any and all serious writers should aspire to in the new year. Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t hold these goals you’re not a serious writer. I would never say that out loud. That’s why I’m typing it here for you to read. IF YOU DON’T ASPIRE TO MEET THESE GOALS, YOU ARE NOT A SERIOUS WRITER.
Amazon/Goodreads Reviews Writing is a service industry, in a way. We are creating works of beauty for the masses, seeking their approval and admiration. The only way to measure that approval is by reading the reviews our audience gives us and really taking them to heart. It can be hard at times, particularly if you get a bad review, but often the complaints are valid. After all, our readers are our customers, and isn’t the customer always right?
You will have a lot of difficulty getting your book published if you aren’t plugged in to the trends of what’s selling. After Twilight came out, do you think publishers were jumping over each other to buy your satirical sci-fi about a future where fish rule the world? No. They wanted hunky vampires and sexy chastity. Look, we all have a book inside of us, a little voice whispering plot details that captures the imagination. The trick to being a serious writer is to ignore that little voice and write whatever is selling at the time.
That said, and perhaps a tad counterintuitively, beware passing fads. There’s a big push right now for diversity in literature thanks to armchair, hashtag activism. It is sound and fury, signifying nothing. By writing in diverse characters, you are limiting your audience appeal. People want to read about people like them, and since the majority of book buyers are white and cis-gendered, your books should reflect that majority. It may not be “P.C.” but if diverse books sold, people would write and sell more diverse books.
Culturally, there is nothing more important than the book. The difference between a free society and enslavement often boils down to literacy, the ability to read and interpret ideas. As a serious writer, you are a part of a proud tradition of revolutionaries. You are the latest in a line of great thinkers and great men. Unless of course, you write worthless, thematically soft tripe. Children going on mindless adventures and insipid romances will be the death of culture, and you have a responsibility to defend against such a fate.
6. Suffer for Your Art
Writing is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, than it isn’t
worth doing. It isn’t for the meek, and if you can’t handle it, than beware. Turn back. Here be dragons. Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, and if you cannot endure the pain that comes with birthing a world, then get out of the way of those of us who can. Those of us who write until our fingers crack and bleed, who destroy relationships in our own lives in service of our art, who drink and smoke to distract ourselves from the pain of living, we are the ones who deserve a place immortalized in prose. I will not suffer pretenders, but I will gladly suffer for my art.
So there you have it, six goals all serious writers should share. Of course, SOME would argue that the only thing that makes a writer is writing, that the business of writing can be so demoralizing that you should pay attention to the good reviews and ignore the bad, that the market is impossible to predict and a well-crafted book written from the heart will always find an audience, that it’s incredibly insulting to refer to diversity in lit a fad when it may be one of the most crucial issues in literature today, that there are an abundance of truths and a story told honestly will contain many of them without resorting to heavy-handed reinforcement of proper thinking, or that writing is hard enough without punishing yourself on top of it, that you should above all save yourself so that you can save the world with your beautiful, meaningful words.
To those detractors who would challenge my goals, I only have one recourse. I shall call them the foulest insult I can imagine, the greatest slur one writer can call another…
A children’s author.