I’ve thought a lot about how to approach this post. I mean, what IS a perfect novel anyway. And perhaps that is the point. There really is no such thing. One person’s masterpiece may be unreadable by another person.
That also raises the question, “Should a writer simply be trying to write the novel everyone wants?”
To that question, I guess I can only say, why not, but then, who is Everyone? We all want success so why not write something that will be popular?
The thing is, while I am able to write in multiple genres, the trick for me is to actually CARE about the story I’m writing. If I don’t have some sort of connection to it, I know the story will be bland and uninteresting. I could go and spend days in the book store and library researching what books are selling best, what genre they are in and how they were written and then try to create a carbon copy of the recipe, but would I enjoy the process and like the outcome? And would others like it either?
I have heard several writers say they write their books for a specific audience. Usually themselves, so if they are happy with the book, they don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. That can be creatively satisfying, but ultimately, how many copies of your own book can you buy and will that actually be earning any money for yourself?
Questions you need to ask to determine if you are actually writing for pleasure or with some sort of business/career goal in mind. If your ambitions lean more to the latter, you will need to pay some attention to your expected (paying) audience.
That means knowing what they are looking for and write something you can invest yourself in that can still be considered commercially viable.
This is where the research should come in.
You can do it a number of ways, I suppose. Talk to people and find out what they are reading. Look at what publishers are selling in the genre, either via Internet searches or by visiting book stores and libraries. See what agents are interested in buying.
Then it is time to figure out what you are going to write.
Some people are discovery writers – they start with a main idea and/or character and just write. Others are plotters and must have the entire story planned before writing it.
Whatever method(s) you use, understand that even if you do write a fantastic book, you still need to make people aware of it. Notice, I said ‘fantastic’ and not perfect.
Make the effort to have beta readers go through your book with a fine-toothed comb. Ensure your beta readers are NOT your mother and best friends. Find people you can trust to tell you what works and what doesn’t.
Make those changes and get an editor involved to help you polish your work to a fine shine.
Then, and only then, should you start sending it out to publishers and agents. You want them to see you as a professional. Your book or story doesn’t need to be perfect for that. Just honed and empty of obvious mistakes. Ensure your query when sending out your work is clear, concise and what the recipient is looking for. (we will talk about that in a later post).
That might be enough to get you published. If you are really fortunate, you might even set the standard for a given genre. But your work will never be perfect.