marketingControversial, against the general opinion posts are really in with me at the moment, right?

After last week’s post talking about NaNoWriMo and how best to utilise it (as a motivational springboard to write more rather than a once a year excuse to write), I was kind of worried about how it would go down. Actually, that’s a lie — I wasn’t worried. I was excited to see what people thought. It’s easy to write a post that everybody agrees with. I did a load of these when I was finding my voice in my early writing/blogging career. It’s tricky to write one that seems to go against general opinion. But if you believe in something, go for it, right? Fortunately, the post went down pretty well. People got that I wasn’t being snarky, and that’s cool. Cheers for that.

Okay. I hope you’re braced for something else a little controversial. I’m in one of those moods lately. Must be the freezing British weather and that’s making me feel a little grumpy. 😉 But today, I had an idea and I figured I’d capture the lightning bolt of inspiration and blog about it right now instead of waiting until later in the week. It’s kind of writing craft based, which is something I don’t usually go too in-depth on (with reason. But that’s for another post…). But it’s also marketing based too. And it’s the sort of advice I’d have loved to have read when I started out my writing and publishing career all those months ago.

Here’s the thing: you should keep writing and marketing separate. Completely.

I realise this advice is against the run of general opinion. In fact, I’ve read loads of articles from generally stellar sources that state a writer should define themselves in terms of marketing and genre rather than writing. But I respectfully disagree with this stance. Totally.

A writer should not define themselves by their marketing efforts. As I said on Twitter, a writer should write the story they’d want to read and hope that there’s a bunch of other weirdos out there who like the same crazy stuff as them. 

“But a writer has to be aware of what’s selling, right?!”

Sure. Be aware of what’s selling. But don’t let it define your writing. As Dean Wesley Smith states, that’s a sure-fire way to kill your unique voice. It encourages you to copy the works of others, drowning out your own creative impulses with white noise of other writers who you see are selling. It makes your work samey. Nobody likes samey.

I want to throw a personal anecdote in here. A month or so back, I wrote a post about setting up new pen names. I originally planned to launch my third full-length novel, Dying Eyes, under a new pen-name dedicated to crime/detective mysteries. The post had some good advice.

However, much more successfully than a certain political party recently managed to delete their failed party promises, I’ve deleted that post. If you have a copy of that post in your cache, get it on eBay. 😉

Here’s why: I realised I was defining what I wrote by marketing. Instead of sitting at the desk and asking myself, ‘what do my creative impulses want me to write today?’, I was asking myself, ‘Should I write a dark thriller for the Ryan Casey name today? Or a crime/mystery piece for one of my pen names? Or a zombie apocalypse serial for my other pen name? What else can I write under that pen name?’ Etc. Etc.

The truth was, I let marketing in to my writing room and it almost cannibalised my creativity. Now please do not get me wrong — this is in no way denouncing anybody who uses pen names. If you have established a niche, then that is fantastic and you should totally stick with that. But I’m guessing you don’t let your marketing define your pen names. You write the work first, then decide how you’re going to market it.

Which seamlessly links to the core of my post. When you go into your writing office, write the story you would want to read and don’t let marketing slip into your consciousness. Not for a moment. Just don’t let it enter the writing zone. Do your writing in one room and your marketing stuff in another if you have to. Just not at the writing chair.

Again, as a personal anecdote, I write dark thrillers because I like exploring deep, complex (read: weirdo) characters. I write zombie stuff too, but not because the zombie genre is hot right now. That’s a nice coincidence, but no. I write it because I’ve been obsessed with zombies since the age of twelve and only recently had the guts to branch out of the ‘dark thriller’ boundaries I’d fenced around myself due to — yep, you got it — letting marketing define my fiction and not the other way around.

So yeah. I don’t let marketing enter my writing room anymore. It’s tough, but these things take time to train one’s self. But when I do finish work? That’s when I let marketing come in. I’m not denouncing marketing in this post. You can market as much as you want to and I can do the same. Just keep the two things apart during the act of writing or your fiction will be driven by commercial impulses, not creative ones.

Let me repeat the mantra of this post. In fact, the whole post could be summarised in this one line. Hope it helps you find your way in your writing career.

Write the book you’d want to read and trust that there are other weirdos out there that enjoy the same crazy sh*t as you.

Ryan.

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I take the time out of my fiction writing to do this blog. I do it because I enjoy it. However, if you’d like to ‘donate’ a couple of pennies towards the running costs of the blog, please consider picking up one of my works of fiction. They come as cheap as 99c short stories and as high as $4.99 novels. You can find my works here or in the sidebar on the right. Available at all top eBook retailers and a few in paperback. Cheers.

(Image from aub.ac.uk)

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