What do people want to read?

This is a question which plagues many writers (not you, obviously, you look like you’ve got it sorted!). How will I know what to write if I don’t know what people want to read?

The answer is : people want to read all kinds of stuff! Some people want to read the Bible, others want to delve into some Fifty Shades of Grey. Some want to be transported to far away lands of myths & magic, while others want to revel in the day-to-day grind of a steam engine driver. Some want war, devastation and the Thunderdome (run by gay zombie Nazi stormtroopers from Hell, on acid) while others want to snuggle up with a tale of love between two shy Pixies – Will they? Won’t they? Of course they will, and they’ll live happily ever after too!

In truth, there are as many desires as there are people – more so, no doubt.

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, may have sold over 5 million copies, but I’ve never read it.

The total number of Harry Potter adventures may total many millions, but they’re not really my cup of tea.

On the other hand, I’ve read and re-read the Narnia chronicles, I have full sets of well-thumbed books by authors such as Alina Reyes, Jean M. Auel, Terry Pratchett, and Mervyn Peake, along with writings by Ernesto Guevara, Lenin, and Kwame Nkrumah. On my bookshelves, Kafka rubs shoulders with Mills and Milliband (Ralph!).

So, if we try to write something purely because it seems fashionable at the moment, there is no guarantee that it will be the next Twilight, or Gruffalo. At best, our creation might seem like imitation, at worst a lacklustre attempt to jump onto a moving bandwagon which has already passed the world on by.

However, if we write what we want, in the way we feel it should be written, then at the very least our creation will have one ‘Number One Fan’ – us. We’re all different, and I speak only for myself, but if I had to choose between getting a £1,000 cheque for writing a book which I did ‘just for the bucks’ and foregoing that cheque in order to hold in my hand a creation which was my soul laid bare on 90gsm cotton wove in a hardback cover, I know what I’d choose.

Of course, we “live in the real world, and people have to pay bills, yadda, yadda, yadda,” but the truth is, that shouldn’t be our over-riding concern, because the truth is that we can never know whether what we write will be sought-after, published and sold around the world to critical acclaim, or be casually tossed aside in favour of the latest fad (I predict Robot Unicorn Romances for 2022, and you can quote me on that!).

The takeaway from this is we should not be writing for our audience. Our audience will find us once we begin to write, and to allow them to read what flows from our minds and souls. We need to write for ourselves, and damn the consequences! We are authors – we are here to bleed onto our pages, and bear children who will speak of our humanity to the world.

And, in the end, our literary children will never be orphans – for there will always be someone who, on encountering them, will give them a home.

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