Of course, you can't really separate the two -- but for the purposes of discussion I'm going to go ahead and try anyway.
Whenever I have the urge to write, I think first of story and characters.
Then instantly upon starting out, the actual technical process of writing comes into sway.
Only then do I think about what it is I chose to write about. Since I tend to write stories or get my ideas almost at a whim, I'm not terribly careful about selecting content.
How many times since I published Death of an Immortal have I heard someone say: "I don't read vampire stories." So if I write a vampire story, that means that none of those people will read it.
Whatever I choose, someone won't like it. But there is no reason not to try to come up with a idea that is intriguing to as many people as possible.
In other words, what I choose to write matters as much or more than how well I write it.
I'm realizing that there are two very important considerations to consider before embarking on a story:
1.) Is the subject matter intriguing?
2.) Does the subject matter lend itself to a strong start?
Any subject can be made interesting by good writing. But only if people are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. As an unproven writer, people just aren't going to automatically agree to give you a try. You have to overcome reader inertia, you have to answer their question -- "Why should I go out of my way to buy this book and at this time?"
Well, because either the content intrigues you enough to try -- or the writing is so absorbing that you are pulled in.
Neither of these things are easy, obviously. Delaying one's writing, waiting for the "killer idea" and holding yourself to the standard of "spectacular beginnings" is a recipe for writer's block, I think.
I have to want to write something, and that is more important than trying to figure out if other people will want to read it (obviously, you can't please everyone) -- but I have to believe that the two things aren't mutually exclusive.
I've decided that I probably do need to put more forethought into what I select and how well the story begins. I have proven that I can write all day. I have innumerable stories. But I need to be more thoughtful about what I start writing. Maybe even allow myself to stop writing a book if I don't think it's coming together.
I will continue to try to improve my writing technique in any case. None of the writing I've done until now has been wasted.
But I'm not just going to start writing something on a whim anymore. I'm going to let the idea settle in, and think about it, and decide if it is worth pursuing.
4 days ago