“How to Write With Style,” Part 4

This post is part of a series called ‘The Writer’s Pool.’ I will be drawing from the wealth of knowledge from the world’s greatest writers to explore their advice, techniques, tools, and more.

Vonnegut wrote that the first key to writing with style is to find a subject you care about. I think it’s worth spending time exploring this. How many writers write books for which they have no passion?

If you spend any time searching for writing tips online, you end up finding those kinds of articles. The ones that are trying to get you to game the system. Find a topic that is “selling.” Or better yet, find a topic that could sell, but nobody is writing about it. Good luck with that.

(I read an article about selling big on Amazon. He never talked about actually writing the book–he even claimed you can just hire someone to do that for you. Talk about the scum of the earth.)

The pervading wisdom, among those who care about selling above all, is to write something that will make you money. Heck, if that is your real goal, why bother writing at all? If you only care about making money, go find a way to earn passive income so you never have to work again.

(Trust me, there are plenty of those kinds of articles online, too.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t want your book to be published. You should have a goal to finish your manuscript, improve it, and get it out there into the world. You’re writing for others to read it, yes? Then of course you need to have that in the back of your mind.

But if that is your primary goal, I don’t think you’ll stick it out long enough to finish a book. Yes, there are people out there who can churn out books on genres they have zero interest in. They are only looking at the bottom line, treating the entire process like an assembly line.

Are you willing to do that to sell something? Artists don’t really tick that way. Sure, we want money. And we should have a goal of producing something that people want to read and pay for the pleasure of doing so.

But you can’t make that your priority. You need to write about something you’re passionate about, otherwise, you’ll just quit.

Trust me, writing a book is not an easy task. You probably know lots of people who want to write a novel, but never have. They just say they need the “time.” Yeah, because it takes plenty of time to produce a book. Days, months, even years. Are you willing to sink that much time into something you are not excited about?

Let the publishing industry eat its own tail trying to chase trends. You, instead, must go write something people will care about. That’s something entirely different.

People will flock to read or watch something trendy. But they’ll forget it just as quickly. If you want your work to endure. If you want people talking about it, thinking about it, even arguing about it—then you need to care about it first.

After all, if you don’t care about it why should anyone else?

That’s what’s called writing “authentically.” And it’s harder than it sounds. Sure, you might love science fiction books. You might even have an intriguing idea for one. But can you cut through all the noise in your head to write own that’s authentically you?

Meaning, one that is coming from an authentic place within your heart and mind?

That, my friend, takes work. It has more to do than just outlining chapters and plot. It goes beyond all those tip articles you found. It takes real honesty about yourself and what you are writing.

I’m not talking psychology, there. I’m simply saying you need to write in such a way that your true ideas, unfiltered by fear, come out on the page. That takes time, work, and a willingness to revise.

Vonnegut understood this, but he was smart enough to say it in fewer words than me.