Rule 1(a)

Laura Lippman, author of “To the Power of Three” and “No Good Deeds”, has a nice article on getting published up on her website, here. It seems like a very good place to start, especially rule #1: Finish the damn book. I would add a sub rule, however.
“Rule #1(a): write what you like.”
All too often on the message boards that I frequent I see someone post something which contains one of the following:
“I write fiction which is like (genre A) mixed with (genre B), but don’t know what to call it.”
“What genre would you consider a work which includes this, that and the other?”
“How old a reader would a Young Adult novel be for?”
or, “I can’t decide whether or not my book is an X with Y elements, or an Y with X elements… what do you think I should do?”
I’m always amazed by the needs of people to apply labels to themselves and their writing. John Gardner’s approach was the one I follow: don’t “write what you know, write what you like.” We write, he said, to find out what we know. In order to do that you need to start with something that you love, that you would read if you hadn’t written it. To try and label yourself is to cut yourself off from options you may be interested in pursuing. If Kafka had decided that he was a mystery writer, not just a writer, would we have “The Metamorphasis”? Could Crichton have written a book about dinosaurs AND a book about sexual harrassmet AND a book about Japanese business practices if he had decided he was a “scientific procedural” writer?
Don’t worry about labels, worry about your story. And most important, give yourself the latitude to follow your writing when it takes you down unexpected paths.

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