Anyway, as writers, we spend a fair amount of time contemplating, discussing and, yes, taking workshops on how to write bestselling books. We pretty much all want to have our books sell well, and that's the pinnacle. There's a lot of reasons to want that - money is always useful and we'd all love to have lots of readers. I suspect even the most Zen among us would dance a happy jig to hit the NYT Bestseller List.
One of the problems with thinking about writing a bestseller, however, is worrying about likability. Obviously, a bestselling book appeals to a great number of people. So, above and beyond our usual concern that we want our books to be loved and celebrated, we start thinking about getting All The People to love and celebrate our books.
Even though we know that's impossible.
This is on my mind because the novel I finished last week has a difficult heroine. Now, I often have flawed characters. That's part of who I am as a writer. And when I set out to write this book, the story appealed to me because the heroine is unusual and not terribly likable. Okay - she's a hot mess. She's damaged and, as a result, does some pretty awful things.
Predictably, one of my critique partners came back with notes that I was going to have a problem with likability. She cited several things that readers would object to, particularly romance readers.
I started fretting about it.
And reconsidering if I should change some things, haul it back.
The thing is - this IS the story I wanted to write. I knew going in that not all readers would love it, and yet I keep going back to the desire to modify it so they will. As if it's possible to find a way to please everyone.
I have a note pinned up next to my desk: "What would you write if you weren't afraid?" I should make it into a big poster. Because this is all about fear. Being afraid that readers will push back, that the book will fail, that I will fail and not in some tragically romantic starving-in-a-garret way, but in a with-a-whimper way.
And it's all nonsense.
Nobody knows how to write a bestseller. If there was a magic formula, wouldn't everyone be using it? Everyone is guessing and hoping. The best we can do is be true to the stories we want to write.
As long as we obey our feline overlords, we'll be just fine.