Okay … First – in my humble opinion – if
you don't know what you want to write about, you're not ready to become a
writer, let alone an author.
Writing is an intensely personal experience. If you're going to connect with a reader in any kind of meaningful way, what you
write has to come from the heart – your heart, not someone else's. I can't tell you what your book should be about any more than I could have told Picasso what to paint.
It's easy these days to do a little research and find out what types of books are hot commodities among readers. So, all you have to do is check the bestseller lists, write your own book on the current hot topic (vampire love, zombie apocalypse, erotic romance) and – Presto! People will flock to buy your book too. Right?
Unless you're an avid reader of this kind of book yourself, unless this is the kind of book you already are dying to write, you've probably doomed yourself to failure.
My Portals fantasy/detective series, for example, started because I had this character in my head … He happened to be an elf, and he happened to be a police detective. And at that point, I had to figure out what kind of book I needed to write to accommodate him.
But my “what kind of book” questions weren't about what is, or isn't, selling. They were about the kind of books – and movies and TV shows, for that matter – that I enjoy reading and watching. The Portals books blend a lifelong love of folklore, mythology and fantasy with decades of reading crime novels, plus more recent fascination with the CSI shows on TV.
In fact, my original plans were for the book series to be a bit heavier on forensics – another interest of mine. But that idea was short-circuited when Tevis (the elf detective who started this whole thing) showed that he could See how someone died just by laying hands on the victim …
But the books are an outgrowth, and a reflection, of my personal interests, my reading (and movie and TV) tastes. For better or worse, they come from my heart.
All the books that I've read and truly enjoyed have started that way. I can't imagine, for example, JRR Tolkien doing market research before sitting down to write Lord of the Rings. (If he had, in fact, those books might never have been written.) Nor can I envision Hemingway asking around before embarking on such classics as The Sun Also Rises or
For Whom the Bell Tolls.
It's hard – pretty much impossible – to write about something that doesn't already interest you. Trust me … Readers know the difference between a writer who's actively engaged in the book, a writer who is passionate about her characters and storyline, and one who isn't.
Writers of fiction continue the ancient art of story-telling. It's just that we set into words the kinds of tales that our ancestors told around campfires in the evenings. And if you, the writer, aren't passionate about the story you're telling, why should I be as a reader? The question isn't “What kind of book should I write?” but …
“What's the story that I want to tell?”