Mercenary

By Esparta Palma.
By Esparta Palma.

Can you write something good and honest, purely for profit?

It seems anathema to most literary-minded novelists. What you write is somehow connected to your soul. You can’t just write a novel the way you assemble a model rocket, without it coming out trite.

But is that true?

I suspect that no matter what you write, part of you is going to show up in it, and that in itself can become a spark of life. I also think that if you try to be entertaining, you probably will be.

Literary fiction, for the most part, runs counter to that. It’s a journey toward some form of artistic truth, and its entertainment value lies almost purely in sharing that journey. This is why it’s usually boring, and doesn’t sell well. (I suspect the consumers of most literary fiction magazines are, themselves, literary fiction writers.)

Sure, there are a few geniuses who are so good at capturing life in their hometowns that they’re inherently interesting. But they are exceptions. For every Eudora Welty, there are a thousand schmucks trying to capture suburban American life. When they can’t make that interesting, they make it post-apocalyptic. *Ahem.*

One of the few rules I’ve followed since beginning this self-publishing thing is “finish what you start.” So I will finish the western I’m piddling with. I’ll try to make it entertaining, and not just personal therapy. I’ll publish it. If it’s good, yay. If it’s bad, the world will keep spinning.

Then… maybe I’ll just look at the marketplace and try to meet the greatest hunger. I imagine that would be romance. Can I do that? Of course, in a literal sense, I can write anything. I’ve already written technical manuals, marketing campaigns, and sci-fi novels. I would need to read a few of the best ones, and learn something of their ways before diving in.

But the core question remains: Can I write a romance novel that’s good, if it’s not something I’m naturally attracted to? Can I create something a stranger will enjoy, not just a supportive friend?

It’s a perversely interesting challenge.

Can a good writer truly write anything? Or does there have to be a natural core drive to bring out his best work?

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