My novel is based on the difficult times I’ve had in my life. Will it sell?
The short answer — probably not.
Should you write it? Yes.
Issues versus story
I often see proposed novels that focus on social issues, and sadly, most of them are based on the author’s personal experience with hurt or grief. And because the author is healing while writing the book, the issue comes to the forefront far too much. Instead of a plot, we have an issue with characters attached. If readers would refer to your novel as the — pick one or fill in the blank — abortion/divorce/depression/abuse — book (i.e. the depression book), then the issue has taken over the story arc.
Think of yourself as a reader. Do you want to read a novel about some horrific tragedy?
Think of yourself as a publisher trying to entice readers to buy your book. How many people want to read an “infertility” novel?
Readers of fiction don’t enjoy reading an author with a clear agenda, even if it’s one they agree with. They want a story, not a discussion of an issue disguised as fiction.
That isn’t to say that fiction cannot address issues! We have clients who have stories dealing with all of the above mentioned issues, but instead of making the issue the driving force of the story they have written a compelling tale that has some issue as a subplot or similar device. I am always willing to consider excellent stories dealing with issues, as long as they are organic to the plot.
Healing versus selling
Writing can indeed be therapeutic. If you want a novel to be part of your healing journey, please write it. You might choose to pen a story of reconciliation where the person who hurt you asks for forgiveness. Or about an infertile women who adopts triplets and a month later, discovers she’s expecting. Or you might find satisfaction in having someone pay for hurting you. Put your abuser behind bars in your story or find another way to punish him.
Then write, THE END.
Close the document.
Open a NEW document.
Now, write us a story we can sell. One that has universal appeal. You may even address some of the issues in your previous work. But you are not letting personal revenge or sorrow or pain drive the storyline. That new mix of characters and a storyline readers can care about will bring you much closer to publication.
Can you name a novel that successfully combines an issue with story. How was this accomplished?
What issues do you like to read about?
If you had to write about an issue, which one would you choose?