Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: Molly Cutpurse: Writing What Readers Expect

As a child, I possessed an unconventional and odious personality, matched only by my need to read and write. The problem was my education, which was hideous. Diagnosed with dyslexia, as a young adult, I wrote a novel; a rambling, self-indulgent and humiliating quarter of a million words.

With no guidance, I continued to embarrass myself, completely mystified as to why agents and publishers did not wish to take on my undoubted masterpieces. Eventually, I understood it was my lack of self-consciousness that was my problem.

 Stepping off my hedonistic high tower that prevented me from becoming that which I believed I ought to be was depressing yet illuminating. My feet only touched the ground when I was in my fifties, arriving at the conclusion that either I could write for myself or I could write for the pleasure of other people. That is, if I wished to earn a living from this writing malarkey.

Write what we know is common advice. However, it is more important to write as readers expect. Having little formal education, I wrote as I spoke, and that is not what publishers wish to read. If they want that, they can visit a pub and listen to people chat over a pint.

My task was to learn how novels with a proven history, the classics, were written. I choose authors whose works appeared in the top one hundred lists of the last century, and devoured them. I learned spelling, grammar and how to write. Not in the same voice as those whose work I admired, but at least with the same syntax and morphology. That was my first lesson.

Agents and publishers were still not buying my drafts though. What to do? I consider myself a little different. (Have a look at my web page!) It follows then that my writing is a manifestation of my experiences. And, I have written some strange novels. that what the majority of the population want to read? I concluded, they did not.

There are not too many people who want to read about a peasant-devouring being called, Madgododa who comes from the starship, Plodgel and who possesses a magic shield called, Tersacal. I cannot identify with that.

I only began to sell in large numbers when I ceased to write what was a reflection of myself, and began writing what readers wished to read. You want to sell plenty of books? Then watch prime-time television. Those are the sort of stories the majority wants to enjoy. Producers have been in business for a long time, and they know what sells.

My life changed when I began a series concerning how a woman from the East End of London took her family through World War Two. Riding on that success, readers began to enjoy my other books. I am still unconventional, we must all possess a singular voice, but I have learned to play the game.

Molly Cutpurse

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