How to Balance the Commercial vs. Creative Aspects in Writing


Are the words you stash deep in your journal highly personal, not meant for the light of day? Or are you a natural born story teller seeking an audience?


Why do you write? What is your goal?

What compels your pen to form words, that form people, that form stories?  Answering this question can help you determine your path or career in writing and which steps to take to reach your goal.

Each writer is unique. Their style. Their voice. Within each of us there is a depth of creativity waiting to be discovered. If we prod long enough we find that the layers never end. But in today’s publishing world there are also trends and standards and unwritten rules in which to maneuver and succeed.

Creativity is a must when it comes to writing. Like imagination, creativity is not domesticated: it’s wild and free. So what’s up with all the do’s and don’t of how things should be written? It all feels a bit smothering.


Some writers don’t want their creativity to be limited by what industry wants or demands while others easily work within the parameters. This all goes back to go why you are writing.

If your dream is to be on bookstore shelves across the world, then it is useful to know what agents and publishers and readers like and are looking. For this, you must “plant one foot in the commercial,” while your other foot remains firmly “planted in the creative.”

Understanding the industry; its standards, trends, what readers like, is a good start to understanding where your creativity can couple with the commercial. If you resist taking these aspects into consideration, you may end up meeting with brick walls. Of course, these days, there are many other routes: blogging and self publishing, etc.

If you’re going to publish traditionally, do the research.

1: What’s selling in your genre? Read it.

2. What level of craft and voice and trends are there? What is good about this story, character, voice or craft.

3. Go to agent’s (or publishers) websites and read their wish lists (what they are waiting to arrive in their inbox right now/this year).

That said: This world never got anywhere with people staying in one place, all doing the same thing. Every industry need pioneers and brave souls who dive into new ideas and new styles. You could be one.


Nova, signing off from China but soon to board a plane back to my beautiful, shining Emerald city of Seattle!

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