What is commercial fiction? Many new writers are told to write commercial fiction that sells.
But what exactly is commercial fiction? How do you write it and what steps should be followed?
In the past, many people loved poetry and enthusiastically read it. In addition, they were also fans of literary fiction and academic criticism. While some people are still literary enthusiasts, most people have lost their literary interests.
Previously, writing like classic authors was considered an art, but many young authors are no longer emulating these authors. Many readers are also not opting for this genre anymore. Readers look for entertainment these days.
If you are a lover of literary classics and have been writing in the same style for years, then shifting to commercial writing may be difficult.
However, it is not entirely impossible.
Before we tell you how to make the transition, let us first figure out what commercial fiction is.
What Is Commercial Fiction?
In simple terms, commercial fiction is fiction that sells. It is written with the intent of reaching a wide audience as fast as possible. Also, sometimes known as genre fiction, it has a very distinct and clear plot. It is primarily written for the purpose of entertainment and the reader doesn’t have to work hard to understand the main plot.
Characteristics of Commercial Fiction
There are some distinct characteristics of commercial fiction that are common to all pieces. These include:
- It is plot driven
- It is primarily read for entertainment
- The writing contains a well-defined world where the characters exist
- The piece of writing ends with the main character emerging as triumphant or defeated
- The protagonist has a certain level of mastery in the fictional world
- The writing contains action sequences that give the readers an adrenaline rush
- Everything happens on the surface
- The plot is very distinct and clear
- It is simple to understand
What’s the difference between literary and commercial fiction?
The most common answer you will get to this question is that literary fiction is written for the love of art, while commercial fiction is written for the love of money.
While this definition is true, it is not a rule that an author cannot want both. Where literary fiction puts artistry first, commercial fiction puts readers first. This is what leads to a change in the style of both genres.
Commercial fiction has a simple vocabulary, pacing and sentence structure. It is also easy to read as compared to literary fiction.
Commercial fiction has an established plot and definite character expectations. It is usually written within a specific genre such as horror, romance, mystery, etc.
While most genre fiction is commercial, it doesn’t always come under commercial fiction. The characters and plot determine if the book is commercial fiction or not. Commercial fiction must have something external, big and definite happening in the plot.
It is a generally accepted fact that the main character in commercial fiction must be likable, memorable and vibrant. Literary fiction, on the other hand, may have a flawed protagonist that makes the readers contemplate humanity.
Commercial fiction asks a larger question and then answers it through the plot or character. In commercial fiction, the answer to the big question is easier to find as compared to literary fiction. Literary fiction makes the reader do the hard work. On the other hand, in commercial fiction, the protagonist has to do the work and the reader simply understands everything easily.
How to Make the Transition from Literary to Commercial Fiction?
Now that you know what commercial fiction is, you must be wondering how you will make the transition from literary to commercial fiction. You need to make yourself acquainted with this genre, and that is only possible when you open yourself to it.
Here are some things that you can do that will make the transition easier for you.
Read Popular Novels
What better way to understand how to write commercial fiction than to read commercial fiction?
There are plenty of commercial fiction books out there that you can read. It will give you a clear understanding of how you should proceed with this form of writing. You will learn how to develop the plot and how to make characters more powerful.
Explore these novels as much as possible to understand what the wider audience likes.
Examples of Commercial Fiction Novels
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
These are just some of the examples of popular commercial fiction novels. Read these and others and you will understand how things work in commercial fiction.
Watch Popular Movies
Watching popular movies will also help you understand how to write commercial fiction. Many of these movies are actually based on commercial fiction books. If you don’t have a lot of time to read all these books, you can watch movies instead to get an idea.
4 Steps to Writing Commercial Fiction That Sells
Want to write commercial fiction that sells?
As we mentioned before, it is not that difficult. In fact, many writers consider it to be one of the easiest genres of writing. However, if you want to be a celebrated commercial fiction writer, then there are some steps that you must follow.
Let us walk you through them.
Step 1: Read as Much as You Can
You must have listened to this advice hundreds of times, but reading does make you a better writer. In the words of William Faulkner,
“Read, read, read. Read Everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.”
If you want to work with all the tools of writing, then you must read as much as you can. Reading the works of other writers will give you an in-depth understanding of what the masses like. Not only this, but it will also help you improve your writing.
Read the work of other authors for style, technique, content and to understand the expectations of the readers. Also, don’t just read the celebrated authors. Read the work of some new ones to get a fresh perspective.
Many new writers don’t read because they fear it will affect their writing adversely. Don’t be one of them. It will only sabotage your writing. Read for inspiration and your writing will improve with every passing day. Hone your skills as much as you can, and the best way to do that is through reading other people’s work.
Step 2: Write for a Wider Audience
As mentioned before, commercial fiction is written for the masses. Therefore, you must understand what they want. You should have a commercial product, and only then will the publishers be interested in it. Your book should sell. Only then can it be called commercial fiction.
If you have a particular publisher in mind for your book, then you must become familiar with their list. It is your job to be aware of what a particular publisher prefers. Then reflect back on your writing and see if it fits with the publisher’s work on not.
Writing for the market is not possible unless you know what the masses want. Therefore, read and study markets so that you know what’s trending and what’s not. It might sound basic, but you won’t be able to create a great piece without all this.
If you have an agent, ask them to keep a tab on the latest market trends. However, beginner writers will have to do it all on their own. It is your responsibility to work hard if you don’t want to face disappointment later on.
If you want to write commercial fiction that sells, then you must understand the expectation of the market first. Only then will you be able to come up with a great piece of writing. So, know your market and then start writing.
Remember, you must work hard and keep trying. It takes time to be a great commercial fiction writer. Just keep doing your homework and keep writing. You will get there eventually.
Step 3: Learn How to Write
While it is an obvious step, many new writers tend to ignore it. They think that since they have read enough books their entire life, they are ready. However, there are some tricks of the trade that you must learn before you can write publishing-worthy work.
While being an avid reader does help with one’s writing, it is not all that you need. Learning how to write is an on-going process, and you must utilize all the resources that you have to be the best.
There are many ways through which you can learn how to write. There are how-to books, online seminars and workshops that you can attend. In addition, you can enroll in university writing programs or become a part of writers’ support groups. You may also take an online creative writing course.
Another great way to improve your writing is to send your work to a trusted professional for paid critique. This will highlight your weak points, and you can improve upon them and make your writing better. Get answers to your writing questions from experts to improve your writing skills.
Step 4: Write and Polish Your Product
If you think that you are now ready to write commercial fiction, start writing. However, many new writers want their writing to get out there quickly. They want to see their name in the print and in this excitement, they forget to polish their content and make it better.
You may think that your work is finished, but is it really?
Is it ready to be published?
Have you done everything that will appeal to the masses?
Editing is essential before you send your writing out to the publishers. In fact, edit it as much as you can. Even ask for help to make sure that your work is free from all errors. There should be no technical errors, characterization inconsistencies, plotting mistakes or point of view problems. There shouldn’t be any loose ends.
If you want to be an author, then you must be the strictest judge and critique of your own work. You shouldn’t be afraid of destroying all the parts that don’t meet the standard. So, pass your work through self-editing and professional editing before you send it to the publisher.
Follow these steps and you will be able to create commercial fiction that will appeal to the masses and will sell like hotcakes.
5 Tips for Writing Commercial Fiction
Now that you understand the process of writing commercial fiction, here are some tips that can help you at each step.
1. Read to Write
Literacy breeds literature. You must read anything and everything that you can find. It may or may not be related to the fiction you want to write. The more you read, the better you will write. It will also allow you to use your imagination and creativity as much as you can, which is important when it comes to commercial fiction writing.
2. Love What You Write
While commercial writing is all about writing what the masses love, you will not be able to write perfectly on something that you don’t love. Therefore, find a balance between what you love and what the masses will love. You will be able to create the perfect commercial fiction if you are writing something that you love.
3. Be a Storyteller
You must give your readers something that they want to read. Commercial fiction is about creating a story that the masses want to pay to read. You must supply it to the readers if you want your commercial fiction to be successful.
Find out what sells and then try to work hard in that direction.
4. Don’t Take Rejections Personally
Remember, writing is a skill. And, just like any other skill, it is honed over time. You will get rejections numerous times. Don’t take them to heart. Find out why your work was rejected and improve your skills. You will get there eventually.
5. Keep It Simple
As mentioned before, commercial fiction is popular for its simplicity. While some colorful prose and descriptive passages are okay, don’t overdo it or your readers will flick. Keep it as simple as you can. Use simple and short sentences and you will have the interest of the readers at all times.
Now that you know what commercial fiction is and how to write it, you have everything to get started. Start writing and bring out a book that the masses will love.