The importance of rereadability

I feel frustrated with the writing advice I’ve been consuming on WordPress.com. It’s not that the advice is bad. The writers I’ve met have mostly been experienced and genuinely interested in the craft.

But it’s all too practical. By that, I mean that most of it is centred around the real world. Build an online platform to let people know you exist; invest in a good-looking cover to entice shoppers; write a gripping first chapter so that they’ll buy it.

Too many articles I’ve read want to rush writers from platform to publisher, then from publisher to bestseller list, as if writing fiction was an obstacle course. But I don’t want to appease the world. It’s actually quite the opposite: I read and write stories because I like turning my back on reality.

I know that WordPress.com writers mean well. Many authors here have achieved more than I ever have, and they want to help others to do the same. Despite this, I feel stifled. Even worse, I feel as though I’m losing sight of the passion which made me decide to write a novel in the first place.

My discontent made me think about rereadability. Rereadability is not a quality which is immediately useful to a writer attempting to boost book sales, since readers don’t buy the same book twice to reread it.

However, it is highly sought after by readers. Every bookworm longs to discover a book he’ll read again and again—a book to make a lifelong companion out of. Very few readers are looking for books they’ll finish and shelve forever.

I don’t mind reading a book which I won’t return to, in the same way that I find it acceptable to eat food that I’ll only digest once. But by nature, I am a reader who wants to reread books, and that means I’m a writer who wants to write rereadable books. In fact, it is the rereadable novels in my life which inspired me to start creating my own. Single-read books don’t bring out the urge to write in me.

So what have I learnt from this episode of introspection?

What I don’t want:

  • I don’t want to become a bestselling author. Caring about numbers and social influence was never what made me take up writing.
  • I don’t want to reach number one on any list. I don’t want to reach the top five, or ten, of any list.
  • Strangely enough, I don’t want to win any literary prizes, although I probably wouldn’t mind stumbling into one.

What I want:

  • I want to listen to my readers telling each other why they love my characters.
  • I’m in my mid-twenties, and I want a readership that will still remember the books I write now when I’m an old woman.
  • I want to enjoy reading my books over and over again.
  • I want to write novels that I like so much that I’d be glad that someone had written them even if it hadn’t been me.

I don’t think about my native language often, but there is a word in it that I believe is important for any artist. The word ‘chosim’ in Korean means ‘original intention’ or ‘initial resolution’. It is to that first creative impulse that I will have to return to for guidance whenever I stray from my passion for writing.