How Imaginative Writers Can Write to Market and Still Have the Freedom to Create Original Stories Like the Pros

Write to Market

On the first Wednesday of the month, Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) asked, “When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?” I’ll share how I now put readers first by using the write-to-market approach instead of strictly striving for originality.

When Crickets Sing Louder than Registers

In 2018, after self-publishing my dream of an original time-travel book for youth, I heard mostly crickets instead of ringing cash registers, and that’s when I realized there had to be a better way.

Write to Market Satisfies Expectations

Back then, I had not heard the term “write to market.” But as I soon learned, there are many principles that can help you write a book readers will love. Most of the techniques revolve around story structure, yet writers miss opportunities when they rigidly strive for originality instead of giving readers what they want.

Thankfully, research revealed that write to market relies on story structure, giving writers the means to use proven methods designed to satisfy readers’ expectations while freshening up familiar themes.

Write to Market Tips

Use these tips to give readers what they want.

  1. Prepare to write by choosing a genre.

    Your chosen genre gives you an understanding of what your target readers expect.

  2. Turn your story idea into a premise.

    In a sentence or two, the premise gives a story’s big picture and writer’s development strategy.

  3. Develop realistic characters.

    Select the best characters to tell the story and create backstories that shape their thoughts, choices, words, and actions.

  4. Design a plot that forces characters into conflict.

    Plan key events (i.e., turning points) within your chosen genre that cause conflicts and steer the story toward the climax.

  5. Form a theme that conveys a universal truth.

    The external, internal, and philosophical themes convey what your story is about.

  6. Build your story’s spine.

    Starting with your premise, the well-built story spine lays a firm foundation, naming the hero, defining the problem, giving the narrative’s beginning, middle, and ending, and hinting at external, internal, and philosophical goals and themes.

  7. Flesh out your story’s body.

    Based on the spine, the story’s body tells the short version of the entire narrative, organizing and validating the initial content before creating the story beats.

  8. Outline your story’s beats.

    Using a narrative structure divided into 18 beats, this framework helps you outline and order scenes and sequences.

  9. Create the story’s logline.

    A one-to-two-sentence logline enables you to envision the emotional aspects of your entire story, and serves as the pitch to others.

  10. Write the scenes and sequences.

    Draft your story scenes, grouping the action and people into a logical order based on the 18 beats.

  11. Self-edit your manuscript.

    Tighten loose structure, flesh out underdeveloped characters, fill plot holes, clarify themes (i.e., external, internal, and philosophical), and correct errors before spending time and money on professional copyediting and proofreading.


  • Start with the end in mind — use write to market as your structured approach to storytelling.
  • Know that anyone serious about writing can master story structure and write a book readers will love.
  • Story structure gives you the freedom to write from your original (i.e., fresh) perspective while satisfying your audience’s expectations.

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When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

Visit the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Take a moment and checkout Alex Cavanaugh’s popular Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to sign up and take part in the monthly blog challenge. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up for the monthly challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

Above all, the IWSG site is fun and informative!


    1. Reading reviews is like sorting laundry — essential, but not fun. I’ve garnered some of my best ideas on how to give readers what they want from sifting through the good, bad, and ugly reviews on Amazon. I look forward to hearing more about your WIP!

  1. Great post, as always. You get me thinking. Right now, I’m researching my next book (as I prepare to publish the one I just finished). Research is always fun because it creates that ‘spine’ you allude to.

  2. Sounds like you’ve got a great system. I often try to retroactively look at things like structure, but trying to figure out that stuff in advance just sucks all joy out of my endeavors. Good thing I’m not trying to do this for a living.

    1. That’s what I love about writing — it’s all about the principles and preferences, not rules. And above all, enjoy the journey!

  3. Basically you are doing what any author does, there is nothing here about writing to ‘market’ in fact, it so reads like a step by step guide to writing any novel. Which is good. Maybe I missed the point lol, which wouldn’t surprise me as I think what readers want is a well written book, with an original twist. Enjoyed the question this month. Love the Insecure Writers Support Group.

    1. Thanks for emphasizing the never-ending quest for a well-written book. That’s a fun part of this exciting journey!

  4. I do most of those things – I’m an overachiever when it comes to plotting. Theme is something I never plan on though and yet it surfaces once the story is finished.

    1. I used to delay nailing down the theme until near the end of a project, but then I watched Michael Arndt’s video ( about editing Toy Story 3. Until I saw Arndt break down theme into external, internal, and philosophical, I had never considered how each were integral to character development and plot design.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your challenge to writers with IWSG’s monthly question!

  5. That’s certainly a well-structured way to create your story. I’ve never been very good at plotting and outlining in advance. I’ve tried it, but my characters don’t follow it and go off in their own directions, so I just follow them and see where they go. I guess I’ll always be a pantser.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lori! Your process of writing amplifies the beauty of the story structure, which emphasizes principles (not rules). I love story structure because it can be applied before, during, and after writing.

      BTW: I follow only two rules. Rule #1: There are no rules, just principles. Rule #2 – Don’t forget rule #1!

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