I love the idea of writing novels to express social justice issues of importance to activists. However, how viable an idea is that? Is the time spent on writing a novel cost-effective? Will it bring the attention you need to the cause you’re passionate about? And speaking of passion, how much emotion can you put into that novel so that readers will truly be swayed to accept and even adopt your position?
To write a great novel, an activist would need primary writing skills. Beyond that, an activist who lives and breathes a particular social justice activism issue would likely have the passion and excitement about the subject to put plenty of emotional intensity into the novel.
But do novels have the impact they did fifty years ago? Could your novel become as popular and well-read as Animal Farm (George Orwell) for example? The truth is – probably not. There’s such a proliferation of literature these days, most novels are not even being published via traditional means. Most are being stored in mothballs, or published as e-books – for the Kindle, or on a print-on-demand website. Most of these get very little recognition whatsoever.
So the writing activist needs to know more than mere writing. Even if the novel is one of the best of the last century, not many agents or publishers will recognize it. Most great novels are overlooked and receive many rejections along the thorny road to publication, if they ever get that far.
A novel-writing activist needs to know marketing.
That is the answer.
If you want your activist novel to achieve any recognition at all, you’ll need to know how to bring it to the attention of your target audience. You’ll need to know a lot about what types of people are in that target market. How will you reach them? How will you get them to sit up and take notice? How will you get them to WANT and even NEED your novel, and your social justice message?
If you feel strongly about an issue, and if you’re a passionate, dedicated activist, writing a novel about it is a good idea. Just don’t think that’s the culmination of your mission. If you want to make your feelings known, learn as much as you can about internet marketing. Market your website, your issue, your book… on the internet primarily, but don’t ignore more traditional avenues of publicity such as newspapers, which a lot of people are still very dependent on for information about the world.
Activists should consider novel writing as one small element of their entire social justice agenda, rather than as the best route to spreading their message.