Want to Write About the Holocaust? Start Here.

Writing with a pencil in a leather-bound notebook with crumpled drafts on a wooden table.

Odds are, you’re here because you have a writing project about the Holocaust that you want to pursue.

Roughly 180 original works and new editions of Holocaust fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and scholarship are due for publication in the next quarter alone. That’s two books every day.

Do all of those books sell? No, but many of them do — and in high volume. There’s a huge market for books about the Holocaust, which plenty of writers and publishers find reason enough to produce them.

Others are motivated out of personal connections to this moment in history, or an interest in a particular narrative. Some decide that the Holocaust provides the heightened stakes their characters need to push the story along. Some are inspired by a favorite book on the subject. Some feel a desire to share their own experiences, or a responsibility to voice the experiences of others. Some discover a peculiar detail, a little-known event, an unknown person that expands in their imagination or under research.

Whether you have a vague idea for a story in your head or a full manuscript stuffed in a desk drawer, take a moment to think about what’s driving you toward the specifically complex genre of Holocaust literature. Here are some questions to help get you started:

  • Is your book project based on family history, or inspired by someone you know?
  • Do you feel a responsibility or a call-to-action to tell the story you’re writing? If so, why?
  • How does a book about the Holocaust fit into your writing career and/or aspirations?
  • Are you looking to build or expand your author platform? How does writing about the Holocaust help you in that regard?
  • Are you interested in writing about the Holocaust as a creative exercise?
  • Does this subject present an opportunity to reach or connect with readers who share a common interest?
  • Are you inspired by a particular book or movie about the Holocaust? What ideas, themes, or characters from that work are you interested in continuing in this project?
  • Do you see this writing project as a work of activism or an act of resistance?
  • Are you writing to memorialize a person, community, or event — or to immortalize them?
  • Is there an aspect of the Holocaust that you feel deserves more attention than it’s heretofore received?
  • Are you presenting a narrative or perspective that offers something new? What makes that novelty worthwhile?

Exploring and understanding WHY you want to write about this subject is a crucial first step to your project. Even if the impetus seems obvious to you, do yourself the service of defining exactly what that motivation is, and WRITE IT DOWN. Keep this definition somewhere easily accessible wherever you write (or edit, or draft query letters). Feel free to submit what you come up with in the comments below — it may help other writers, as well!

As you proceed with your book project, and continue to refer to your articulated motives. It will help you assess your writing, identify your target audience, pitch your manuscript, and market your book. You may discover that your motivations change as you go along, and that’s ok! Rewrite them as you go along, and keep comparing your progress against what you want this project to be.

So you want to write about the Holocaust…

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