Saturday, April 08, 2006

SEX...and writing redux

Most of this was actually the second part of yesterday’s post, but I rambled on a fair bit and thought I’d better spilt it. This one is mainly about writing to markets…

The only time I’ve ever actually written a novel with the market in mind is when I first joined MRWG. I was a total newbie—I knew absolutely nothing. My plotting was okay (in as much as my plots made sense, because I didn’t plot any more back then than I do now), but I did all those things nasty things like use passive tense, break all the grammar rules (mainly because I didn’t have a whole lot of understanding of them), head-hop, over explained, under described, etc. Basically, I was no where near readable, let alone publishable. I might have been writing all my life (well, at least since I was 12), and my stories might have contained great ideas, but I was writing for my own pleasure and had spent no time learning the craft. No one, least of all me, thought I’d ever truly make a living out of it. Hell, my dad used to call it ‘my little hobby’. It was only when I had Kasey, and retired from work the first time, that I actually got serious about trying to get published. It was around that time that I joined MRWG. Up until then, I’d spent most of my life writing fantasy romances and edgy paranormals (though the genre didn’t really exist back then, let alone have a name). After grossing everyone out at MRWG with my ‘not-so-romancy’ novels, they gradually made me realize that there just wasn’t a market for my sort of novel. And there wasn’t. Paranormals blooming as a genre publishers took seriously was still a good ten years away. So, I started writing romances. Straight romances, because that’s what the market required. Unfortunately, my muse isn’t exactly ‘straight’ and no matter how hard I tried, someone was always getting killed, splattered, kidnapped or whatever. And usually by something dark and dangerous. I did manage to curb my rebellious muse and write a few ‘straight’ stories, but my heart wasn’t in it and that came through in the writing.

And that’s the point I’m trying to make here. If you’re writing something you’re not comfortable with, something you don’t know or don’t like, then it’s going to show. I’m not a huge fan of ‘straight’ romances—I tend to like my romance with large dashes of action, murder or humor. So in following the market trend, and trying to write what I didn’t read and didn’t really like was stupid, because not only was I unhappy about writing it, but what would have happened if I’d actually been good enough to get published in that genre? I would have been stuck writing something that wasn’t me, wasn’t what I wanted to write long term.

And that’s something all new writers should think about—the future. If you write to the market, are you going to be happy writing in that market year in, year out, five, ten, fifteen years from now? Yeah, sure, break outs happen, and some writers can and do write in two or more genres, but the fact is, most don’t. Most writers stay with the field they were published in—mainly because it’s almost as hard to switch genres as it is to get published.

When I was writing Full Moon Rising, I didn’t actually set out to write a hot book. At the time I was writing FMR, erotica wasn’t really ‘in vogue’. It was getting noticed, picking up more and more readers, but it really wasn’t the market force it is at the moment. I was just writing a story about a dhampire, and the sexiness crept in. After all, in Riley’s world werewolves come ‘in heat’ every month, so sex was always going to be a part of the story. Just how much a part I had no idea until the story started unfolding. And it did present some problems once I’d finished. I shopped it around, got rejections from publishers and agents alike, and even gave up on it a few times. But I could never let it go entirely, because I believed Riley’s story was a good one. So, I sent it off to another round of agents, and this time got a good response from one. She gave me lots of good advice, helped me tighten the story, but, in the end, decided that she just couldn’t represent me because she just didn’t know where to place a story as different as Riley’s. And then I found Miriam (still can’t believe that stroke of good fortune!) and by that time, the trend that had only just been developing when I started Riley had become a force and Riley finally found a great home with Bantam.

But I didn’t write to the market or even a perceived future market—though I was certainly aware of the increasing popularity of sensual/erotic books. I wrote because that’s what I wanted to write, because that’s where the muse led me. And I was lucky.

Writers should always be aware of what the market is doing. Writing is a business, and all good business people know what the current trends are. But writing solely to the market and what’s happening now simply isn’t a good idea, because that’s just setting yourself up for failure. Remember, by the time you write your book, submit it, and the publisher publishes it, a good two or three years could have passed. (on average, accepted books appear on the shelf a year or so after being contracted.) So by the time you finish writing your book, the wheel could have turned and that trend could have come and gone.

Which is why, as I said yesterday, writing a darn good book in the first place is so vital.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mel said...

I agree. Write what you like. Though when the muse is a bit schizophrenic like mine, I'm not sure it helps : )

9:50 AM, April 08, 2006  
Blogger Amra Pajalic said...

I had the same experience when joining the MRWG. It helped me to learn about crafting, promotion and how to get published, but I realised that I wasn't cut out for romance.

Ultimately I'm glad that my first attempted novel was my unpublished straight romance novel because writing a novel for the first time is so hard. I think it's easier if you're writing within a genre so that you have a structure within which to learn.

And the same thing happened to me. I was writing something that my heart wasn't in and therefore it wasn't my best work. Since then I've learnt to go with my voice and write what I have a passion for. While I'm writing for a market (in terms of thinking about the audience and reader) I am ultimately writing it for myself first.

6:31 PM, April 08, 2006  
Blogger Rachel Vincent said...

Huh. I asked a close writing friend this very question only a few months ago. Guess I'm not the only one who wanted to know.

1:50 AM, April 09, 2006  

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