Friday, April 03, 2009

What to write?

Maureen and I are both in the same boat. We’re both trying to figure out what to write next.

And again, the question that seems to plague both of us is, write a book without really thinking about the market, or write a book tailored to the market.

This, for so many reasons, is not a simple question. If I were thinking of writing for a Harlequin series line, I wouldn’t stray too far outside the lines, instead I’d focus on making sure I understood the line and worked to make the writing as sharp as possible.

But for single title it’s less clear. Publishers are asking for stories that are different, with a great hook. There are factors that definitely contribute to a sale. I’d say in historical, and paranormal, having a high level of sensuality is important. A happy ending is a given, and from there, it’s really tough to pin down.
I think as a writer trying to break into single title, it means I need to take risks with my characters and plotting. A couple of new authors have recently blogged that they sold their first book once they put aside their internal editor, and the comments of contest judges/critique partners and wrote complex people that weren’t necessarily immediately likeable, or the standard we have seen in previous romances.
They broke a rule of some kind and it worked for them. But, it’s a risk and as someone who would like to sell, I wish the answer were more straightforward.

But, and we Drunk writers, have talked about this a few times, there are no guarantees of a sale regardless, so no choice is ever easy. So what do I write next? No clue still, but I know I’ll be happiest writing a book that grips my imagination, and makes me sweat while I work out all the plot points and try and make the characters multi-dimensional.

I’ll write the book and worry about the market later. Like I have with my previous five books..


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead.

It so captures my angst. I think the lesson I'm finally learning (thought I already did, but realizing I haven't) is to write the shit out of whatever I choose to write, without holding back.

Not that that helps the what to write question... Just speaks to turning off the internal editor and the "you can't do that in romance" naysayers.

My biggest issue in picking the next big project is I feel that the last 3 books I wrote fell between genres and while I kind of did that on purpose at the time... I'm now questioning whether it's smart to do that again. G'ah! So hard.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and worrying about the market later (while still being aware of the market) is not such a bad strategy. Espec for we yet to be published types. The market changes so fast that by the time we get something on desks in NYC, whatever market we were hoping to break into has changed or at least cooled down.

Kwana said...

Great post and advice. You might as well write a book you love and are proud of because there really are no guarantees.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Great post. I've run up against this feeling several times usually when I've managed to shut down a new line at HQ.

Seems corny to say go with your gut... but I don't think you have a choice.

For me Bombshell ended, I had a SRS series proposal rejected... I sat down and thought what's next. I came up with a mute witch in 1698.

Not sure it's going to sell (47 days on submission and counting - slowly going mad...) but I'll always feel good for having tried.

And I think if you've never been a category writer - maybe give it a shot. You have to read the stuff like crazy first and pick the right line- but there is something to be said for shorter word counts, tighter plot lines, focused themes and lots of lines to choose from.

While not a quick turn around time on submission - at least you know it's a publisher that is still buying.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one to say write category because it's easier (lots of people don't think it is). And I have always been a category reader so maybe it's different. But after I get done with "big" books - I love the pace of going back to category. I love just worrying about two people and how they're going to get out of the mess they got into.


Sinead M said...

Stephanie, my fingers are really crossed that you sell the mute witch book, because I really want to sell it.
I run into problems, because my heavy on the suspense historicals are a little different as well, but I love writing them.
Although when I'm done this, maybe something lighter would be nice...

I have nothing but respect for category, and I have not ruled it out. I've never been a strong category reader, so it's not what I've natually gravitated towards.

Stephanie Doyle said...

See - now I love heavy on the suspense historicals. If I could have could have turned Deanna Rayborn's series into liquid crack and injected it into my veins so as to read it quicker - I would have.

As a reader all I could think of is MORE MORE MORE. And funny too because I love the "heat". I'm a huge Hoyt fan. But I found it very easy to lose that with these books.

Which just goes to show it's not the "heat" it's the story and how they deliver that makes the impact.

Do you and Maureen have websites with posted chapters? I want to read your stuff!!!

And Sinead - since I know you're a Private Arangement fan - who wins for RITA? (In what I think will be the best category of the night.)


I'm going to buy the other books just so I can do my own compare.

Right now I'm leaning Bourne... but I dont' know. I'm going to have re-read all of them.


Molly O'Keefe said...

ohhh...good question about the Ritas -- I haven't given the list a good look. But while I loved Hoyt's first series, I didn't love this one. But frankly, if it weren't for Bourne and Thomas being in the running - she'd win.

That's a really tough one - I loved the sizzle of Thomas and the romantic conflict and pay off, but Bourne had the characters and the plot and fun working for her. All we need to make this harder is Duke Of Shadows thrown in the mix.

As to what to write -- It does come down to writing the crap out of whatever it is. Hot historical suspense seems like such a no-brainer to me -- just keep working your magic. And, stop talking like it already hasn't sold for crying out loud - you're not even done writing the damn thing!!!

Anonymous said...

Yep, so true for me, too. While waiting, waiting, waiting for a HQ submission, I've turned my attention to a suspense. The story intrigues me but I don't think it fits in a category - it seems to be breaking too many rules - married heroine for one - so it may have to go out in the big, bad world. Such a tough call to know what to do - especially now.

Rene said...

If I was to guess, and it really does seem like a guessing game, I would say it's a mixture of several things. I think you need to be close enough to a genre that they can market you, but have something slightly different about it that makes it stand out. My novel was turned down at first by a couple of publisher's because it was a bit too graphic and dark. I rewrote it, trying to maintain it's brutal power ( which was it's unique thing) while not losing it's commercial appeal.

It was picked up in the next round because it was still a thriller, and could be sold as one, but was different enough that it stood out. But in that round I was also rejected once for being " too far out of the box." And then also for being " too commercial." lol...

I think you just have to write something you really believe in, that you think will connect with a lot of other people, that says something to them, in a way that hasn't been said before. Simple, right?

Marilyn Brant said...

Terrific post, Sinead! I love what you said about being happiest writing a book that grips your imagination... I think that's what injects the freaky joy we feel at odd moments when the ideas are meshing and the narrative seems to magically flow. (These are short, infrequent moments in my writing world, but I always treasure them. :) Good luck choosing your next project!!

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