Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Washington, D. C. where it’s too muggy for me.
“I can write anything,” an eager writer emailed our office. “Just tell me what genre is selling, and I’ll write a book for you.”
The trick to success in the publishing world is to be on the forward curl of the wave, not on the back following the white foam onto the sand. Trust me, if I knew the next big idea, I’d write the book myself.
So my response was simple: write what God puts on your heart. By so doing, you’ll spend your time on a project that resonates with your soul. Using your passion to craft a story can make it more compelling. And if nothing else, at least you’ll enjoy it yourself.
Did you know an editorial assistant fished the first Harry Potter out of the slush pile when JK Rowling wrote the publishing house asking for her fancy packaging back? Do you think Rowling or the publishing house knew an orphaned wizard was the key to the next wave of best-sellers? Rowling sent that first publisher a story that had gestated in her mind for seven years. (Fortunately for her, she scribbled down the last line into her notebook and wrote the next six books toward that ending.) Seven-hundred-page children’s books were not what most publishers expected to be selling in the 21st century.
Harlequin Enterprises recently announced fourth-quarter earnings were up 32 percent over the same period a year ago. US retail sales of romances by the company climbed 9 percent in 2008. Romance consistently sells and is an excellent place for a beginner to break into the market.
But even with that knowledge, I found writing romances a specialized skill. My colleague Rachel challenged me to write one this spring. I had a wonderful time. My husband enjoyed reading what I wrote. But when all was said and done, my labor of love came in at 74,000 words–or nine thousand words more than the fattest Harlequin. No sale. And it didn’t turn out to be just a romance. I naturally gravitated toward a more complex plot (hence the excessive word count).
But at least I loved doing it.
What about you? What do you love to write? How do you balance what the market seems to want and what you are passionate about writing?
Teri D. Smith
I write what I love to read, contemporary romance. It’s going more towards romantic suspense now.
I’d love to write “what the market wants”, but I have to write what I’m passionate about. Another genre would be a chore instead of a blast.
I’ve actually been struggling with this recently because the non-fiction book I’m working on is about my experiences with parenting.
When the media storm surrounding “Bad Mothering” exploded recently, my heart dropped. I cried to a writer friend of mine, “it’s been done now! I’m too late!”
Because she is my friend, she encouraged me to keep going, assuring me that my voice, story, blah blah blah were unique. But ultimately what it comes down to is the fact that THIS is the story I need to tell right now.
Even if no one ever reads it but my friends – I have to believe there is a reason for me to write this now. Maybe it’s just practice, maybe it’s a lesson in discipline – who knows?
Oh, great post. You know what, I just write what stories God lays on my heart. For real. 🙂
When I’m flying through the first draft, I don’t worry about anything like grammar, word count, nothing. Just let the fingers do the typing.
Turns out through that process God has steered me toward writing paranormal romances. I never knew how much I loved those until I started writing them. I always loved watching action packed supernatural-type movies but didn’t realize how much I loved the romance aspect of them as well.
Thanks for the post. Have a great day.
I’ve been thinking along the same lines since reading Kathleen Popa’s latest blog on Novel Matters. She posted a quote to the effect that if we believe/write about God without passion, it’s possible that we have touched only the idea of god without understanding God, Himself.
As a Christian writer, my goal is to present God in a way that readers will know Him and themselves better after reading. To do that, I have to write about what I’m passionate about–insights and growth journeys I’ve actually experienced–and I have to describe those experiences vividly, creating a vicarious impact.
I also attempt to write about what God is passionate about. The turning point in my spiritual life came when a speaker issued a challenge to ask God to show us how much He loves us and to show us what it is that breaks His heart. The result was absolutely life changing. I try to show those things through my characters.
I like to read muliple genres, but I only write in one. While I do enjoy studying the market and learning more about the publishing world, I just write the stories that God gives me, which all seem to fall into “women’s fiction”. This is where I write best–with the natural, specialized voice that is all my own. Switching genres would make the stories more stiff and cumbersome because they would not be in areas where I am most skilled or passionate. I would feel as if I were offering a “half-best” manuscript instead of my best effort.
That being said, there is a way to incorporate important contemporary (and relevent) elements into a story so that it does meet the market’s wishes. That is what I’m trying to do now as I continue to edit my current manuscript!
Have a great day!
This is a struggle for me. I’m passionate about what I’m writing and the joy comes from the writing itself. At the same time, I want to share my work. I want others to love my characters as much as I do. So while writing is a labor of love, it’s a labor that I wish would eventually end up in a book for others to enjoy. Keeping the faith is tough some days. In the end, I write what’s in my heart and hope that it somehow is enough. For me, I feel most at home writing middle grade, but I wrote a YA (which I think crosses over into the adult market) that I am truly in love with. I love where my characters took me and I’m happy that we ended up where we did. So I pay more attention to what’s in my heart than what’s on the best seller list. When I’m done, I at least have a present that I truly enjoy. Make sense?
For me, writing is a necessity, much as breathing. Sort of a joke about that is that when you write enough, you wonder if you would bleed ink should you get a paper cut. It’s never been much of a mater of what other people were doing in my mind. It was following the stories brimming inside me, and just letting them be heard.
When you try to catch the curl of the ocean, oftentimes, it’s like trying to shoot at something that is already passed. Sometimes, you just need to listen to the voice inside you, and let it speak for itself. BECOME that wave, almost. And if it’s meant to be, God can control the oceans.
Leave it in His hands. As for you, write something you love. Because if you do, others are more likely to fall in love too.