Sunday, July 09, 2006
Q & A 63 What should I write next?
Let's think positive for a moment and pretend I'm a decent writer and my chances are one in a million of making a sale. I've got an adult suspense novel and a mid-grade mystery/adventure under my belt. However, since my mother decided not to become a literary agent, thus far neither has been picked up. The mid-grade has passed the query stage with two agents, one of whom is currently reviewing the partial. So that brings us to the present.
It's time to embark on a new writing project. I understand all the wisdom behind "writing your passion" and "write the book that's inside you." But honestly, I love to write and feel as though I could write YA or adult as my next project. Forgetting the logic that says which one I should write for my own good, is there one from a marketability standpoint that would be better to write. That is, would one of them increase my chances all the way up to, say, one in 990,000 of making a sale?
An agent might have statistics on which has a better ratio of authors writing that kind of book to actual books published. Evil Editor doesn't. Whatever you write, you can safely assume you have a glut of competitors.
However, it may interest you to know that when you sell a book, your contract may require you to give the same publisher first crack at your next book intended for the same audience. So if you will be sending out queries for a zombie book next year, you might want to write something other than a zombie book now, or you'll be querying two zombie books at the same time. And when publisher A buys your zombie book and demands first crack at your next zombie book, you'll have to worry that Publisher B has already put a letter in the mail accepting your other zombie book. Of course, what are the odds of that?
Posted by Evil Editor at 9:53 AM
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Now, for something completely different: from everything I've ever read, the biggest market is for romance – something like half of all paperbacks sold – so bodice-ripping is the way to go. There’s subgenres, too, and the great thing is you don’t have to do too much plotting.
Regular plot: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl.
Paranormal plot: Ghost meets girl, ghost loses girl, ghost regains girl.
Futuristic plot: Alien meets girl, alien loses girl, alien regains girl.
Fantasy plot: Magician in burlap sack meets girl in flowing robes, loses girl, regains girl.
Time travel plot: 18th century Scottish Highlander meets 20th century girl, etc.
- Run with it!
Write what's in your heart or write for the market? That pops up on writing discussion boards all the time, often phrased as "real writing" vs. "hack writing."
But don't I see them as mutually exclusive terms. Some people genuinely love writing books on assignment for the school and library market or for SF series. Some people may try their hand at a literary novel because "I hear they're selling well" or "I could get famous that way" (chortle).
I think "writing from the heart" and "writing for the market" are just two extreme ends of a continuum, and most writers find themselves somewhere between the two. One day you may be working on that sweeping saga you've been plotting for years, another you're dashing out a couple of articles that a parenting magazine asked you to write, and you're already thinking about how you'll use the quick cash.
So don't worry about it.
The market changes so quickly that if you write what you think will sell now, by the time it's ready to go out, something else will be more commercial anyway.
If you write what you want to write, at least there's a better chance it will be really good--which, more than anything else, is what makes a book marketable, and gives it a chance, at least, of selling.
If you have a choice between YA and regular adult, I would go for YA. It has a potential larger audience. A good YA book is read by kids and adults alike. It doesn't work the other way around.
Back in the day, I read many adult novels when I should have been reading YA. I think it goes both ways.
When I began writing in earnest, I took the romance path, and I still must be convinced that it is the right path for me, but my third project isn't slated be a romance.
It may develop into one of those mainstream 'make ya think' pieces. It might not have a happy ending, but it will certainly come from my heart. Perhaps that will be the 'one'.
We'll see which one gets an agent first, and THEN I'll decide what my next project will be. Or go both ways...
Don't write YA cuz that's what I write.
A minion--knocking off the competition one at a time, any way she can!
Where's all the irate romance writers out there, flaying msjones alive for her glib (if astute) summaries of romance subgenres?
Besides, she's got it all wrong. For the fantasy plot, it's "tormented former assassin with latent magical abilities meets girl in flowing robes." Duh. ;)
I am a hack. So is Tess Gerritsen (she said so).
Hacks enjoy writing, but they would like to be paid for it.
Msjones, how dare you trounce romance so. Feel my indignance.
Seriously, though, romance is a genre just like any other (only with more sex). You really do have to plot the stories, and write them well. The basic structure theory can be applied to any type of novel:
Thriller: Man (or woman) must single-handedly stop evil scheme threatening to destroy the world
Fantasy: Character-of-whatever-species struggles to come of age and find his/her/its place in a world where weird things happen all the time.
Chick lit: Girl doesn't need boy, but sometimes gets one anyway. Comedy ensues.
See? Works like a charm.
As far as writing to formula, though, ask any romance writer who's ever been rejected by Harlequin after slaving over a manuscript that exactly meets their guidelines (and will fit at no other publishing house) if there is a formula for romance -- and prepare to have your throat torn out. :-)
Today's romance ain't your grandma's romance. The only thing formulaic about it is that it's about a relationship and there's a happy ending. Writing a GOOD romance is just as tough as writing a GOOD novel about anything else.
Sure, serious literary fiction is great. Love it. But at the end of a long day, I want to wind down, not contemplate the human condition.
A strong heroine, irrestible hero, great sex, true love and a happy ending--what could be better than that?
64.6 million American romance readers and 1.2 billion dollars in annual sales can't be wrong.
Even if this is a few months behind the times, I feel the need to point out that the Fantasy plot is still wrong. The tormented former assasin with latent magical abilities is the girl in flowing robes.
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