Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Writing & Selling IV

Lori Devoti wrote in comments: How about knowing you are writing the right thing for you?

One popular method is to depend on others (writer friends, crit groups, teachers, agents, editors, etc.) to look at your work and tell you which is right for you. There is nothing wrong with this, and it can be helpful if you already have a high success rate with the feedback you get from these folks -- meaning, things they give you the green light on actually sell for you and do well on the market.

That method didn't work for me.

You can also test drive genres and different ideas in short story form. If you're a published author, you can submit them to magazines and anthos and see what sells. I put mine up on my old web site and gathered feedback from readers, who told me what they liked. I took the stories they responded most positively to and made them novel length, which resulted in three book sales.

If that doesn't appeal to you, do some self-analysis. Are you having fun, or are you fighting for every word? Do you run to the keyboard, or come up with excuses to avoid it? Are you faithful to your genre, or are you playing around with others on the side? What do you love? What do you want to do on the page? Is there anything you're dying to try out, and if so, what's stopping you?

Anyone else have ideas, methods or experiences that resulted in finding and writing what was right for you?


  1. I didn't think I could write action/adventure, but I wanted to challenge myself. I wrote the book and sent queries out to agents. I got some requests for partials and some really positive comments.

    I was told by several agents that they loved my heroine, my voice and writing style, but didn't know if they could sell the book. One agent told me that she loved the partial but had had decided to stick with what was selling, ie: chick lit and fantasy.

    So the book didn't sell, but it turned out better than I thought it would, and I've discovered that I really love writing action.

    Last book had the same heroine but I made the book a mystery. Didn't think I could do that either, but I had a ton of fun and I think it's turned out not half bad.

  2. Anonymous8:33 AM

    I found what I liked to write by not trying to write anything specific, actually. I thought I had to focus on writing what I read, figuring I knew enough about the genre to do well. Three YA horror novels were written before I realized I wasn't having much fun.

    So I tried something new: I got an idea, and I sat down to write it - in whatever form it happened to appear in. I didn't impose limits on it, and I just let the story do what it needed to. Now, I'm consistently writing fantasy and science fiction (and I still can't say from the beginning of a short story or novel which way it's going to go), depending on where the story leads and what it wants to do.

    I think listening to yourself is the best thing you can do.

  3. Anonymous8:53 AM

    I'm sticking with writing what I read method for now.

    Which doesn't say a lot because I'll read nearly anything--including cereal boxes. So it's fantasy, next project's a romantic suspense and the one after will be a fantasy or a paranormal romance or urban fantasy.

    Maybe we should view it as a journey and a discovery.

    PBW, would you mind writing a blog entry about writing for hire?

  4. Anonymous9:53 AM

    May wrote: PBW, would you mind writing a blog entry about writing for hire?

    Are you looking for any specific information of writer-for-hire, May, or just a general rundown of how it works?

  5. Anonymous10:05 AM

    I write science fiction and mainstream fiction. (literary fiction may be in my future, but not my present.) I read everything I can get my hands on, some genres more than others but when I'm deep into writing a rough draft or outline of something, I limit my reading to the same genre.

    When writing THE VIRGIN OF NEW ORLEANS, a con-game-gone-bad kind of plot, I was on a strict diet of Janet Evanovich, Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly. It still sounds like me in the end, but reading things not too different from what I'm writing helps keep me in the right mood. It also tells me if what I'm putting on the page is so far outside what is selling, that I haven't a chance of selling it.

  6. Anonymous10:08 AM

    I tried the write what I read approach and ended up with an epic fantasy. It was fun, but now my reading habits have shifted and I'm not so much into the fantasy stories. I am enjoying the SF that I've been writing, but I think alot of it has to do with the MC. I find I'm enjoying a main character with some humor, alot of attitude, and a pinch of bitterness on the side. I have one in SF and one in horror and that's my common thread right now.

    So, to make a long ramble short, I'd say go with what you enjoy, but extend it beyond the genre - what characters/situations/plot twists do you really want to tangle with, and how does that fit in your genre of choice?

  7. I am definitely in the "follow your heart" camp. To me, each story has its own personality. Most of them fall into the horror genre, but some of them demand to be fantasy or literary or mainstream.

    In "The Teachings of dan Juan" by Carlos Casteneda, don Juan talks about following a "path with a heart". I find that every idea has a heart and try to follow the path it points to, if that makes any sense.

    I tried to force myself into a genre mold and found myself severly blocked. Only after I learned to relax and let the story take over did the fog lift.

  8. When I first started out (and was a member of RWA entering copious writing contests), I wrote an action/adventure proposal that made the rounds and racked up as many contest wins as requests from editors.

    The response from all of them was the same. "I love this, but action/adventure isn't selling. I don't know what to do with it. Send me anything else you have." One editor wanted it, but her line was folding.

    I wrote more family oriented stories after that, then moved into sexy contemporaries a la Sex in the City. One day, however, I stopped in the middle of one of those books and dashed off an action/adventure pitch to my editor. And the rest is history? *g*

    Now that's what I'm writing. It's what I'd always wanted to write. I had to wait for the market to swing back. The success of Alias didn't hurt a bit. So for me it was all about the timing. (BTW, that original proposal? Still unsold!)

  9. It all started when I was a ten-year-old Nancy Drew fanatic. I decided I could write mysteries. My reading expanded into SF, Fantasy, and Romance. Some mainstream stuff. A lot of kids and YA books, too. And I wrote in all of those genres. But every one seemed to have a crime of some sort as the trigger. Finally, after NaNo 2003, it hit me. Lady, you need to go back to your roots and write mysteries, even if some of them are fantasy crossovers or romantic suspense. And I've been happily murdering people ever since. ;)


  10. And I've been happily murdering people ever since. ;)

    * goes hiding in the past *

    Oh wait, do you have a poison handy? I need to get rid of a king.

    I started with Historical Fiction, but thought that, since I like to read Fantasy and Space Opera-y SF stuff, I should be able to write that as well. Didn't work. I can't write magic for the blue sparkles of it, and while some readers liked the Space Opera snippets, I felt it was too much a ripoff of other books. But I've filed that one, maybe I will return to it. Though right now I think I'm a Historical Fiction writer, and nothing else. With enough plotbunnies, too. :)

    Except the occasional Horror / Paranormal short story.

  11. OK I guess I'm unusual here... My nightmares, or the dreams that I can't get out of my head. That's what I write. Or at least that's what I feel is my best work. I can write some on demand, but I'm never as pleased.

    Unfortunately that method (dreams)also leaves me struggling sometimes. I always feel that I only get a peek into a story, and I have to fill in the blanks. It's the blanks that make it hard. I'm fighting through one of those stages right now.

    I've tried the web site feedback method, but I don't get enough traffic to my sites. So now I just write to keep the backlog from piling up.

  12. Anonymous4:41 PM

    PBW, I'm just curious about how it works, so a general rundown would be great. Like, are you sent a synopsis to follow, etc.

    Thanks a lot!

  13. What if the feedback you get from Authority doesn't match the feedback you receive from critiques?

  14. Anonymous7:06 PM

    I still haven't figured out what I'm supposed to be writing. Being a bit of a genre-whore myself, I find that I write what I enjoy reading: namely historical romance, paranormal romance, chick lit, urban fantasy, and fantasy. I've working my way through my 5th manuscript right now and each one seems to fall into a different category.

    Doesn't this hurt your writing career if you're looking to get published (with no other credits in mind)? I tell myself to stop, to stick to one particular genre, but the ideas keep flooding in and I find myself skipping straight from historical romance to epic fantasy.

    Everyone tells me to write what I love, but I *am*. Is it possible to love too much diversity?

    What do you suggest?

  15. One of the hardest things for me was figuring out exactly what I wanted to write. At the time when I was doing this, the genre I wanted to write in--thriller--was just coming into its own, and it was never well promoted as a genre. I tried writing mystery, thinking this was where it might fit, but it just wasn't right. I also tried fantasy, but though I liked the opportunity to write action, I hated world building. It wasn't until I found a book on writing thrillers that I realized what exactly I had been writing all along. Better still, the market is much, much better now for what exactly I'm writing--thrillers for women.

  16. What if the feedback you get from Authority doesn't match the feedback you receive from critiques?

    Jordan I'm not PBW but I think sometimes we just have to follow our gut. =)

    I love writing Chick Lit but it's definitely more challenging for me. I figure it's just a way to exercise my writing muscles though. I've gotten good feedback from my CP's but that doesn't equate with a sale =(

  17. Anonymous11:11 PM

    Jordan wrote: What if the feedback you get from Authority doesn't match the feedback you receive from critiques?

    Tough call. I'd say look at all the feedback and see what your instincts tell you. If you're honest with yourself, you already know your weaknesses and strengths as a writer. Also, whoever is giving you feedback should have some solid experience, preferably equal to or better than your own.

    Jessica wrote: Doesn't this hurt your writing career if you're looking to get published (with no other credits in mind)? I tell myself to stop, to stick to one particular genre, but the ideas keep flooding in and I find myself skipping straight from historical romance to epic fantasy.

    How fast you can write and how you want to be published plays a big part in the decision to write for one genre or several. If you can produce five or six books a year, you've got room to genre hop. If you're only writing one book a year, multi-genre publishing is probably not going to work for you.

    Everyone tells me to write what I love, but I *am*. Is it possible to love too much diversity?

    Not from my perspective, but I'm willing to make the sacrifices involved.

    What do you suggest?

    If you can't produce several books a year, try exploring the different genres in short story form. You can get the satisfaction of exploring with a fraction of the time investment a book demands.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.