Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What to write, what to write...

I stressed a lot about what my next novel project would be. I have no shortage of ideas – actually, it’s just the opposite. My ideas run the gamut of genres, including YA, MG, historical, paranormal, women’s fiction, sci fi, and literary. And as we all know, some genres are a tougher sell than others.

Every agent and writer blog out there will warn you against writing to pursue a trend, or even to pursue publication. They all say that you should write the book that moves you and write the best version of it possible. Great advice, to be sure.

But I do think there is something to be said for picking your projects wisely. For instance, most editors and agents are saying that the vampires are played out. So would it be wise to start a vampire novel now, knowing that by the time you finish it, the market will have moved on? If that is what you are compelled to write, then do it. But don’t expect that professional success with that book will be easy (granted, nothing about this business is easy).

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Marry for love, not money, but have the sense to fall in love with a rich man (or woman).” I think this applies to writing, too. If you want to be a professional writer, I think you must look at your projects pragmatically. All things being equal (meaning if you have three projects in mind that you are equally passionate about), you should pursue the project that has the most commercial viability. In the end, a book is a product and you want to produce a product people want to buy.

I write because I love to, but I also want to make a career out of it. So this is where the stress came in. I went round and round trying to decide which project had the most commercial promise. (I swear I would pay an agent right now to give me career advice on this subject!) I made pro and con lists, bored my husband stupid with endless speculation, traded countless emails with a writer friend, and lost a lot of sleep before finally coming to a conclusion.

In the end, passion for the story was the first criteria, and market was the second. I hated making the decision (I always second guess myself) but I feel good about it now. I can tell you I decided to pursue the literary fiction project, but beyond that I'll not say anything else about it yet. I'm not trying to be coy, just a little bit superstitious. Once I get past the research stage and into the writing, I'll be more comfortable talking about it.

Any thoughts on choosing a project based on commercial viability? Did you consider the markets when you started on a project?


  1. See, that was my problem, I shouldn't have married for money! Nah, just joking. However, I have the same problem as you. Lots of ideas and no idea what to work on next.I don't choose my next project on commercial viability though because by the time I'm done, it's not interesting to the public any more.


  2. I don't choose based of commercial either. Though I am wondering around for the type of books that should be my niche. lol Good luck with your!

  3. The nonfiction project I'm working on now fell into my lap. I grabbed it and I'm having a blast, working hard, learning all kinds of interesting facts about schools (my project) and publishing and marketing ahead of publishing. It's been a learning process and I'll just have to wait and see if it turns out to be commercially viable.

  4. I don't know what am writing, my characters are just so mean when they get a hold of me I have to write them down or pay the price so i do, my next stop is actually being able to let go of them and send them out there.
    Good luck with your new WIP

  5. Since the stories I tell are regional, I'm content with that box. But I read a lot and am thankful the vampire trend has flatened out. I think ingenuity trumps commercialism any day.

  6. Reading agent blogs and hearing their wish lists can get the gears turning. Often it's the APPROACH as much as the topic/scenario they are hankering to see in the market. When you have lots of exciting ideas in the hopper, knowing which is more likely to sell and pursuing it seems like good sense. Published authors do this all the time.

    To clarify, I'm not advocating trend chasing, but merely having a good sense of market, especially untapped segments and harnessing your creativity to "be the change" so to speak. I write contemporary YA with religious elements for the mainstream market, in part because I know kids it would appeal to, and this market is still underdeveloped.

  7. Some great thoughts here! I am definitely not advocating saying "Hm...what's hot right now? Oh, I'll write that!" It's just as Laurel says -- having a sense of the market and making good decisions based on that.

  8. You really nailed this sentiment, I think.

    I feel lucky. I have a lot of ideas but I can push them aside for the story that is closest to my heart. While I want it to be able to sell, I love it so much that it really doesn't matter to me. If it never sells, I still know I wrote the right idea.

  9. I tend to have rather off the bat ideas and I don't like copying current themes (even if it's not intentional) so I think I'm safe.. I hope :)


  10. I wish that Laurel's comment had been mine because I think she's spot on! It is so stressful trying to figure out if you should write the trend or not. In the end, I went against it because I don't write vampires. But is it really the vampire that sells? Or is it the same story - a girl's completely consuming love for a boy who is just as passionate about her but the world doesn't want them to be together - retold with different characters each time? I think if you chase the underlying theme and you write your book well, you could start the new trend on your own!

  11. I wish I could "write for the market" - after I finish this book I'm working on now, I'll be in your shoes "what should I do next . . . " and I know me - trying to write what I think will sell will only frustrate me. My editor can give me ideas, but can I follow them? I don't know - we'll see. And even then, as you say, I could spend time writing it and someone else beats me to it, or people move on, or ...whatever. And I could make myself unhappy.

    Your comment about paying an agent: I've been reading rumors or speculations or whatevers of changes on the way, and one of those speculations is that some agents are dabbling in the idea of becoming something other than the traditional agent - and instead, letting writers hire them to be their "guide" or whatever (don't recall details of what I read). Don't know how that will turn out, but it will have to be tread on carefully, I'd think!

  12. I couldn't write without the passion for the stories. It means my stories may be a little more difficult to market, but that's ok.