Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wish I'd Thought of That !!

How do you decide what to write? How do you pick out the story or the theme or the characters of your next book?

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes an editor decide to buy and publish the books they choose. I read fairly voraciously. I read a lot in the genre in which I write, but I read in other genres as well. Most of the time I can definitely see what attracted an editor to a book. But sometimes I read one and I think "I don't get it." Of course I'm not supposed to, I guess. Books are not all chocolate fudge sundaes. Everyone likes chocolate fudge sundaes, but a steady diet of them, more than likely would make most of us ill. And I am smart enough to know that my taste in books is not the be all and end all of everything. Which is a shame because I really have excellent taste.

So, what influences do we listen to when we sit down to start that new book? I have noticed that everyone and her grandma is writing young adult these days. The same can be said of paranormals. The theory for some is that if you write a young adult paranormal you are guaranteed a sale. I'm in trouble then because I am not overly fond of teenagers. Five years teaching high school English and history will do that to you. I love paranormal, but I think I would want to write something completely different rather than what everyone else is writing.

How, then, do you decide? Do you write to please yourself? Do you write with the absolute intention of making your story marketable no matter what? Is it possible to write a story with one audience in mind and then rewrite or edit if for another audience because the powers that be think it will sell better as this or that?

I guess my real question is how attached are you to your story ideas? How much are you invested in them? When you are looking for that next story idea, what sorts of things influence your choice? Inquiring minds want to know.

I'll be back. Suddenly I am craving a hot fudge sundae!


Callie James said...

Always enjoy your blogs, Louisa.

First, I know someone who doesn't like hot fodge sundaes. What? I know! She would turn one down. So even hot fudge sundaes are subjective. Can I even say that?

I am at the mercy of my stories, to be honest. When I used to write romantic suspense, it's because I was studying criminal justice at the time and my reading tastes were of the Tami Hoag variety.

But then my husband started handing me his fantasy and paranormal books. I began watching insanity at its best ... otherwise known as the spectacular Dr. Who and Supernatural. Shows that make you go, “Hmmmm.” And I remembered my love of these genres from when I was little and a teenager. Suddenly I was inundated with paranormal ideas. So I wrote a paranormal romantic suspense (I thought this was my own made-up genre until I recently read some of Cynthia Eden's books). The ideas just kept coming. Soon I had created a trilogy from that one book.

Now, anyone watching me would think I’d suddenly switched genres to jump onto the paranormal band wagon (believe me, I wish I wasn’t writing paranormal because now I’m writing for a saturated market).

Then I got one of those incredible ideas. I’d never had one of those before … not ever. I mulled it over for weeks. WEEKS! And then it occurred to me that the best way to tell it would be in young adult. I HAD NEVER WRITTEN A YOUNG ADULT and stopped reading young adult quite some time ago (other than a couple of author friends).

So. I started writing my first young adult and now I’m almost finished with that novel—a young adult paranormal. Big shock, that market is absolutely saturated too. Lovely.

No, this is definitely not planned. In fact, my timing constantly stinks. But, I’ll send out the queries in a few weeks. And hey, I guess if my idea is as great as I think (subjective subjective), then I’ll get a good response anyway, saturated market and all.

I wish I dictated to my imagination but it dictates to me. I have been mulling over a fantasy trilogy for three years. Currently, high fantasy isn’t hot. Just you watch though. The minute I sit down to write that thing, boom. Saturated.

My life.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Callie, you crack me up. Great post, Louisa. You and me and teenagers... I only like my own kids (most of the time). ;-) That's why I taught adults.

I write what I love. A scene or premise strikes me and I try to flesh it out to see if I can make a book out of it. I think about marketability only in terms of making the book the best I can before submitting it.

I write romantic suspense because that's what I like to read most, and it's what I really want to spend my days working on. I'm more Roxanne St. Claire than Christy Reece in terms of darkness. I keep hearing that RS is not very hot right now, yet I have no shortage of authors to read, and Kimberly Whalen at Trident seems to have no trouble finding a home for her authors.

I started out in contemporary romance, and though I enjoyed that too, the whole time I wanted to write RS, but didn't think I could. Laura set me straight (thanks, Prez).

I can only write what I love, otherwise it would just be work. In that case I might as well go find a job where I can actually make some money!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Louisa,

Great questions - wish I had the answers! I'm awaiting my next great idea for a book.

I agree with the other ladies though, you really have to write what you like. I could never sit down and write erotica just because it seems to be a big seller. So I stick to my sweeter romances and hope that one day, some one else will like them, too!

P.S. If anyone has any good tips on how to come up with 'high concept' ideas, or any ideas, for that matter, please share!

My muse will thank you!


Jeanie said...

Well, Louisa, as you well know, the idea that came to me was a woman's fantasy about a 45-year-old woman who gets kidnapped by a handsome wizard, taken to a magical land and wakes up in the body of an 18-year-old princess. (My personal fantasy to be 18 in body but not in mind and life experience). Queried that book for 3 years to a resounding lack of success.

On YOUR suggestion, as I recall, I started writing a PN romance for Romance Junkies. Wrote the first 2 chapters and set it aside, as I was still querying (and getting rejected) on my fantasy. Your encouragement led me to pick the PN up again a year later . . . and that's the book that sold!

My dirty little secret? I don't read PN. I love historical romance and contemporary and fantasies like LOTR and Harry Potter.

So, where did the idea come from? No clue. I remember sitting down with a firm resolution NOT to write about werewolves and vampires. Little did I know, living in Ignorance Land, that demons and demon slayers were already big. That's the story that came to me and that's the story I wrote.

Oh, well, there are no NEW ideas. The best you can hope to do is take an idea and put your twist on it and hope someone else likes it.

Good post, as always.

Carla Swafford said...

What I hear from the mysterious "THEY" is we need to write what we like to read.

So far I've written paranormals (3 of those completed), romantic suspense (4), straight contemporary (1), and medieval (1).

Just think if you sold something you didn't like to read. You would be miserable writing another one, then another one, etc. I want to sale, but I want to be satisfied with the story in the end.

My 2 cents. :-)

M.V.Freeman said...

Oooh Hot fudge sundaes...!

Well, first and foremost..what grabs me is the story. It doesn't matter if its YA, paranormal, urban fantasy...fairy tales. Or course I like writing them as well. :-)

I agree with Jeanie, there are no new ideas, but can you make me like reading it?

Cari Hislop said...

I think story ideas are born of our own interests. Feeding our curiosity should fill the well where stories are born. I find Biographies are really good inspiration fodder. Real people and real lives are often weirder than anything anyone could make up!

Saying that, one of my stories came from a desire to write my own version of a Gothic romance. Another came from a desire to write my own version of Redeeming a Rake. We have to feel passionate about the story...about the characters.

Most of my stories are character driven. I find the characters and then start following them with a recorder! They often say and do things I would never think of in a billion years...go figure! ;)