Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Write What I Like

I'm not writing to order here. There's no template. There's no preconceived idea about what people might or might not want. There are only my books and me writing them. In short, this ain't an assembly line. No dies, no molds, no cookie cutters. I don't even have a contract yet that binds me to write x-number of books in x-genre. (I'll deal with that when it comes, but I think when I reach that point, it will probably be fine with me because I'll have already agreed to write what I wanted to write in the first place anyway.)

I knew going into the query process that RTL might step on more than a few sensibilities, but that wasn't my goal in writing it. It was just a story that needed to be told, and it hammered at my brain so hard I wrote the first draft in 6 weeks. Looking back, I can't conceive of writing it any other way.

Now I don't want you to think I'm just typing out the other side of my ass here. Seriously, this is an issue I think needs addressing and a few things brought this to mind over the past couple days.

First a friend of mine made a statement that no one is buying books about X anymore, and this person wondered if their book would ever sell because of it. My heart went out to them. (I've read the book, and know it's good - even if the whole X thing is passe right now.) I know how it feels to wonder if anyone will ever want to buy this wonderful thing you've created because the ideas inside might not be the popular cup of tea. Hell, Spectacle is awesome, but no one wants 'a comet book' any more. They've been done to death. And even with the fresh take I have on the concept, they can't see beyond that idea. *shrug* I love the book anyway, and if I had it to do all over again, I still would spend all the time it took to write it.

Second, Carrie Ryan had an excellent post this morning over at Manuscript Mavens wherein she talks about something she's heard at writing conferences. Someone somewhere got the idea that they had to change their manuscript to meet the wants of any particular agent they were thinking of querying. Not changing things to suit their own agent; not meeting an editor halfway on suggested changes. Changing key plot elements because a particular agent doesn't like, say, starships. The whole idea just floored me. The comment I left says it best: After reading your post, I'm sitting here a little aghast that anyone would just randomly change key components of their manuscript on the off chance someone might not like it as is. It's their work for petesakes. That would be akin to a girl getting plastic surgery to please a boy she's only seen from across the lunchroom. Egads. Editorial suggestions from an agent you trust are one thing, and I agree that you should think hard before making changes you don't believe in, but out of the blue based on some misguided notion - that's just tragic. Poor little stories hacked to bits for no good reason. =o( Seriously folks, the idea of it just depresses the hell out of me. I feel so bad for anyone who would think they had to do this to their work.

It struck me about the same as if my daughter had come up to me and asked for plastic surgery to meet some imagined idea of someone else's perfect person.

Now obviously I'm not talking about meeting the standards for writing in the English language. As I've said before, you need to meet those just to make sure your writing is understood. What I'm talking about is the meat of your story. If you're writing a SF story based on a starship, and that's what the story requires in order to remain true to itself, then don't change the setting for any reason. If your book has to be about elves, then screw anyone who says elves are 'out'. If the story has to have a comet in it, then it has to, and there's nothing you can do about it. Unless you're into stifling yourself. Either write the book the way it has to be written or don't write it at all, but for godsakes, don't change it until it's no longer what you wanted to write in the first place.

I admit that I almost fell into this trap. I know romantic suspense is hot, and I know most romantic suspense has sex in it. I definitely know there's more romance in it than what I've written in mine. So, I thought about spicing the story up.


If I let the market dictate the amount of romance in my book, then the story suffers for it. If I insert romance where it wouldn't be naturally, I hurt the book. So, I cut that shit out. Manhunter, when it's finished, will be what it is. A suspense novel with romance elements. No sex thrown in to please whoever. Sure, I could have the MCs jump into bed together. They already spend extended periods of time in a hotel room alone, working on figuring out the case. I could have them throw aside their files and notes and dry-erase markers. They could rip off the tacky bedspreads and make hot monkey love until the wee hours of the morning. But they'd be doing it while the killer was still out there, possibly taking another victim. Then they'd both feel guilty and the whole scene would just suck. Both of them are committed to their jobs anyway, so having sex while in the middle of a case wouldn't be true to their natures. They both want to have sex, but there's just no time. After the murderer is caught, they can knock boots to their hearts content. (And I imagine they will...) But I'm not writing it in the book.

So, when you're faced with the idea that a certain thing will or won't sell, what do you do about it? Do you write to please the market, or do you write to please yourself and hope the market will be pleased, too?

Or am I really just talking out the other side of my ass?


1 comment:

JenWriter said...

Poor elves. They want to feel the love.

Anyway, I tried coming up with an idea for my second novel that would work in the market. That was dumb. And while I liked the idea, it never clicked in my brain.

So, when I had my strange half-dream, half-conscious mental breakthrough about this other idea, well I had to drop the other and run with this one. So glad I did. The passion is there. I need that to get me all the way to The End. I'll add that I also think this one could sell (it'd take the right agent though because it's pretty depressing), but that's not what I had in mind when the idea was developed. Heck, I didn't have anything in mind when the idea was developed - my subconscious just did it for me.