Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Not Taking The Easy Way Out, Part I

I recently gave a challenge to one of my students and myself…”Let’s write a book that will sell,” I said.

You may think, “Well, duh,” but the truth is most of us first-time book writers don’t stop to think whether our book will sell or not, we simply write the book that’s burning inside us. We attend writers conferences and read blogs by editors that tell us to “write the book of our passion,” so we think we are doing just that by writing that burning book.

After writing a few books of my passion that might sell AFTER I’m published but will be a hard FIRST sell, I took a new look at what I was doing and why I was doing it.

1. Why do we write the books of our passion? Is it because we are passionate about the subject? Is it because we are passionate about the meaning behind the story? Is it because we are passionate about our characters? Is it because we’ve been told that’s what we need to do?

Now, ask yourself if there are other subjects, meanings, characters that you might ALSO be passionate about. I suspect there are.

What I have discovered is that I can take a good subject and characters and the deeper meaning will come through naturally. It’s not so much because of the subject matter, it’s because of who I am as a writer. My passions and beliefs will always come through in some way in any story I write. There is no need for me to hammer it in.

2. What kind of books do you like to read? What genre? Are you writing in that genre?

If you are not writing the kind of books you like to read, ask yourself why. I like to read supernatural suspense, but that wasn’t what I was writing. When I asked myself why, I discovered it was mainly because I was chicken. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. So, I was trying to take the easy way out by writing something that was more up my alley. Also, since I mainly write in the Christian market I was trying to avoid a genre that isn’t as well accepted in that market.

I read an average of four books a week (some of them are books on tape), and a lot of them are supernatural suspense, so why on earth didn’t I think I could write that genre?

As far as not selling well in the Christian market…I have long suspected that any great book will make it through the channels. And isn’t it easier to write the GREAT book if you are writing the genre you most love?

Good question.

So, in trying to take the easy way out, I found myself having to work harder and do a lot of fixing and not getting very much return for all my hard work. Doesn’t sound like such an easy way after all, does it? But I don’t regret all that hard work, because it grew me as a writer and I may yet do something with all those first efforts.

So, now I’ve chosen the genre I like to read…supernatural suspense. And I’ve chosen some characters and a setting that I think will be interesting to others (keeping that secret for now). The plus is that I’m quite familiar with the culture and setting of my characters, so that cuts out a bit of research and also gives me an edge as someone with some kind of authority to write about these characters and setting. That will look nice in my proposal.

Now, I’ve placed myself way ahead of the game in writing a book that will sell:

1. I’ve chosen a genre that works and that I’m familiar with.
2. I’ve chosen an interesting setting and culture.
3. I’ve chosen interesting characters.

This is just the beginning of getting ready to write a book that will sell, but I think it’s enough to think about today. My next post will cover the next step.

1. In looking at the three things above, don’t worry if you’ve chosen an interesting setting and/or culture that you know little about. You can cover that with good research and interviews.

2. If you are concerned whether you have the skills to write your favorite genre, then head to some of your favorite author’s blogs, pick up some good reference books, and take some classes. This is a skill you can learn. And, of course, one of the best things is to read a lot of books in your chosen genre. See what works and what doesn’t.

3. Choosing interesting characters is a bit more difficult. I’ve discovered that writers choose their characters in many different ways. I see my characters in my mind long before I write them down. I don’t make character charts first, instead, I learn about my character and fill out the chart as I go, referencing it as needed. This is an “intuitive” way of working and is how I’ve discovered most character-driven novels are written…at least, that’s how my favorite authors write.

I’ve also discovered that some of my students who fill out long character charts, give their characters jobs and backgrounds that don’t work with the character after the story moves along. I end up being the one to tell them that they have their character doing something they would never do. Ha!

If you have trouble with choosing characters at this point, don’t worry too much about it. My next post will give you more insight on how to SEE your characters more clearly.

Until then, have fun thinking of a genre, setting and culture that would be a fun write that others would like to read about.

Most of you seldom leave comments, but I would love to hear from you regarding how this process goes for you or if you have a different way of developing characters. We’re all in this together. Different methods work for different writers and sometimes a combination of several suddenly clicks.

Regarding the photos…

As usual my photos have nothing to do with what I’m writing about. They are simply a slice of my forest life. Today’s grouping shows the saga of a poor rose. My squirrel had some nerve to eat that thing right in front of me!


At 9:55 AM, Blogger Kristen said...

Hey Sandy, this is a great post and such a wonderful reminder for writers :) One book that has helped me tremendously is "Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint" by Nancy Kress. She has two forms that you can fill out. One is the mini-bio that helps you figure out who your character is, who their family is, where they live, what their job is. The other form she provides is the emotional mini-bio that asks you questions like what your characters value most in life (top 3 or 4 things) and what does he/she fear most. This has helped me round out my characters and make them believable. I attach the picture of each character with both bios and it helps bring them more alive for me.
I highly recommend this book for any author who has a difficult time getting well-rounded characters. And even if you don't have a hard time I still think its a worthwhile book to read.
My book is a suspense but I still want believable characters to lead it.
Also, utilize your friends or spouse for help. I've asked my hubby to help me pinpoint my character's emotional mini-bio because my main character isn't like me. So he has helped me get a better idea of who she is.

Okay, sorry about the length of this comment. Good luck on your book. Love you, friend :)

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Sandy! How are you? I didn't know how to get a hold of you outside of facebook. I'm nearly halfway there with my book..however not enough editing I think. It's only been through my eyes and not another persons! Man, i hope you've been enjoying the clear nights! They have been GORGEOUS!!!!
yim-wolfman.blogspot.com :) Love you!

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

love Emily Wilder

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Maisey said...

Hi Sandy,

Interesting post. And it isn't a 'duh' thing. You're right about the selling aspect being an afterthought with the majority of first time writers.

Glad you're going to write what you love! It's also what you know. :-) And it seems like there's definitely a place in the Christian market for supernatural thrillers. Paranormal books are so popular in the secular market Christians are bound to be looking for the 'Christian version'.

Spam word is Forks, that's where the vampires live.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Sandy Cathcart said...

Thanks very much! I think these comments were written ages ago, but I'm just now getting back to this thing...we'll see whatn happens.

Nice to know where the vampires live Maisey!

At 4:57 PM, Blogger patti said...

I don't see why Christians balk at suspense--jeeze--this world is FULL up of it, as our many lives. Where would we be without Dean Koonze??? ha! Write like him, dear Sandy! Nah... write like yourself. I wanna write my family--but believeable characters? Hardly a one in the bunch! More soap opera is like it. I may do it--but am so afraid of them knowing it is them, in the flesh, even if I try to make 'em different. Our good God sure didn't change my history very much. I am sortakind
a thinking maybe he just wanted me to have fabulous fodder for my family memoirs--arrrrrgh! It will be UNbelievable if ever I do pull it together!


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