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?
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!