Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What should you write?
















Urban fantasies and paranormals are hot right now. Vampire (and other undead) fiction has probably never been more popular. And I’m a practical writer with an eye to the bottom line.

So why am I not writing an urban fantasy?

One reason is simple math. If I start an urban fantasy or paranormal now, it would take me perhaps six months (at best) to complete and edit it. From there, I’d have to get an editor interested. Commercially published books take about two years to hit the shelves, so it could be three years before my urban fantasy is published. Will the sub-genre still be hot at that point?

The other reason is that I write what I enjoy. I like fantasies with a twist – science introduced into a medieval scenario – and so that’s what I write. I do plan on an urban fantasy (which I think of as sub-urban, because it’s going to take place in a hellish other world), but it’s something I’ll write after I’m done with the current book, and it’s something that intrigues me, rather than something written to capitalize on the trend. If it’s never published, I’ll still be happy about having written it.

I could probably force myself to write something completely different. I’ve thought, once or twice, of writing something multicultural, because that’s also popular and Sri Lanka seems relatively untapped compared to, say, Afghanistan. But such a book would risk being either a soapbox or a therapist’s couch. And it would be work.

Fantasies, on the other hand, are fun. And they’re what I love. That love is what kept me going through more rejections than I can count, through the years it took me to learn writing skills, through blunt critiques and requests for revision. And I believe readers can tell when writers enjoy their work and when they’re pandering to current trends.

That’s not to say it’s wrong to write to someone else’s formula. If you’re planning to submit to one of the category romance lines, you’ll have to write to their requirements. But I’ll bet that the writers who succeed here are those who genuinely like what they’re writing at the same time.

Also, if the dream of your life is to write about, say, Shakespeare’s plays as re-enacted by a set of sentient cutlery, all the love in the world may not be enough to get Twelfth Knife or The Taming of the Spoon published. But at least you’ll have more fun than if you made a grim, dutiful attempt to write yet another vampire story for an increasingly glutted market.

(Image courtesy of Loren Petrich)

12 comments:

gypsyscarlett said...

Oh, I love it. "The Twelfth Knife" :)

GunnerJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GunnerJ said...

I would buy and read a novel about cutlery doing Shakespeare.

ChristaCarol said...

Would it be urban, paranormal, or (what's the difference between these and contemporary?) if it includes mythological beings but in current time? :P All these sub-genre's tend to confuse me sometimes.

gypsyscarlett said...

Hey Marian,

Just wanted to add I agree. Writing is difficult enough. I couldn't imagine putting so much emotional and mental energy into a subject I wasn't passionate about.

Nice post. :)

Mary B said...

I can't imagine writing in genres other than my twin loves of mystery and romance. I've written spec fiction, but it always includes mystery and romance. It's difficult for me to write without them both. My romances always have a mystery subplot and my mysteries have a strong romantic theme. It's where my passion is.

The funny thing is that I do enjoy reading outside of those genres, but I can't seem to muster enthusiasm to write novels about anything else. (flash fiction is another issue. I'll write flash about anything.)

Marian said...

Christa, that's a good question. I never really thought of it until now.

For me, these are the divisions. If the story is about a woman who finds a centaur on her country estate, that's paranormal.

If the story is about a woman who finds a centaur in New York - and the city becomes an integral part of the setting and is fantasified somehow - that's urban fantasy.

If the story is about a woman who finds a centaur in a fantasy city on another world, that's straight fantasy.

Not sure how accurate these are, since I thought them up just now (and couldn't decide what a contemporary fantasy was). What does everyone else think?

Marian said...

Just wanted to add I agree. Writing is difficult enough. I couldn't imagine putting so much emotional and mental energy into a subject I wasn't passionate about.

Hey Tasha,

Thanks for the compliment, and you're right: writing (and outlasting rejection) is difficult enough already. Why make it worse by attempting something we don't love?

At the end, even if I'm never published, I know I've had fun and created something I love. If I forced myself to write multicultural fiction and it didn't sell, what consolation would I have?

JasonRobert said...

Marian,
Your words are thought provoking and informative. Thanks for sharing. Check out my blog when you get a chance. Have an amazing day!

Marian said...

Marian,
Your words are thought provoking and informative.


Hi Jason,

Very nice of you to say so, but I can't help wondering if you'd feel the same way if you read anything I've written about PA. ;)

Best of luck with your book!

Barbara Martin said...

It has been said many times to write what you know. This would also apply to writing what you enjoy.

Marian said...

It has been said many times to write what you know. This would also apply to writing what you enjoy.

Exactly. Ideally, you (generic you) will be published. But if you aren't, will you still like reading your own work and will you think, "I had fun writing this"?

I hope the answers are yes and yes for all of us.