Monday, June 11, 2012

A Fine Balance For A WIP

I can't help it. I just love to research different cultures and pour their treasures into my manuscripts. It's the world traveler in me, and also, I have some amazing family members who have inspired me to delve into their history.
Regardless, I like to write fiction with a flare for cultural collision, whether it be an Amazonian native and a Spanish explorer, or a girl victimized by legalism and a boy impassioned by grace. 

I love it when opposites attract.

During the beginning stages of my current wip, I asked Alley Cat, Pepper, to take a peek and let me know if the culture thing was going to work in this market. Because my story starts out with the heroine and her first husband (she is widowed at the beginning of the story) Pepper asked if he was going to be the hero. I hadn't even thought of that. I was planning on killing him off *snicker* because I wanted my heroine to fall in love with an immigrant (and work out a bunch of her issues)...but then I thought,
“Hey, it might be more sellable to nix the immigrant, and have the story develop around the couple struggling in a coal town.”
I thought about it, and weighed my two ideas on the mighty scales of Market and Heart. I was impassioned by the immigrant story because my grandparents were immigrants and the story is set in my grandfather's hometown. But...I have gone down the road of an unusual story, and it ended in heartache. what did the scales say? They tipped toward my heart and the story already forming in my mind. But I kept market in mind as my setting is America, and I have a handful of comparables already lined up. I am going ahead and writing with attention to the market without compromising my heart.

When deciding what story you should choose, it really is a matter of Market and Heart, and deciding how to find that balance that gives you a unique but sellable story.

How to consider each:

The Mighty Market:

Keep the market in mind if you want this WIP to be the one that hooks an agent or publishing contract. I semi-finaled in Genesis and placed third in a RWA contest, with a novel that bombed with agents and publishers at conference.

The unanimous answer: “It's not going to sell.”

Do I regret writing it? No way, I love the story. Do I feel like I wasted my time pitching it at conference? Eh, a little. If I had known what the market expected, I wouldn't have had a complete meltdown on the phone with my husband after my first conference appointment! ;)

So, if you have a story that you are pretty sure is way unique, and you don't have an agent or a publisher steering you in the right direction, then consider setting a goal...such as:
To develop enjoy the thrive on inspiration. 

But, if you are hoping to break into the market with this WIP, then be sure to consider the market, without compromising your creative juices.

(Ok, for those of you who choose to take the challenge of writing a break-out novel, then let me tell you I am cheering you on with all my heart! :) )

Your Unique Heart:

image by qthomasbower at Flickr
After considering market, my heart begins to put its fists up. Stories that inspire me, elements that keep me up writing into the wee hours, are just not always a “typical” match in the market. So while you need to consider the market, you also need to choose a story that makes your heart speed up as you think about it, that taps into your talent and breaks the writer's block dam. If you have to tweak the story to be a better fit for the market, then so be it, but make sure you don't kill the passion, don't fall away from what makes YOU write.

It's a fine balance, isn't it?

Don't forget, you can always tuck away story ideas until you hit it big and everyone's waiting for your next novel, even if it's about a martian landing in the middle of the Sahara Desert!

So, do you have concrete examples of how you weighed the market and your inspiration to come up with your wip?

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I wrote the story of my heart...a medieval...and totally not selling in the market. So I am writing a regency, which is gaining popularity in CBA. Maybe at some point medieval will come into play more, but now there is always the option of self-publishing on the web. I'm not ready for that, but I always think of that as being an option some day down the line.

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh, I love medieval, and regencies! I am sure you'll get a chance to have it published traditionally down the line! :)

Joanne Sher said...

Super post, Angie. I've got my "heart" book written (nonfiction), but I've been told it needs to be changed to sell. Still contemplating.

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Angie. I am writing the story of my heart. It came to me a couple of years ago, and I honestly have little idea of how the market will appraise it. :) So, if nothing else, I am gaining incredible opportunities to grow in my craft. Of course, I am hoping there will be a market for it too. :)

Becki Badger said...

Hi, Angie!
I'm working on the final edit for my book, Set Theory, which is a YA novel about . . . well, I won't bore you with that. (That's sounds bad, doesn't it?)

Anyway, it has gone through 8 revisions in a year. Ordinarily, I would have lost interest by now, and be working on something completely different. But this must be my "heart" story, because I kept coming back to it. I wandered away from it periodically, but always came back. Why, I couldn't explain, because there were several times it looked like an unsalvageable mess. I guess I was just in love with the characters. :)
Thank you, again, for the post, Angie!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Angie, I'm glad you wrote this post. I definitely believe you have to consider both heart and market when writing a story, even while trying not to compromise what you truly feel lead to write.

My most recent completed story keeps getting comments like "I've heard the beginning of this story before, but the rest is unique", but at this point I'm not ready to change it. It's what's selling in the market right now, which is why people have heard the beginning of this story before. And I also LOVE it, so I'm going to keep pitching it as is, but also try to keep an open mind if it goes any further (like to an editor, please, please! :D)

Lindsay Harrel said...

Hi, Angie! Great post.

I don't think I've had to deal with this yet. The book I wrote is something I can see publishing. It's contemporary and deals with a lot of modern issues, so if I find the right agent/publisher for it, hopefully it will sell eventually. If not, though, you're right--it was a great experience writing it. Hard work is never wasted.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I had a biblical historical fiction idea -- but that wasn't selling. So I put it on the back burner and wrote a contemporary romance, which sold. And guess what? Now biblical historical fiction is selling -- well, better than it was.
But my genre is now contemporary romance, so I can't veer from that -- yet.
Life is about choices ... and I'm satisfied with mine. It's not that I'll never write the other story. It's just that I haven't -- yet.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

By saying "break out novel" do you mean pressing through trying to sell something that doesn't have its own genre/niche yet, or just the initial act of breaking in?

Beth-- you talk about choosing to stay with contemporary romance because that's your genre "now"-- is this because you're trying to build a brand/readership? Has your heart changed away from historical, or was this a business decision?

I ask because my four novels are from three different categories: High Fantasy (w/o the travelogue), Urban fantasy, romantic suspense.

Now that I'm getting "serious" and pressing into finishing and reading and deepening etc, I've become concerned about this very balance of heart vs. market and this concept of "breaking in."

What I'm hearing is that I should pick my most-marketable story and try to "start" there. Is that accurate?

At this point in my "career" all of these are "stories of my heart," but not all of them feel like I can finish well at my current level of skill/life-experience.

And I don't know how many more stories I have in each niche, if I have to stay in one place long enough to build something...

Is that anything to be considering at this stage (unpublished) in the game?

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, this resonates with me. I'm not really sure any of my ideas naturally fit with the market...but I feel these are the stories God has put into my heart. So I guess I just keep writing and learning craft and hoping that someone somewhere will like my ideas...someday. In the meanwhile I try to remember that even if we are not published God is still using us right now and right where we are.

Angie Dicken said...

It's a tough call, isn't it? I can see how to change a couple of my novels to get into the market quicker (theoretically speaking, of course), but I'd rather press forward with new stories right now. Wishing you the best!

Angie Dicken said...

Yes, I learned SOOOO much from writing my novel that bombed last year! I feel like there is a definite transition from when I wrote okay to where I wrote "well". It helps to have a story you love to keep up your momentum!

Angie Dicken said...

Wow, you have perseverance. I know what you mean about loving the characters...I start reading my older novels and get all reminiscent when I read my characters. :)

Angie Dicken said...

That sounds like a perfect mix...familiar and unique! Hoping for the best! :)

Angie Dicken said...

So true, hard work is never wasted! I grow with each novel...they are stepping stones to my debut! HA!

Angie Dicken said...

How fun that you have written both genres! I can't wait to read your debut!

Angie Dicken said...

Amy Jane,
I think of a break out novel as one that starts a trend within a genre or starts a different genre. An example would be writing a Medieval novel (like Sherrinda's) that shifts the trend from Regency to more Medieval. I am no expert, so maybe this is my own interpretation!
I would think High Fantasy and Urban Fantasy are sub genres of Fantasy? Is that right?
I have heard that an agent wants a long term relationship with their client. And while you don't have to have all your stories lined up, you do want to show that you are in it for the long run. I think you should choose the best story...the most well-written, the one you believe in the most, and pitch it/query. Are you going to conference?
Alley Cat Pepper is a great person to talk with about writing different genres. She will probably stop by today at some point. And hopefully Beth will see your comment too! Let us know if you have any other questions. You can always email us at

Thanks for stopping by!

Angie Dicken said...

Good points! I think it's good to realize that just because God puts a story on your heart, doesn't guarantee you will get published with it. He has reasons we don't know about!

Julia M. Reffner said...

So true, I have learned so much about my own spiritual journey as well as craft. Strange how that happens. :)

BTW, CINDY, love your new pic.

Jeanne T said...

Cindy--I agree, I love your new pic too!!!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Julia and Jeanne, had fun taking them :)

Pepper said...

GREAT post, Ang. Oh man, can I understand THIS one. I've dabbled in almost every genre except 'thriller' or 'horror'. The toss between your 'heart' and 'the market' is a TOUGH call!

How did I decide?
Er...have I? ;-)
I prayed about it and looked at my contest data. One of the great things about writing (like Beth alluded to) is that for now we can write one thing and then after setting our brand, we can branch out.
That's my plan.
I have plenty of books in my head or on paper that I can write/edit for contemp romance, but I have an entire brain full of others outside that genre.
I hope to explore those in more detail as my writing career follows God's timetable.

I think that lots of times with the writing world we have to take a 'big picture' view instead of getting lost in the details. And waiting is a MaJOR part of that view. From waiting for writing time to waiting for editor responses, it's part of the process.

My two cents, btw.
I absolutely LOVE writing fantasy and historical romance...and I still do when I hit a writer's block. I think those stories will emerge someday...after I wait some more :-)

Great pic, Cindy :-)