Thursday, September 8, 2016

Write the Story Anyway

Have you ever been in the possession of a story so ingrained in your heart that you have to tell it? Like you have no other choice?

Last week at the ACFW conference, I was once again in the land of the often-asked question: What do you write? The first few times, I was a little discombobulated, because the above is quite the mouthful for a conversation with a new acquaintance. I settled on "contemporary romance for 20s and 30s," the abbreviated answer to a somewhat hard to explain body of work.

The first book I ever wrote was an inspirational contemporary romance for the "New Adult" age group -- early 20s, coming-of-age protagonists. It was the story of my heart. Despite the manuscript winning a contest and helping me get an agent, the general consensus from editors so far has been that they liked the writing, but they didn't think there was a market for it (best rejection ever). They told me to send them future projects.

So in the middle of writing the follow-up to that book, I pressed pause and wrote another piece of my heart, a story that also needed to be told but that was more marketable with the traditional protagonists in their 30s. (This is the one releasing in May!) When I finished that one, I brainstormed more titles that upheld the standard feeling of the romance genre. 

But the shelved story remained firmly planted in my vision, like a kid standing in the way of the TV who won't move no matter how many throw pillows you launch at his rear end.   

And then at last year's ACFW Conference, wise and kind author Mary Weber's class on writing for Young Adults ruined everything in the best possible way. Hearing her passion further cemented why I started writing for the younger 20s in the first place. While I don't have any grand illusions that my stories will be earth-shattering, I went home and finished the book with my target audience in mind (right down to a specific girl I know) with the hope that, in the middle of that awkward transition place where many feel they don't fit anywhere, in all the scary uncertainty she has to deal with, the story will give words for the deepest places, point to God, and help her know she's not alone. 

Market analysis or not, I fought for her at conference this year, along with the readers my age and older who can relate because they've been there, plus all of those who are graduating from YA and gobbling up the racier New Adult offerings in the general market. 

I shared what's been going on in my writing world not to get super preachy on you about New Adult in the inspirational market -- though I know it can't help but bleed through because that's just what it does to me. 

But if you've been trusted with a story that makes your bones ache and keeps you awake at night and has taken up shop as the unmoving garden gnome of your mind, yet it doesn't seem feasible, logical, saleable on paper -- write it anyway. It may be this strange map laid out on the table you keep twisting and turning to see which way is up, but write it anyway. 

I don't know what plans God has for my stories, but I am going to continue writing whatever He gives me, whether they're for the 20s, the 30s, a lone editorial assistant who reads it all the way through, or just between Him and me. 

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they are eagerly awaiting the release of her debut contemporary romance novel in May 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter


Krista Phillips said...

LOVE THIS so much!!!!

Keep writing, girl. My first published book featured a 20-year-old heroine. I didn't even know it was the "wrong" thing to do at the time, LOL. Sometimes ignorance is good because it makes us step out and do what GOD wants us to do instead of what everyone else seems to think we should do!

Then again, sometimes ignorance is ignorant. LOL.

It is such a balance... knowing the market and being wise and treating this whole writing thing like a career... yet realizing that CREATIVITY can't be put into the "business plan" bottle, nor can God. I'm still figuring out the balance, as are, I'm sure, we all!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Krista - Yes, ma'am! And I know a publishing house will take the risk if it's the "right story" for them :) Love your thoughts and experience with this!

Becky Charles-Smith said...

I needed to hear "write it anyway". Thanks Laurie!

Barbara said...

I'm right there, too. Well, I've had less rejections because I'm just starting on the road of rejection (which will hopefully lead to a YES someday), but I write New Adult as well for my fellow 20-somethings.

Thank you for sharing this encouragement!

Iola said...

I'm also writing contemporary Christian romance with heroines in their early twenties, although I'm at a loss as to whether that's New Adult or just adult. As you've observed, New Adult doesn't seem to exist in the Christian market - Amish heroines are younger (!) and most others are older.

However, I'm pleased to see some novels in this area from authors such as Tammy L Gray and Amy Matayo (both self-published, and from Waterfall Press). Here's hoping for many more.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Becky - Yes, do write it anyway!!

@Barbara - Thanks for reading!

@Iola - I LOVE Amy Matayo's "Sway" for this demographic and haven't read Tammy yet but just met her at ACFW conference!

Laura Conner Kestner said...

LOVE, LOVE this!! Thank you, LAURIE - it's just what I needed to read today!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Laura - Yay! So glad you found it just when you needed it :) Thanks for reading!