Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pulling A Blog From My Hat

So…it’s 7 minutes before 11 the night before this is supposed to go live. And I JUST remembered it’s my turn. Nice. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Right. So I’m stealing….err….liberating (and expanding on) one of Chance’s topics.

 Who do you write for?

 Stay with me. This will not be a rerun. Promise.

 A couple months ago, I entered a contest. I’m not typically a fan of contests so when I do enter one, I like to have a good reason. In this case, finaling would have put my work in front of an industry professional with whom I’d like to work. And winning would at least get me my entry money back, so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor.

 Since this blog didn’t start off as a celebration, you may have figured out I didn’t final. But I did finish respectively. Fifth place out of 17 entries isn’t bad. Two judges read my entry and the first one loved it. The maximum a judge could award was 100 points and this judge gave me a 99. I so need to send that judge a thank you note.

 But the second judge was less enthusiastic. She didn’t get any GMC for my characters, and since this entry did not require a synopsis attached, she took a guess at what the rest of the book might entail. She was WAY off. Now, I could say she just didn’t read what I had on the page. The other judge clearly got it. But I’m going to take the blame on this one and say the reason she didn’t get it is because I didn’t have it in the work. And I’ll send her a thank you note too.

 I’ve seen the phrase over and over lately that we should write the story we want to read. And I’ve taken part in the grumbling (on the ship especially) that recent offerings in the Historical genre aren’t living up to what I want to read. If I put these two ideas together, then the story I want to read is a well plotted, plausible, engaging Historical with substance. (NOT that I can’t find this on the shelves right this moment. I’m going for an example. Stay with me.)

 Here’s the problem, I don’t want to write an Historical. Ever. At least not in any future I can imagine. Does that mean I’m not following this advice and writing for myself?

 Then there are the readers. Both in the industry and in the general public.

 Follow any editor/agent panel, be it in person or online, and the question of “trends” will come up. Writers ask editors what kinds of stories they’d like to see. either hoping she’ll want exactly what they already have or planning to dive in and fulfill the editor’s wish.

 And there are countless review sites run by readers who aren’t shy about telling us what they like and don’t like in their books. Goodness knows readers are more than willing to share on Amazon. The good and the bad.

 So who do we write for? Do we write for contest judges? (Which is essentially writing for other writers.)

 Or do we write for ourselves and say screw everyone else? Forget the trends? Buck the establishment? Ignore the market?

 OR do we write for the people we want to eventually buy our books? Follow the trends? Embrace the establishment? Chase the market?

 As usual, I don’t have a firm answer. In fact, I’m starting to think we can’t win no matter which way we go. All I know for sure is characters show up in my brain and slowly (very slowly) tell me their story. I do my best to dictate the story onto the page and hope someone will want to read it.

 Who are you really writing for? Do you have a genre/line you want to target and form a plot that will fit? Do you follow all the rules so you can impress judges and earn some credentials for your writing resume? Or do you tune out all the white noise and just write for yourself?

 For an added twist, is it possible to do all of the above?

PS: Four years ago I was told no one wanted a Contemporary starring ordinary people in a small town. Good thing I didn't listen to them as that's exactly what editors are calling for right now. :)


Hellion said...

I think I tend to write for my CPs, because a good CP is someone who gets your voice and what you're doing. They're like a mini-audience. You hope eventually find a larger number, yes, but you write for this one and for yourself and hope eventually you'll find more.

But I'm not sure.

I can say the books that have resonated most with me, the ones I've loved the most, the ones I've recommended the most are books that the authors said outright they wrote for themselves. Not necessarily for an imaginary audience or market trends. In fact, my favorite ones are books written against trends and didn't have a market until suddenly they did. Those books clearly show passion in the voice that tells the story, and passionate people usually captivate audiences, even if they don't necessarily want to be captivated. *LOL*

2nd Chance said...

Good questions! And I think my answer is a twofer, maybe a threefer or a fourfer.

I write for me. Not because I want to read the sort of books I write... (Hell, I'm reading a cozy mystery right now.) I seldom read romantic adventure/paranormal/erotica/fantasy/timetravel/scifi/pirate stuff.

Unless I wrote it.

Which is a bit of a puzzle. I don't read what I write...errr, what other authors write that fit into the same genre I write. Almost never.

I write for me, but I also write for the characters in my head that want to share a story...with me and those who would like to read it.

I think...I write for the me who first read the adventure books and was inspired. Not necessarily the me who reads mysteries now. But that first me. I want to inspire readers the way those books inspired me.

So, in my convoluted way...I'm writing for the earlier me. For the writers who inspired that earlier me. And the readers I hope to inspire. And the characters that chatter at me and poke at me.

Write for contests? Hell, no! LOL! Write to trend? Nope. I want to start a trend, but I think that is different... ;-)

Marnee said...

What an interesting topic, Ter!

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, actually. But in a different capacity. I've been thinking about it in regard to revisions. I'll get to that.

Personally, I think my answer is a little of all of this and none of it. Because I've decided that what I*REALLY* want is for others to read what I write and get that feeling in their chest. That heavy, achy feeling. That mix of sad and happy, hope and despair, that I get when I read a really good romance. I just read Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase and it had that.

But Lover Eternal by JR Ward has that "thing" too. And Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. Those are three books in three very different genres. They have nothing in common but the ability to give me that ache in my chest and reduce me to tears. They all had characters that I cared about.

So, I write is for that purpose -to make someone's chest ache and make them cry. (Wait, that sounds mean.... You guys know what I mean.) I've decided as of late that I haven't done that with my first two MSs and part of that is because I haven't made the most of revisions in the past. Maybe my stories still wouldn't have made it where I wanted them to go, but I bet I would have had a better shot.

Anywho. I think it's all of the things you mentioned are important in their way. Contest judges are my readers too. Trends are the places where my readers go. And me? Me, I want to spread more of that achy heart weepy eye thing I love so much.

Sorry about not finaling hon. :(

Marnee said...

Marnee = bad with grammar this morning. Sorry folks. Just sub in all the words I forgot in that last post. Sheesh. Our AC died last week and I think all this heat has boiled my brain like a poached egg.

Donna said...

Terri, congrats on the 99 -- that's awesome! And I can't seem to remember that you entered the contest, so my apologies on that. :( My brain is a little squishy right now.

I love this sentence, because it describes my process perfectly: All I know for sure is characters show up in my brain and slowly (very slowly) tell me their story. I do my best to dictate the story onto the page and hope someone will want to read it.

I'm not sure anybody can really "predict" trends. They can notice, after the fact, "Hmm, not as many vampire stories as there used to be". Or, if they have enough clout, they can declare, "No more vampire stories", and they can make that happen. But trends spike in popularity, and then they get replaced by something else. It's easier to spot them when they're peaking or dying off.

Which means we are better off writing the characters' stories and letting the trends change to fit the story we've created.

I never wrote for contest judges. Which is why it was so thrilling that I finaled in so many different contests (and won two of them) with two completely different books (and two subgenres) -- I wrote what I wanted, the way I wanted, and they got it. So it made me feel like that's how I need to continue to write. :)

And the reason I write in two different subgenres is precisely because the trends changed, and I wanted to be able to write in the one that was on the rise while the other one was dying. LOL Strangely enough, they're changing again.

Ya gotta be flexible like Gumby in this endeavor!

Bosun said...

Sorry, Ladies, our internet here at work has been up and down this morning. Here's hoping it's back up for good now.

Hellie - There are several ways I thought you would have answered this but that's not one of them. LOL! Especially when you and your CP have such differing tastes in what they read. LOL!

You're right about finding the books that were written with passion by their authors. Which is another reason I could never write toward a trend. I don't typically go searching for stories, they find me. I don't foresee any "shifting" characters finding me. And if they did, I wouldn't know what to do with them!

Bosun said...

Chance - That's actually a pretty deep answer. But also ironic that in writing for your younger self, you write older characters. *g* And if anyone could start her own trend, it would be you, my dear.

BTW - Love the idea of giving back even to the authors who inspired you. And wanting to inspire. You're full of positive energy this morning. (Or at least you were last night.)

Bosun said...

I love your answer, Marn! That's exactly what I want to do, but I've never said it that well. Shannon Stacey's YOURS TO KEEP gave me that exact feeling and ironically, I didn't like it. LOL! I mean, I loved the book, but I was mopey all day dealing with the black moment in that book. So it's not always comfortable, but I want to make that happen for someone else.

Sounds mean, but it's a good thing. Really!

I'm good with the finish. Somewhat similar to how I did in the GH. Always a step or two behind the front runners, but I'd rather have a step or two to make up than a hundred steps.


Bosun said...

^5 Donna! I often don't feel like I have much control over the stories that show up. Which makes me curious about those people who have read 15 or 20 (or 83!) books and need to find a new one. I wonder if the characters get harder and harder to find. I know Leigh Michaels mentioned last week that she changed genres. At least that's always an option.

I mentioned entering the contest somewhere but who knows where now. LOL! It was sort of a last minute thing and it did help me. The work that first MS needs is becoming clearer every day. And the thing Judge 2 had the most problems with is the same thing nearly every beta reader pointed out.

I think Judge 1 gave me the benefit of the doubt, which was generous of her. She certainly boosted my confidence!

Hellion said...

So long as my CP and I have the same great taste in each other's voices, we can read whatever else we want on our own time. *LOL*

Bosun said...

That sounds fair. LOL!

I interrupt this blog for a Pirate Service Announcement. One more reason to love Pamela Clare. I need these this morning.


Hellion said...

*sighs* I love men in jeans. Deerhunter was barechested, barefoot, in a pair of levis the other day--and it was a beautiful thing. I sooooo wanted a picture of it.

Janga said...

Congratulations on the 99 score, Ter. It’s a wonderful feeling when someone who has no reason to soft pedal criticism lets you know that she/he “gets” your book.

I do write the kind of story I like to read, but I also like to read stories that I would never attempt to write, such as Regency historicals and mysteries. As for audience, I try not to give that question much thought when I’m working on the initial draft. If I do, my writing slows to a crawl because I second guess myself with every word. Since I second guess myself every third word anyway, I don’t need anything to intensify the problem. I try to wait until I’m revising to consider audience. I think, at that stage, I used to think of my audience as the nucleus of the old EJ board since that’s where I first started writing romance. More recently, I keep a quote from Donna in front of me when I’m revising: “I'm writing for the people who love my books. Even if I don't know who they are yet.”

Donna said...

Janga, I'm glad my quote inspires you. It keeps me going too, on those days when it seems like *I* am the only one who likes to read my stories. LOL But hey, it's one person more than it used to be, right? :)

Bosun said...

Donna really nailed it with that one. I saw or heard a quote over the weekend that went something like "If you're writing for everyone, you'll please no one." If only I could remember who said it! (My pirate ship for a memory! *shakes fist in air*)

I've reached some weird point where I stopped worrying about the rules and the critics. I know what I want/need to do, but now I'm focused on figuring out how to execute to get there.

So I don't second guess, but I get overwhelmed trying to keep all the balls in the air. Am I foreshadowing? Am I balancing the external plot with the internal love story? Are my characters coming alive? Is my setting fleshed out and real?

I spent years studying to fill my writing toolbox, but now I have so many tools I don't know what to use first!

P. Kirby said...

I write for me. With the current WIP, "me" is defined as readers who want a story where the romance is crucial to the story, but balanced by other plot elements. In other words, while I love the love, I want more than just the Relationship.

I think, now, especially, with the growth of self-publishing and ebooks, I feel less constrained by what a marketing director or agent says is "selling." Instead of worrying about trends, I can focus on the story. Is the plot coherent? Did I fill in the plot holes? Is the characterization strong? Etc.

Bosun said...

I must want just the relationship, Pat, because coming up with some kind of external conflict/plot is nearly impossible for me. I have one for the current WIP, but only because I brainstormed with another writer whose good at that sort of thing.

I wish I was one of those writers who can hear about a trend, come up with an idea, and make it work. I just can't. My writing brain doesn't work that way. However, if my survival (i.e. income) depended on it, I'm assuming I could figure it out. But I don't think I'd enjoy it.

2nd Chance said...

I'm at my Mum's this weekend and yesterday, opened a cabinet in the garage and saw these books...these old adventure/scifi/fantasy books that made my heart jump. These are the some of the books that inspired me to want to write adventures and then your blog...

Just as Marn wants to cause that ache in the chest, I want to inspire that light in the eye. I want my readers to drift off in a daydream...

And I always want to pay tribute to these guys and girls who made me dream.

Trends are interesting, but come and go... Really, great topic.

And I guess I'm shooting for optimism since I'll be back in the dentist's chair in a few hours and...knock on will be quick in and out...

P. Kirby said...

"I must want just the relationship, Pat, because coming up with some kind of external conflict/plot is nearly impossible for me. I have one for the current WIP, but only because I brainstormed with another writer whose good at that sort of thing. "

*Shrugs.* There's nothin' wrong with that. In fact, done well, it makes for a damn fine book. (My issue, probably, is that it is so rarely [IMO] done well, and often hinges on stupid misunderstandings.) If external conflicts aren't your thing, chances are they will feel tacked on and awkward. If you love what you are writing, it'll come through in the writing.

Bosun said...

I like you, Pat. Have I told you that? *g*

Totally with you on the big misunderstanding. Don't know how many times I ask myself "Could this be fixed with one conversation?" In fact, I've purposely created little "issues" between my H/H and then cleared them up with a conversation since I hate when the simple stuff is dragged out for no reason.

But in the current WIP, she's engaged to his brother, so having a bigger issue than a simple misunderstanding is not a problem.

2nd Chance said...

Well, I often know that a simple conversation seldom rises to occassion and does the trick. Instead, the convo sets off other landminds. I'm not sure there a simple conversation exists! To be realistic though, I writer has to really cover the landminds and make them believeable.

And sometimes that simple convo will work, but my experience??? It works for a little while, then the fresh air let in by that open window grows stale...the window slides closed, curtains are put up, a screen...and before you know it, old habits have regained their foothold.

This comes from someone with a family who can conjure arguments from discussion that never take place, let alone the ones we actually have.

Hmmmm, that sounded sad...can you tell I'm dreading this coming dentist appointment?

Bosun said...

That's the glitch with writing fiction vs. real life. Shit doesn't have to make sense in real life. And it rarely does. We don't have that luxery in fiction. If my heroine sees the hero talking to another woman from afar and jumps to a conclusion she insists on holding against him, then the whole thing could be cleared up with a simple conversation. Grant it, now she's stirred issues in his head like her trusting him, but that just means you build on it.

Still, that first misunderstanding can't carry through when a brief conversation can correct the assumption. The reader simply won't stick around for it.

Sin said...

Great blog. I have no idea who I write for. I used to write for myself. Then I lost myself and my writing. And now I find myself just wandering around like a lost kitten. I don't listen to trends. I pretty much write whatever's in my head to make the characters stop talking to me in the middle of the night. Like my fanfic beta tells me, "I know your head is all over the place, but you can't throw it all into one story. It will give someone a heart attack." That's a good description of me. All over the place. I want to write to the readers. But the readers aren't like me. Readers need something to relate to. I need my brain to be stimulated with my own thoughts and theories within the author's world.

I'm resigned to never publish. I'm okay with that. I just don't want to be told what to write and how to write it so it sounds like 5 million other stories.

*puts soapbox away*

Did I even get close to answering the question?

Bosun said...

You sure did, Sin. Fair answer too. You write to write and forget about the rest. But I do hope that "never publish" changed to "maybe never publish" because you never know what will happen in the future. No need to take anything totally off the table.

And when you said "That's a good description of me" I thought you meant the "give someone a heart attack" part.


Hellion said...

This comes from someone with a family who can conjure arguments from discussion that never take place, let alone the ones we actually have.

This is SO true. *LOL*

But I don't mind if the H/H have conversations to "clear things up" and it only makes everything worse. I think that's fair. *LOL*

I think Bo'sun's characters sound too mature to be believable. Who actually acts that way? *blows raspberry* Esp two people at the SAME time? Please. I think they can continue to be immature and obnoxious, just so long as we understand the motivation (fear) why they're acting like a bunch of dorks.

Bosun said...

*blows raspberry back*

If they never stop bickering, then it's fighting for 395 pages and "in love" for the last 5. I don't like those kinds of stories.


2nd Chance said...

I don't like a constant bicker, but I do like a complicated bicker that waxes and wanes...

Hellion said...

I don't think it's necessarily WORDS (conversation) that proves the relationship. I think it's the ACTIONS of a person. So yes, they can bicker and it can be irritating as hell, we don't want them "hating" each other--that's extreme--but not seeing eye to eye can be different, but it's when the other person's actions SHOW that they listened to the other person and respect their view--that is when, I think, the real romance, the love, is real in the story. Action always speaks louder than me than a declaration scene.

Bosun said...

Can't argue with this. I've been a firm believer in the old "Actions speak louder than words" since it was shoved into my brain in my childhood.