With Easter just around the corner, there are bunnies, bunnies everywhere, and Cadbury chocolate eggs lurk in every store. They are temptation itself in colorful, foil-wrapped packages crying, “Pick me, pick me.”
Since I’m currently trying to shed my winter, ahem, insulation, I’ve deliberately shifted my attention to non-chocolate eggs and the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
For those of us in creative endeavors, this question changes somewhat. When you start a new project, which do you focus on first: the story or the market?
There are good arguments on both sides. I remember going to a writer’s conference years ago and hearing Elaine Wright Colvin ask why a writer would spend months and even years working on something if there’s no market for it and they have no idea what they’ll do with it once it’s finished.
On the other side of the debate are people like Vicki Hinze who, in her book, Writing in the Fast Lane, says she decided years ago, “I will only write stories I love.”
Also true. And that has paid off for her, big time.
I think, as with most things, the answer is a bit of both. If you write a wonderful, lyrical1000-word novel, chances are you will never sell it to a traditional publisher. It’s too long. So a smart writer makes sure his or her novel fits somewhere within acceptable market guidelines.
When you go to writer’s conferences, you hear all about the current trends. Editors, agents and industry insiders will tell you what’s “hot” right now. Every year it changes. Paranormal, suspense, historical, inspirational. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But they are giving you a snapshot of what they’re seeing now, this minute. If you sit down to right your story, what’s “hot” may have changed by the time you mail in your submission.
A friend of mine who writes romantic suspense recently had her agent recommend that she try her hand at historicals. The idea made her break out in hives. She doesn’t read historicals, has absolutely no idea how to write one, nor does she want to know. For her to do this would be to doom herself to writing something she doesn’t love. That will make the writing drudgery and will show in the finished product
Beyond all the wisdom and all the trends, editors, agents and readers want books that grab them on page one and don’t let go. A key ingredient is the author’s passion for the story.
Certainly check the trends. Study the markets. Know the guidelines, so you’re not shooting yourself in the foot before you start.
And then sit down and write your story, the one only you can tell. Dive in and pour all your passion and excitement into this story you love.
It’ll be sweeter than a dozen Cadbury eggs.