Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thougths: Writing the "Different" Book

Writing in the fantasy and paranormal genres means a more diverse playground for story ideas and concepts. But even in a sea of limitless imagination, there are a limited number of slots to fill with each publisher. Especially if it’s one of the Big 6.

My agent tells me that’s been a very common reason lately for editors to reject a project. They see a lot of the same thing cross their desks and even if a manuscript has a stellar plot and unforgettable characters, it can still get the boot. If the company has a similar title on their list, the new submission will likely be a no-go.

It’s ill-advised to write to the market because it’s so fickle and a far better idea to write what you’re passionate about. If you’ve got a thing for vampires in outer space, go for it, even if it’s the hottest trend going at the moment. Just make sure your story is extraordinary and give it a twist that makes it fresh and original.

If you think your story is different from everything else out there, chances are it’s not as different as you think. There’s no way for you to know what every other writer is working on. That being said, someone has to be “first” so why not you? ☺

Now that you’ve decided what to write, and as far as you know yours is the only urban fantasy starring furry magical snakes, how will you tell that story? In first or third person? Will you write it past or present tense? Will you alternate points of view? Combine first and third? Mix up your chronology so that you have both past and present tense? The style you use to write your book will also factor in to making it different.

I bring this up to caution against letting your freak flag fly too high. It’s great to be different and tell a unique tale, but remember that if you’re an unknown writer, going against the typical grain of storytelling could do more than raise a few eyebrows. It might send an agent or editor reaching for that form rejection because they’d rather not take a risk on something too new.

When my agent first started sending KNIGHT’S CURSE out to publishers, the response was questionable. The story didn’t match anything else on the market other than it being urban fantasy with a strong heroine. Most everything else about it was new and original so there wasn’t much to compare it too. That might have become the book’s downfall if not for my forward-thinking editor, who saw the book’s potential as a real contender in the market. And now Publisher’s Weekly has it on its Top 10 Picks for Fall 2011. Yay!

If I were to do it all over again, would I write a more typical book that aligns with tried and true genre trends? No. I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. I can’t write to the market, and I can’t write a cookie cutter concept. I’m the same way when I cook; I never follow a recipe.

So what are your thoughts about original stories? If you’re a reader, how open are you to something new and different in the genre you enjoy? And if you’re a writer, how far will you go to create a story that’s uniquely different?


Anonymous said...

Well, what an editor/agent once told me that publishers only want something new if it's like something they're already selling. I don't mean to be negative, but it seems to fit the bill. Even when we try to sell our stuff we have to say things like "It's Hell's Corner meets Sizzling Sixteen meets anything-Patterson!"

My humble advice is to write what you want. Might as well ENJOY what you're writing, write (pun intended)? It's all a journey, anywho....

Anonymous said...

And how many times was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone rejected before Bloomsbury picked up J.K. Rowling's novel for the outrageous advance of £2500?

Karen Duvall said...

Good point, Frank. It's not worth writing if your heart isn't in it.

I know just what you mean, Vampire. Yesterday I watched the 6 part interview ABC News did of Joanne Rowling in 2009 and I'm more impressed now than ever. I was in tears by the end of it, just out of pure joy for what she's accomplished. All writers can gather great strength and perseverance from her example.

wry wryter said...

I read your comment today, 7/19, on Bookends. Thanks for speaking up in favor of agents. I am in the process of querying and that you spoke so highly of your agent speaks volumes about how the system works. Thanks again.

Karen Duvall said...

Sure thing, Wry. :) My agent really is amazing, and I've had other agents in the past. Elizabeth Winick is a gem and I feel very fortunate to have her representing me.