Friday, April 09, 2010

Back on the Blog Chain: Business or Pleasure?

Time again for another Blog Chain Post! We've added several new members to the chain; their blogs are in the sidebar, so please visit them! This round, Michelle asked us:

Do you write for the market or for yourself? Why? Are there times you do both? Or times when you've written something specifically because it was "hot" at the moment? If so, how did it turn out? 

Amanda posted before me, and Eric follows me.

I've mentioned before that I feel the answer to most "either-or" questions lies somewhere in the middle. For this question, though, my answer lies closer to one end (myself) than the other (the market). Writing a novel is like running a marathon; it takes a lot of dedication, and if you're not committed to your project, it's easy to walk away from it. There's also often a long lag time between the sale of a book and its appearance in bookstores, so a trend may lose popularity before the book is published.

One of the things that drives me to write is the desire to read types of stories that weren't getting published. When I first started writing my Season Lord books, much of the fantasy out there was set in the medieval era, so I wanted to use a different time period. I chose the Victorian era--or at least an imitation of it, since my story was set in a fantastic country with significant differences from England. These days, it's more common to see stories use this time period. It makes me wonder sometimes if I should pull Day of All Seasons out and rework it into something more publishable. Across Two Universes was originally written as Beatles fanfiction (something that's very hard to market). I did choose to remove the Beatles references to make the story more marketable, but I think that also gave me more freedom to shape events in the story as I choose.

Amanda mentioned in her post how she came up with a unique take on urban fantasy but had a hard time finding an agent for her book. My NaNoWriMo project was my attempt to twist the tropes of urban fantasy. I like some of the things urban fantasy does (strong female protagonists, mixing magic with the modern world) but dislike others (the heroines all start sounding the same, too much emphasis on fashion, more lust than real love in the romance). These things may appeal to a certain segment of readers, but I'm not part of it. My idea was to focus on a pair of sisters, one older and a working mother, the other younger and interested in fashion. That way, there's a heroine to suit everyone. I still haven't finished the first draft of this story; it's something I plan to return to after I'm done with Across Two Universes, though.

Before I end this post, I'd like to share with you part of an essay called "Why Should You Be a Writer Anyway?" I wrote several years ago for my website. I attended a panel at ChiCon in 2000 where professional authors talked about their careers. Here are my thoughts on writing as a full-time profession:

A couple of years ago at ChiCon, the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, I attended a panel where professional writers discussed the pros and cons of becoming a freelance writer. I came away from that panel with the impression that it wasn’t worth it; you would trade a regular paycheck and benefits for a job with irregular payments and no benefits, particularly no health care coverage. Also, some of the writers on that panel paid the bills by writing media tie-in novels, just as the writer I mentioned earlier did. If you enjoy the shows and like to write about them, that may be fine. Personally, I consider that taking time from my own personal projects. In effect, those writers still can’t work full-time on their own unique projects either, since their first priority has to be putting food on the table.

I need a day job to support my family, so I'm in no position to write full time. But if you do reach that point in your career, you may find yourself having to write for the market after all, whether it be media tie-in books or short stories for an anthology. (Often editors will invite published authors to submit stories for a themed anthology.) So what you write may change depending on if you're doing it for business or for pleasure. But as long as there are still a diverse range of publishers, there will be places for books that don't follow trends. Go forth and start your own trend!


Michelle H. said...

Great post! So many different views and valid points while following the blog chain.

Kat Harris said...

Hey! I thought about you and Across Two Universes the other day when I caught Siobhan on American Idol singing Across The Universe.

Your thoughts from ChiCon were spot-on. I think writing specifically for business would take a lot of the enjoyment out of writing. (Says the reporter...:-)

Eric said...

Great perspective on this question. I really like how you shared your thoughts from the convention panel. That was interesting.

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

I enjoyed reading your essay. Many good points. Whether writing for yourself or the market, the main thing is you have to love writing.

Cole Gibsen said...

Great post! I found your essay really informative. Kinda swayed me from my stance a bit. Great job!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Michelle--We're a pretty diverse group here on the Blog Chain, but that means we can all learn from each other. Welcome aboard!

Kat--Love it! And yes, would writing be thrilling if it were just another job?

Eric--Glad you liked my essay.

Robin--Writing is hard work, so yes, you have to love it to stick with it!

Cole--I'm pleased that you found my essay so useful.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! Excellent points!

Michelle McLean said...

great post - enjoyed the essay excerpt as well :)

Sarah Bromley said...

Great post! It's true that sometimes you do have to write for the market. I went to a conference to Cole last year and a well-known YA author talked about how her editor would give her a topic and say "Write a book about it." You could tell she just wrote for the sole purpose of making money and not 'cause she really felt passion. Interestingly enough, the book she really was passionate about was the one that sold the best.

Christine Fonseca said...

Great post Sandra...I love the analogy of writing and running a marathon! Perfect.

Mandy said...

Great post! And again I LOVE your new look!!!

I really think love is the main ingredient to any good story. We write because we love to write. Why not write what we love to write. Wow, that was a mouthfu! ;)

Your UF sounds really interesting Sandra! Good luck with it!

Abby Annis said...

Great post! Now I'm off to become a trendsetter. :)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Love your advice to start your end trends!

B.J. Anderson said...

This is great advice! And I enjoyed the essay excerpt.

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