Writing for a Genre – or Not

As every writer knows, it’s wonderful to let your imagination go, allow your characters room to breathe and speak, and just write. Then comes reality. You’ve finally finished your book. You’ve agonized over the words, edited it until you can barely handle looking at it then passed it on to a friend with an eagle eye. You’ve closed your eyes, taken a deep breath and sent your manuscript out to a group of friends, friends of friends, members of your writing group. You’ve told people to be honest with you and know that some of them have because you feel like the comments in the margins of your Word document should be in glaring red and some of them make you see that colour.

Then you get over your anger because, as a writer, you have to be able to handle criticism; chances are very good that it will only get worse.  So you suck it up, carefully consider what your focus group has said, make your final adjustments, and start the process of querying.  At this point I’m going to talk about my own experiences so far with my most recently completed manuscript, ‘A Blush of Magic.’ As I have previously mentioned in other blogs, the feedback from agents and publishers, in one case, has been quite mixed.

Sourcebooks, who will accept un-agented manuscripts, said it had a good, solid foundation and enchanting accents; they had nothing really negative to say about it, only that it didn’t fit in with what they published. All in all a good start. Then I had a partial manuscript request from an agent; she liked it but felt the romance didn’t move quickly enough. Another agent requested a full manuscript and felt I should clean it up, cut big parts of the story. I’m assuming that she wanted me to cut those parts that didn’t directly contribute to the romance, but doing that, I felt, would change do too much to of the story, what I wanted to say, what my characters had to say. ‘A Blush of Magic’ is definitely a romance, but that’s not all it is. It’s about a woman struggling to overcome a debilitating social anxiety disorder, finding out who she is, discovering a family, overcoming a difficult problem.

And that, it seems, is my problem.  According to Wikepedia, ” Novels in this (romance0 genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people…”  And if your book, as mine did, strays outside these constraints even a wee bit, you’ve gone into dangerous territory, territory that, in general, agents and publishers want to stay far away from (at least until you’ve published a few best sellers then I’d imagine that you have a bit more freedom).

This issue became even more apparent in a comment from a publisher on my first manuscript, ‘Running from Fate.’ It was apparently a solid plot, but the tone was uneven, mixing elements of both the contemporary and suspenseful categories of romance, which would apparently make it difficult to market. What’s wrong with that I say? What about comedic relief. When they’ve lost the bad guys for a bit, why can’t the characters take a little break from the stress, dance together, play together, just decompress.

I’ve been stressing over this issue, wondering how I change my already finished works to more closely fit the parameters, worrying that I’ll never get published, doubting my own abilities. And it has played havoc with my creativity, my confidence, my writing. It was something I didn’t even realize until a few weeks ago when I was sitting on the bus and had a flash that I haven’t had in good long while: the germ of a new story. And God how I’d missed that buzz, the excitement, the quick-fire thoughts that I had to get down immediately or lose them. I realized then that I had allowed all the reasons that I had started writing in the first place to become a distant speck, where they were barely even recognizable.

And then I picked up a book by Sherrilyn Kenyon and found something interesting in the author’s note. She says that, prior to this book, she had published six books in one year, but hadn’t sold one book in four years because the genre she was writing in (paranormal/futuristic) had become passée (my words). Then she wrote a book that specifically had everything a ‘marketable’ book of the time should have, but it received a scathing rejection and made her realize something: that she “…didn’t want to succeed by trying to play by other people’s ‘rules.'”  If she was going to fail it would be by writing books that she wanted to write. (Excerpt taken from “Born of Fire” by Sherrilyn Kenyon).

Why can’t I colour outside the lines?

Happy writing,

Rose Connelly

As a note: I will continue to look for an agent for “A Blush of Magic,” but I’m going to give publishing “Running from Fate” as a Kindle ebook a try. I still have to get a cover designed (thankfully I have friends and family members who are artists) and figure out how to market it (for free preferably), but it’s worth a shot.

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