Studying the Market: Then and Now (Part I)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When I first started writing, researching the publishing market meant this:

1. Going into a bookstore on the way home from school.

2. Scanning the shelves of the YA section, especially the books on special displays that were selling REALLY well. (I was already reading blogs at that time, and I knew I needed to get a sense of what was out there. I didn’t want to walk into the writing world wearing a blindfold.)

3. Looking at covers, reading book blurbs and the first few sentences of the first pages.

4. Drawing conclusions. (Note: At the time I wasn’t paying much attention to writing style and that stuff yet. This was probably a good thing since it can be overwhelming, and the important thing then was to start writing.)

Results: The most popular YA books had 3 things: (Yes, it was that easy! Lol)



I. Death/murder, or at least the threat of one or the other.

II. Romance (the more impossible, the better.)

III. Something special about the main character. (Ability, circumstances, etc.)

I headed home with my newfound knowledge, but if just made me sad and dragged me down. What if I didn’t want to write about any of those things? In fact, knowing that I should probably try to write about them made me want to write about them even less.

Blogs were saying: Write the novel you want to read. Write the novel you want to write.

I abandoned my research. I was going to write the story I wanted to.


A year and a half later, I’ve written a novel that has: death and murder, and the threat of both, as well as romance and a special main character. I never forced the story to bend so that it would include those aspects. But it did. I had even forgotten about my “research.” Weird? Maybe. It’s possible that on a subconscious level those elements stuck with me.

So my advice here is: Don’t force your novel to follow a trend, but Do observe the market.

How about you? Do you study the market? What kind of novels do you write?

You Can Change It Later

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Today’s post is in the spirit of silliness and making people feel better about their writing. These are all problems that you may or may not find in my first draft.

Your Main Character’s love interest morphs from the nice, helpful guy you planned into a weird, over-controlling pervert with an eye twitch.

That’s OK! You can change it later.

Your Main Character has absolutely no reaction to major, life changing events because you’re too busy writing the rest of the scene and keeping all the details straight.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

One of the Bad Guys is obviously NOT a Bad Guy, but your Main Character doesn’t realize this simply because YOU TOLD HER NOT TO.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your main characters makes no decisions and just lets stuff happen to them like they’re on a roller coaster.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your Main Character has one of three reactions: smiling, sighing or feeling sick to her stomach.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your book is getting too long so you cut it short, but the ending isn’t really there anymore.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

You describe minute details of the characters life like the smell of soap in the bathroom, and how they brush their hair, and put their clothes on, and end the scenes/chapters with them going to bed for the night.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your scenes have no Objective, Obstacle, or Outcome because you didn’t know they were supposed to.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your Main Character has no motive and sometimes just decides to do stuff because that’s what the plot calls for. (Wait, when did someone give them the script?)

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your Main Character comes to conclusions right on the spot that should take a long time of reflection and are based on the concepts from your first year Psych course, (which your MC never took).

That’s okay. You can change it later.

Your Main Character conveniently finds passages, letters, maps, as well as overhears conversations so that the plot can work.

That’s okay. You can change it later.

And finally, as well as possibly worse of all, the MC and friend’s plans towards the end of the novel are far-fetched and ridden with holes, but they get away anyway due to lucky circumstances. (Hero has to win, right?)

Say it with me, everybody! That’s OK! You can change it later.

That’s all I can think of. (Like that’s not enough, right?)

How about you? What problems may or may occur in your first drafts?

Harry Potter and the Importance of Comic Relief

Thursday, October 6, 2011

JK Rowling's inspiration?
Photo by CharNewcomb via Flickr

I recently went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and unsurprisingly I loved it.

I mean, I’ve been a fan of Harry Potter since we read Sorcerer's Stone in class in grade 6 and have been reading the books ever since, practically growing up alongside Harry and watching all the movies and everything. Not quite dressing up and going to the midnight book releases, but still a fan. When someone talks about Harry Potter, I feel like they’re talking about an old friend, not just a fictional character. (Wow, it felt wrong to write Harry Potter and fictional character in the same sentence. Oh no, I just wrote it again.)

After my long and roundabout intro of my love for Harry Potter, I want to get to the point of this post—comic relief. Because that was one of the biggest things that struck me when I watched this last movie. I tend to watch a lot of comedies, so there are jokes here and there, and generally all the time. Harry Potter, of course, is far from a comedy so the few funny situations really stood out to me and made me think.

Since this was the last movie and the second half of the last book in the series, it was very, very tense all the time, nearly-death situations everywhere, getting-away-at-the-nick-of-time type of thing, and frankly, if it hadn’t been for the few comic situations dispersed throughout the movie, I would have totally burned out. But I didn’t and I totally account it on that. Those moments provided an opportunity for the tension to drop so that it could start building up again. And that’s something we need to consider in our novels. Varying the level of tension and being aware of it.

What about you? Do you pay attention to this in your writing? Any tips?

Has Anybody Seen My… Voice?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When I first started writing, I was very afraid that I would lose my voice (the one in my writing). I would write half a novel, maybe even three-quarters of one, and then I would read a book with a strong voice in it and it would alter mine, leaving the rest of my book inconsistent. I’ve read about other writers having a similar concern, and I can understand why. After reading 300-400pg novel with a strong voice over several days, I usually start to think with a different beat, inserting words that were used a lot in the book. It’s most obvious with older books, especially when I start saying “thus” out loud.

(Now, some of you might argue that what I’m describing isn’t exactly what voice is, and since it’s such a slippery topic, you’re right. Voice is much more than that. Come back Friday for a post discussing voice. However, I did not understand this at the time so I was worried.)

My solution was—avoid reading books. Now, I love reading, so this wasn’t a good solution for me at all. It lasted for almost half a year while I wrote my first draft, but eventually I had to read. I missed it too much. So I went ahead and dug into a book, and it was great to read again. The next day I approached my draft, wrote a few pages, and my writing wasn’t really that altered. My voice was still there! Some of the word choices were affected by what I had just read, but that was okay. In fact, writing was easier than usual. The words flowed better and I wrote faster. Reading helps you write! This is probably old news to a lot of you, but for me at the time it was a pretty big discovery. Sure, I had read books that told you to read a lot if you want to be a writer and that it will help you with your writing, but I never really grasped the extent of what they meant till that morning.

How about you? What surprises have you had on your writing journey (or with other learning experiences)? Did you have any fears that turned out not to be necessary?

Note: Great giveaway over at Seeing Creative, Stina Lindenblatt’s blog. She’s celebrating reaching 500 followers and the prizes include Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook as well as first chapter critiques!