Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Plot

By now most people who know me also know that I get most of my ideas from dreams or that hazy little twilight of storytelling I do right before I drift off to sleep. Most of the time—unless the idea is so awesome I'm Jonesing to tell it—I will write a few lines or get the main idea out on paper and come back to it later. Sometimes, much later.

During the time away from the new idea, I write other books, stories, or articles. By the time I get back to the idea the market may have changed, the push for 'something different' nipping at my heels like a rabid Pekinese. So, what to do with these ideas to make them fresh and not only stand out in the current market, but to make them salable? Glad you asked. The answer is very simple- I tweak.

Yes, indeedy folks, you are associating yourselves with a self-confessed tweaker. I can't help myself. And even though I would like to stand up and say, "I write for myself. Not for the market." If I did so, lightning would strike me dead as the worst possible liar. This is what I want as my career, so to that end I do freely admit I do try to watch the market trends and adjust my novels accordingly. That's not to say I will abandon what I like to write and just write what's current or selling. I don't think I could make that big a compromise, but adding popular elements I can do. It helps of course when the market and my interests already mesh.

But back to tweaking...

My current WIP didn't start out as a humorous treasure hunt with a legendary archeological site and a gun-toting ex-boyfriend...it just happened that was what started coming out as I sat down and started writing the outline. The original concept was for a dark romantic suspense featuring a clandestine government agency and black market scuptures...oh, well, I can still do that to another story. When I pulled "Idolatry" out of the conceptual mothballs it had been hiding in since I got the idea, I had thought to turn it into an erotic romance, but somewhere down the line it became a fun romp with humor and, I hope, heart. But that's all right...the important thing in tweaking is to not take your story into a direction it doesn't want to go...and believe me, my characters protested loudly when I suggested the dark romantic romance. Not that the love scenes aren't hot...I'm told they are, but there just aren't as many of them. : )

Since pulling this story and beginning again on it, I've spent probably a total of four months writing it. (That's from outlining and research to actual rough draft). The market hasn't changed in those four months, but it did between original idea and actual writing. Hopefully the tweaking will see it to an editor who can appreciate the fun of the story, and also the more emotional scenes as well. If not...I'll tweak it again and again. After all...it ain't written in stone.

So, how far have you tweaked to get a project marketable? Do you? Or don't you? Would you, or won't you? I'd like to hear other points of view on this.



Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

The market is the ban of my existence. I find that if I look at the market and try to find a niche for my stories, they never get finished. I talk myself out of plots I like because I worry that someone else won't like them. Careerwise, we do have to keep our eyes on the trends, but I've noticed I get more done, and get more published, when I write what pleases me, then worry about where I'm going to submit it, rather than tailor a story to a specific line or publisher. I envy writers who can pick a line to write for and craft a story that perfectly fits what a specific editor is looking for. As soon as I begin to think about how an editor will perceive my work, nine times out of ten, what I've already written gets trashed. I don't know if that's a blessing or a curse...

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

Well that sounds like trying to compromise too much. I won't do that...I kind of have one foot in each yard. I do what pleases me, but bend it to the market. I've looked at different lines before and thought to write for them, but it never ends up working out for me. My characters are much too independant for me to rein them in to fit a specific line.


Cassandra Kane said...

I like it when pubs put out calls for submissions for a project with a very general theme. It sparks off all sorts of story ideas. I rarely end up submitting my story there, but they were the catalyst for the idea.

That said, I wrote a story with one publisher in mind, and re-wrote it for another, turning it into a much longer story. Both stories were fun to write. I think you do need to keep the market in mind if you want to be published. There can be endless variations on a story while it's being written, characters can fly off on all sorts of tangents, but even if you tweak it for a market, it's still your story.

Lynda K. Scott said...

I try to watch the markets but find when I do that I'm always behind...so I mostly write what I want to write. That said, I've just had two rejections on Rider, my latest. One rejection said there wasn't enough heat between the h/h (or that it wasn't believable actually) and the other said there wasn't enough world-building/plot.

Mixed signals? Yeah. I guess I'll just keep on keeping on. Eventually Rider will find a home.