Tuesday, February 26, 2013

That Fine Line Between Cookie-Cutter, and So Far Out There That Nobody Gets You...

This post is really just blather. I'm wasting time, you see. Because I ought to be writing. But I have queries out, and so far they're either gathering dust in agents' inboxes (no offense, agents are busy, just saying) or they're crawling back home with rejections tied to their collars. And because all of these rejections are related to the contemporary which *seemed* like the slightly different, yet completely marketable, 'safe' but unique manuscript that I thought would at least get plenty of interest, I'm now procrastinating on working on any of my WIPs.

It's not that I don't love them, or that I suddenly think that they're worthless and ought to be abandoned. It's just that my emotions are snagging on first one, and then another, and as a result I'm not getting much on any of them done.

My question is: How do you define that line between 'expected' and 'too strange to risk'?

Some authors say 'Go for it! No matter how out there, just get it on paper!' Others say 'Plan things. If you're trying to break into the market, don't go writing stories about aliens who crossbreed with unicorns that fart fire and need human DNA to solve their metabolic problems, because agents/publisher aren't likely to take a risk on such a crazy idea, if you're also a debut author.'

No, I don't have any WIPs that involve aliens or fire-farting unicorns.

My point is that it's hard for those of us still trying to break into the game to know precisely where to focus. Besides the old adage to write what you love.

Do I try to settle on the new contemporary inspired by Beauty and the Beast, which involves kidnapping Carnies and a girl with a bad attitude?

Do I dig into the paranormal with the girl who goes on the run from her zealot uncle and finds refuge with a foul mouthed big-hearted satyr and his equally unexpected friends?

There are others, as well.

I *thought* I had a good game plan in place. Wrote a dystopian (I write YA, so everything is YA, regardless of subgenera) which got tons of requests and so much interest that I expected it to be 'the one' but it turned out not to be (which is totally okay). While I was querying the dystopian, I wrote a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which was different, but classically styled and not wildly out there and was subsequently only queried a few times because interest in retellings seemed to be focused on REALLY different (like CINDER, by Marissa Meyer <3 p="">
Then I wrote a contemporary. It was unique. But marketable. Intriguing but not off-puttingly weird. And yet, it hasn't gotten any notice, really. No requests.

So what's the difference? My writing has improved (as per my crit partners, who are the sort that would tell me if that weren't the case) the story is FAR more desirable, and marketable (most agents aren't even looking at dystopian now) and by all reasonable thinking this ms *should* be getting requests, at least for partials. And I'm left wondering if it's my writing, or just random bad luck.

I don't obsess over these things, mind you. But sometimes when I'm dithering over what to work on, I do digress into pondering over what, exactly, it is that makes agents get excited over something. I know, I know, sometimes something just grabs them from within a manuscript. But BEYOND that, what makes them lean toward requesting something they know isn't an easy sell in the market, and passing on something that *seems* to fit what agents are requesting.

These are things the answers to which I'll probably every know, and that's okay. But I'll keep asking, just the same. And in the meantime, I'll try to pick between Lusus Naturae, and Kiss The Devil. And hopefully, I'll get one of them written sometime before the turn of the century...


  1. You had me at "unicorns that fart fire" and now I can't focus on anything else because that visual is amazing :)

    Christi Corbett

  2. It is hard to focus sometimes when you're waiting for news on one (or more) of your babies. I'm sure you'll get back into your WiPs soon.