I haven’t really written much in weeks, probably a couple thousand words at the most for a new story that hasn’t really gone anywhere other than a few intro pages. It’s not that I don’t have inspiration, I do. I have a ton of cool story ideas from post-apocalyptic to magical fantasy to horror. The problem is that I find myself in a strange place after having written my last book, which was based on a completely different and unique idea. Now I am worrying whether it was too different.
Too different from what, you ask? Well, the market, or what agents and editors say is hot in the market (especially for debut authors). So here is the dilemma – agents and editors claim to want fresh but it’s fresh with a caveat. They want fresh but not so fresh that it’s not completely identical to everything else selling in the market. Does that sound like a contradiction of terms to you? That’s because it is. How do you find an idea that’s like everything else but still fresh?
I am starting to think that this doesn’t really exist unless I copy what one other young adult author revealed was her secret strategy – to take any (non-original) story and switch up the gender of the characters, giving publishers what they want but being “different” enough. But that doesn’t make it fresh to me, underneath it’s just the same old thing. Wouldn’t readers see right through that? Interestingly, it has worked for her – she’s a best selling author of two young adult books. So is that what agents and editors want, a mash-up of already done, already “proven” ideas? Sounds like it but I don’t think that that’s what readers want, at least I’d like to hope so. I’m a voracious reader myself and when I come upon a new book with an interesting unique different idea, I’m intrigued. Simply put, the world is a diverse place, we need diverse material. Pick any book from the Hugo Awards list and you’ll see some of the diversity I’m talking about.
Anyway, that’s only a snippet of my creative dilemma as I’m sure there are other implications tied in to this like the economic climate (editors not willing to risk their jobs for unknown authors or publishers looking for tried and true), the changing landscape of the publishing industry and the digital ebook revolution, or simple economics of the cost to produce versus sales return. More than likely it’s going to be the Indies (Independent Publishers) that are going to be the ones to find the new stuff or take a chance on niche markets/ideas, but still, that’s but a sliver of the whole. It’s an undeniably daunting prospect for any unconnected unknown writer. The odds are simply not in their favor.
That said, I’m debating whether to do a test project and write the book that fits the mold. Is that selling out? Not entirely sure…but if it means selling something, I don’t have anything to lose. What’s the alternative? To do it yourself and own the onus? That’s certainly an option but that’s a very complicated discussion meant for another time.