Balancing Commercialism & The Story on Your Heart

Monday, October 28, 2013



Having made the decision to self-publish, I’ve benefitted in several ways. I have the freedom to write what I choose, which hasn’t been an easy decision in itself. 

I decided to treat my writing as a business more than a year ago and tested the waters with a collection of stories that medalled in competition. After that, I wrote the story on my heart (a women’s fiction novel), as well as the sequel and still have not completed the third story in that line. It wasn’t the wisest of thing to do, since persons have been asking when that story will be out. Should I mention that the deadline I set myself has passed?

I’m trying to ignore the whispers that say I’m bad for business.

The first book I wrote was Christine’s Odyssey (a middle-grade novel), which came before I had a real handle on my craft. The other middle-grade novel came after I’d branched off and written an action/adventure/romance novel that was closer to what I wanted to write. Both middle-grade books are a thousand percent better now than when I wrote them. I paid for that mistake with bronze medals because of my skill level at the time. Still, I’m grateful that the judges in the competition recognized that the books contained the seeds of something meaningful.

After those books, I received three publishing contracts in a short time. These books were romantic suspense (2) and women’s fiction (1). Time flies quickly, so in short order, I’ll be making decisions on that set of books when I have the rights back.

Now that I’ve put out the fire I felt to get through the MG novels—which by the way were written in 2004 & 2005—I can get back to business. As I write this, the third book in the series is at the smouldering stage. The embers are there, but I don’t have an urgent need to write. I know that MG novels are not the easiest to market and most don’t do well, but the stories I mentioned were the ones I needed to share with the world.

My focus now is on a romance novel and it feels like I should have been back here a long time ago, however, as I said, the MG books were calling. Taking the business angle into consideration, I should have been working on what will sell and I know that is romance. 

However, because of the fact that I have a 9-5 and I love writing on my own terms, I have the luxury of choosing which projects I write this minute.  If I didn’t have a job and was writing full-time, I’d probably make better business decisions—that is, I’d write what sells.
As time goes on, I’ll try to strike a better balance between writing what sells and catering to the stories that demand to be told. I’ve started down that road by making preparing a loose production schedule. I’m going to try to stick as closely to that as I can—seeing as how I’ve had it for a while— while doing my best not to stifle my creativity.

How do you approach your writing? Do you stick to what you think will sell, come hell or high water or do you get pulled off the highway to write what your heart tells you to?

Oh, and I’m hat in hand asking for tweets. See the button below for your tweeting pleasure. And see my cool bit of word art underneath this? Yup, gotta do something to help my latest baby along. I’m sure you agree. All tweets appreciated! You can see what’s been said about my latest child on Amazon



32 comments:

  1. I set a deadline for the 31st of December for my third book in my series. I'm about 90% done with the first draft. I can already tell though (because I've been disinterested as of late) that I'm going to blow past that deadline. I've got a few people asking me periodically when it will be out. I just say "the spring" but it may be later than that.

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    1. Hey, Mike,
      Wonderful that you're closing in on the end of that first draft. I need to stick with deadlines, but you know how it can be. :)

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  2. Do you write what is in your heart or what you think will sell???? I think you have to write what is in your heart and then hope it will sell. I don't know how a person writes a story that they aren't consumed by, in love with, absolutely captivated by the characters and choices. Yes... our first books won't be our best. Each time we go through the process of writing a novel, we become better. So, I can see the need to go back and fine tune those first books. There is a market for MG stories. I hope the work you did on them brings an increase in sales.

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    1. Robin, I know there are people who write stories according to what is hot in the market right now. Like you, I don't understand writing something that I'm not longing to get back to at the end of the day.

      Good thing I was smart enough not to put out those books before I got them to where I wanted them to be.

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  3. I just wrote what I enjoyed and then continued because it sold. I guess that's a good place to be.

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  4. I write what draws me most. Figuring that anything I come up with has the same odds of success, since I'm still mainly unknown. :-D

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  5. I've never market chased. It has always been about writing the stories in my head, although I do have to keep in mind the parameters for the category line I write for.

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  6. I can't write something I don't like. If none of my books sell well then that's just the way the cookie crumbles. I'd rather work 9-5 and write than write something I hate full time.

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  7. After writing both fiction and non-fiction, I now know what sells better, which is another reason my last book was non-fiction.

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  8. I write what I want to read and what I damn well feel like writing! If it sells, great. If not... well, I'm not in this to get rich.

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  9. Definitely a good place to be, Alex.

    Misha, that's a great attitude. I just write that's on my mind at the time. If I try something that I'm not feeling, the words won't flow and I'll likely end up frustrated.

    Rula, good approach that. My female leads are such that I doubt they'd fit into any category line.

    Hi, Sheena, I'd advise any writer not to write to fit a trend. It's gotta be pretty obvious if there's no love in the writing of the story.

    I hear you, Diane. :)

    You go, Bish. That's my approach too. If I'm not bored with the story, then my reader won't be. If I'm bored with it, well...

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  10. I'm just writing whatever comes out!

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  11. Some stories are from the heart, not the head Joy. I think you did the right thing with these two MG stories that just wanted to be out there in the world. I'm sure they will do the good works that you intend them to do.

    And now, these children will not haunt your future works. You can move on with a clear heart, and fond memories of doing what you felt was the right story at exactly the right time.

    I wish you luck with your continuing writing decisions. In my mind, you are doing the best for yourself that can be done. Be proud of your accomplishments - regardless of the payday.

    .......dhole

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  12. The story I'm writing at the moment is way off the highway. I have to keep reminding myself it's a story I need, and want, to tell with all my heart.

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  13. You can follow your heart and still be successful. That's a lesson for life. Tweeted

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  14. Great post as always. You seem to have found a balance of being smart with your writing from start to publication while not diluting your passion for writing. We should all be so well-rounded and educated about the process.

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  15. Donna, it certainly feels like I've gotten a load off by finishing those stories and putting them to bed. :)

    Lynda, I think it's so important to enjoy what we're doing while we're doing it.

    Maurice, that's too. There's no point in doing the things that don't make us happy. Thanks for tweeting!

    Julie, thanks. I do try to do what's calling. The cries do get fainter at times when I leave things for too long. I hope I get to make some changes soon so I'll have more time to write.

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  16. I write what is in my heart to write at the time. I, too, am regretting writing a trilogy. The first two books were so natural, the third (not written) feels like a chore - an arranged marriage - a "have to". I have other projects I want to work on more, but I know I won't be able to until book three has been put to bed.

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    1. Wendy, it's fun to follow my heart and get the story down and out into the world. What you described is exactly what I'm now feeling about that third book. I'm a few chapters in and can't seem to decide that I'm going to sit down and finish it. I only work on it when I'm feeling guilty.

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  17. This is a difficult balance. We all want to be successful and write what's in our hearts, but we don't always get both. I hope you do!

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  18. I write based on what's in my heart, on my mind, and the amount of time I have. You sound busy, busy, busy, but it'll be all good. You're prolific and get things done.

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  19. Emily, true, it's kind of challenging to do what I want when I want. Even when doing that, there are other things calling. :)

    Medeia, it feels like I'm always up to something. Wonder when I'll get used to that.

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  20. Joy, I completely feel in sync with your post today! Indie Publishing is hard work, but I feel like we're paving the way to something we can be proud of.

    I go with my own imagination for ideas, however, I do heaving revise stories to suite my readers -- most of my beta readers are kids and they let me know what they want and then I make sure my manuscript matches their request!

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  21. It sounds like you really have it together, Joy. I'm impressed. I haven't been able to make myself sit down and treat writing like a business. Maybe that will be my New Years resolution. Now, where are those tweets?

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  22. Great post JL! I agree with this whole heartedly!

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  23. Charmaine, that's right. We're building something that will bear fruit some time down the road. It's wonderful to have people in your target market readers in the pre-publication stage. Kids are honest, they'll tell it as it is.

    Gwen, I'm trying though quite often I'm off down a side road doing something that can probably wait. As to the tweets, the twitter icon below is what I meant. It does the job in one click.

    Kelly, thanks so much for dropping in.

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  24. I love your word cloud. I wish I wrote more "in" a particular genre, but I don't. And don't seem to be able to keep the mystery out of my romances and the romance out of my mysteries..

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  25. You are busy, busy, but it seems you have a handle on your writing goals and career. I tend to write what my heart nudges me into. It seems to me that this is when my writing is the most authentic. It is also when I am the happiest.

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  26. Carol, I like it too. :) I guess that particular mixture is what you were meant to write then.

    Cynthia, yes, I do keep busy. I can attest to that. Writing what I like is a pleasure, which is why I don't do much else. I think the fact that I write in several genres keeps boredom away.

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  27. Years ago I wrote a Vietnam political thriller that is very dear to my heart, and yet I couldn't get a contract because every single one of them said nobody's interested in that old war. I'm back querying again because enough time has passed. I guess that answers your question, Joy. I write the stories that come alive in my head and won't leave me alone.

    Great post.

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