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How did you decide WHAT to write?

(44 Posts)
KinkyDorito Fri 19-Feb-16 10:49:45

I have so many starts, so many ideas, but I'm not sure what to work on.

I've got several half-finished children's novels, literary fiction, chick-lit type fiction, Gothic, fantasy... I like all of my stories, but don't know what my strength is and I never finish anything!

I read very widely, including children's books, so I don't feel particularly drawn to any specific genre.

Did people on here just have that one big idea?

How did you decide who your audience was and what your particular writing niche is?

ImperialBlether Fri 19-Feb-16 11:11:38

Kinky, I think this is the biggest problem for a writer and it leads to several sets of first three chapters, with nothing finished.

Until you make a decision, you won't get anywhere with it, because the chance of getting a publisher interested in you when you're wanting to write such a variety of work is really slim. Yes, if you're well known and published a lot, you could change genre and perhaps move between the two, but when you're starting up that just won't happen.

They spend a lot of time marketing an author and they want you to stay within a genre so that they can do that effectively. I suppose you could work on two genres under two names, but that would be a lot of work when a publisher is wanting you to dedicate your time to a book.

I was told pretty firmly that my next novel had to be within the suspense genre. That was fine for me and I would've done it anyway, but I think my agent would've backed out of the contract if I'd insisted the next one was chick lit.

I'd just pick one that I enjoyed and stick with it for a couple of books at least. Actually, children's books (particularly a series) are really in demand at the moment, so you could go by that rather than what you particularly want to write.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Fri 19-Feb-16 11:15:00

The best advice I ever got was 'you are going to be spending a lot of time with this idea so make sure it has legs'.

And within that, yes, there are weeks when you are going to be bored with it and fed up with it and a bit over it, but you have to keep going.

Pick one idea. Sit with it for a month. Play around with it in your head. Then commit to completing the first draft of that story, whatever form it takes.

There's no law to say the thing after that has to be the same genre, but finishing has to be the goal, or you'll never get to the end of anything.

#Toughlove by the way, because I'm struggling with this myself - 60,000 words and a year later I'm so 'meh' about my novel. But I will finish it!

KinkyDorito Fri 19-Feb-16 11:57:22

thanks to both of you for your replies. They are really helpful.

My most recent outing is about 20,000 words of a 9-12 novel, so will persevere with that.

Just the act of actually finishing something will do me good. I'm 37 this year, so have effectively spent 30 years just faffing about! grin

ImperialBlether Fri 19-Feb-16 12:01:33

Lonny, there's no law that says the next thing has to be the same genre but I don't think an agent will touch you if it's going to be very different.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 19-Feb-16 13:30:10

I never had trouble finding my genre but I think if I had, I would be brutally pragmatic and write whatever, out of the various genres I felt comfortable in, was most likely to sell.
I might also sit down and ask myself what I was likely to have an edge in. For instance, if I was a teacher I would write for the age group I taught, if I had worked in law I would use that to write legal thrillers, etc.
I might also consider whether I saw myself self - or trade published and pick a genre that sold well in my preferred mode of publishing. Eg if you want to self publish you're better off writing scifi than middle grade.

HarrietVane99 Fri 19-Feb-16 13:49:21

I think it's fine to play around with different genres when you're starting out, while you find out your strengths as a writer, and what genre suits you best. And a lot of authors do write in more than one genre, under different names. But starting out, whether self or traditionally published, you need to think of yourself as a brand name known for a particular type of product.

When you're just beginning, there does come a time when you have to sit down and finish something, even if you've lost enthusiasm for it, even if you decide in the end it's not the right genre for you.

I moved through historical romance, historical romantic mystery, to historical mystery/crime and multi-period mysteries with no or minimal romance, which is where I feel comfortable now. It was a process I had to go through to find out what I wanted to write.

KinkyDorito Fri 19-Feb-16 14:04:46

For instance, if I was a teacher I would write for the age group I taught, this, really. Because I'm reading 11-16 frequently (seeing it as two distinct age categories, 9-12 and YA), I'm probably best cracking on with that. I've just spent a couple of hours re-reading what I'd done on latest venture before Christmas and it does have strong bits. I'm not seeing it all as total rubbish, so think I will continue.

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't be following the 'write for yourself' adage, but not sure that will work well for me. I do tend to get further with the stuff I write for children.

I'm time poor and I regularly have a panic that this is all a waste of time even though I love it.

Thanks again all. smile

HarrietVane99 Fri 19-Feb-16 14:19:12

Well the thing about writing, and especially thinking about your work, is that it can be fitted in round other commitments. In the shower, on the train, eating lunch, doing the ironing or the washing up. I do some of my best thinking about plots while walking the mile back from the supermarket, and I'm getting exercise too!

And it doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. Basic laptop, couple of USB drives for backing up your work (you do make regular backups, I hope), pens and paper, and you're off.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Fri 19-Feb-16 16:47:12

Oh, I agree with you when it comes to getting published etc Imperial, but when you're just finding your voice then I think there's no harm in switching it up a bit.

KinkyDorito Fri 19-Feb-16 20:52:15

Thanks all for helping me climb from my rut. I've re-read all my story so I'm back into it, written a couple more thousand words and am finally flowing.

I'm still not sure it will be the right thing for me, but will focus on just getting it done.

thanks smile

ImperialBlether Fri 19-Feb-16 21:44:21

Kinky, I think "getting it done" is nearly all of the battle! That's great that you are now back in it. I agree with the Countess (love saying that) that you should look at where there are gaps in the market that you can fill with the skill you have.

Lonny, you're right, I'm too focused at the moment on getting published. It is important to find out what you like to write and not think about getting published at that stage.

Best of luck, Kinky.

KinkyDorito Fri 19-Feb-16 22:25:33

Thank you Imperial. smile

MissBattleaxe Sun 21-Feb-16 11:14:17

I think it's best not to overthink it before you start writing. Get stuck in and let yourself get carried away. If you're really passionate about a story, it will start unfolding. The best way is to just write, and don't worry about if it's any good until you've finished it. Then go back and edit it about a hundred times.

There are thousands of aspiring writers who have several piles of three chapter novels, get further than them and keep going!

Good luck.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 21-Feb-16 11:18:05

I agree very much with Imperial and MissBattleaxe. The next big hurdle you need to get over is 'finishing a first draft', if you haven't done that before.

EricNorthmanSucks Sun 21-Feb-16 13:15:59

I was very lucky in that what I wanted to write was very commercial: crime fiction.

And I didn't worry too much about the future as I didn't expect a publishing deal grin.

As it happened I did get a deal ( 3 books initially ) so that was me locked in for the next two years.

I then went on to write another five. It's a good job I love crime fiction.

Currently I'm writing a speculative novel for the YA market ( and the script ) but this was a hard sell to begin with. Publishers are very conservative.

I had to get the film project together first, before a publisher would take the chance!

TiggyD Sun 21-Feb-16 13:17:40

-I've worked with nursery children for 20 years.
-I enjoy rhyming and seem quite good at it. Love Donaldson books, and Dr Seuss.
-I really enjoy being very silly indeed.

Kind of obvious where I'm going writing wise. One book about silly made up facts about cows, one about a person who's house gets infested with giraffes, and one called "24 ways to die before you're 8". The last is done in a silly way but it does address serious issues and is hopefully a fun way to talk to children about risks and dangers.

I've also written a couple of TV sitcom scripts.

The phrase that helped me the most was "Don't get it right. Get it writ". Finishing something with enough words/the right length is key, then the saying "writing is re-writing" comes into play. Good luck.

The Problem With Giraffes

A Book Of Increasingly Inaccurate Facts About Cows

ImperialBlether Sun 21-Feb-16 14:28:37

Tiggy, did you get your poetry published? Did you sell your scripts? It must be nice writing such different things.

ImperialBlether Sun 21-Feb-16 14:29:49

Eric, I love reading crime novels. Am I likely to have read your books?

TiggyD Sun 21-Feb-16 15:08:53

Imp, no luck yet. Script writing is more or less impossible to get into. With the poetry I'm getting together enough to send to agents/publishers/victims at the moment. A lot want to see 3 books worth minimum.

I do like the way you can write something in a morning, then start on another in the afternoon idea with children's books. I have a very short attent...ooh a shiny thing...

ImperialBlether Sun 21-Feb-16 15:21:27

Have you seen the BBC Writers' Room site? They used to accept scripts throughout the year but now they have two dates - comedy in March and drama in the autumn. It's well worth sending something off there.

MissBattleaxe Sun 21-Feb-16 17:06:18

YY to BBC Writer's Room. They are actively looking to develop promising scriptwriters and if you miss the submission rounds, there are often competitions.

If it could be done on a stage, you can always put it on yourself. I've done this.

Helmetbymidnight Sun 21-Feb-16 17:16:02

I'm a bit hmm at the writers room now. I've been 'second sifted' twice but it seems fairly meaningless. Even those who've got further aren't exactly getting produced. (With exception of a children's show - wolf blood)

All competitions of course are good in that you have to really polish and think about your script but I'm still unconvinced about writers room.

The poetry looks great tiggy. Have you heard of James carter? He visited the dc school (we all bought his books!) and he did a really good workshop. I think if you present yourself as someone who can do brilliant kids wkshops etc you're half way there.

EricNorthmanSucks Sun 21-Feb-16 19:27:41

imperial I doubt it you've heard of me or read my books grin.

That said, one thing I know for sure. You can make a very successful career for yourself as a writer without being a household name.

In fact I bet I sell more books and make more money than some household names in lit fic.

Re scripts. There is also the annual Red Planet Prize. Tony Jordan is very dedicated to finding new voices.

KinkyDorito Sun 21-Feb-16 19:33:53

It's brilliant to read of everyone's experiences. I'm still trying to fight the feeling I'm wasting my time.

Was at about 15,000 words the other day, now over 20,000, but back to work tomorrow so things will be slowing down.

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