Chasing the Market...

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress

Chasing the Market...

Postby Bohemienne » 18 Mar 2010, 07:16

I'm having an existential crisis with my fantasy series. I've long been tinkering and tweaking forever with my worldbuilding, trying to make a magical but believable universe, with magic and industry and political strife and cultural clashes and all the fun that that entails. But as a Russian Studies major and a die-hard Russophile, a lot of the foundation I've built the main kingdom of my series on has been "Russia circa 1905, but with magic and demons." This is an oversimplification but it's where I started the process.

The more I've been reading, and the more I've been writing and rewriting and re-re-re-rewriting, trying to bring more authenticity to the global struggles in my universe, the more frustrated I get. I wonder if people will ever give a damn about my universe. Epic fantasy seems on the way out. Urban fantasy, however, is on the rise; steampunk, historical fiction/fantasy, and all those subgenres are growing and growing, and more accessible than ever. My inner editor keeps nagging at me: Why not just set the damn thing in Russia, circa 1905, and throw in all the fun supernatural elements you want?

Then, of course, would come the heartache of rewriting everything with that in mind; altering geographies, histories, readjusting my storyline to tie in better with actual history, or going the speculative fiction route; rectifying historical figures with some of the archetypes I already have in place in my story...

...and then, of course, by the time I've done this, I'm sure epic fantasy will be back "in" again and agents will take one look at my query and roll their eyes.

Is it preposterous to try to rework a story this way, for improved authenticity and marketability? Or would I save myself more heartache in the long run? What would you guys do?
User avatar
Bohemienne
 
Posts: 46
Joined: 12 Feb 2010, 11:06
Location: Washington, DC

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby Bryan Russell/Ink » 18 Mar 2010, 07:45

I'd write what I want to write. If you're not doing that, well, all the rest becomes less meaningful.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com
User avatar
Bryan Russell/Ink
Moderator
 
Posts: 430
Joined: 20 Dec 2009, 20:44

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby polymath » 18 Mar 2010, 07:53

Vampires, zombies, dragons, epic quests, all their well-worn motifs and tropes and themes, spawn reimagining of their inherent meanings. They enjoy breakout success when they take a fresh perspective, even when they're widely reviled from being passe.

Stoker's Dracula, a literal bloodsucking parasite, a figurative idle aristocrat living off the hard work of his subects. Anne Rice portraying vampires as a fading legacy of noble aristocracy. Stephenie Meyer portraying vampires as emotionally parasitic social cliques, social elites, werewolves as elite athletes. Unless I miss my guess, drug-abusing heads might be zombies in a future installment. What she might do with intellectual cliques is anyone's guess.

It's theme that unifies a story. All the imaginative world building in the world without a unifying theme only results in a travelogue depicting a wonderous but disjointed milieu.

It occurs to me that a fantastical 1905 Russian milieu might take a theme from the era and reimagine it. Say, somewhat in the vein of Orwell's Animal Farm's allegorical take on the failings of socialism, but from the beginning rather than the impending end or depicting the ending of Tsarist Russia, or the possibilities are endless. From a historical perspective, the Russo-Japanese war holds great storytelling potential mostly because it's not foremost in today's public consciousness, but was foremost in its day.

Who or what is the villain? A social dilemma from war somewhat similar to Tolstoy's War and Peace? Grand scales require grand sweeps of settings and multiple viewpoint characters. In other words, epic quests. What's the goal of the quest? Lord of the Rings' goal is destruction of the One Ring. Though Tolkien despised allegory, he couldn't avoid it altogether. My intrepretation of the One Ring is it's a symbol for the tyrrany of empires. Frodo then is a symbol for the noble spirit of a modest, larger-than-life individual facing insuperable obstacles.

Whether epic quests are in or not is in my opinion meaningless. All it takes is an imaginative and fresh perspective of what's gone before going in a new direction.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1800
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby mmcdonald64 » 18 Mar 2010, 08:12

Ink wrote:I'd write what I want to write. If you're not doing that, well, all the rest becomes less meaningful.


I agree with this. I'm having trouble with my first novel too, in that it really doesn't fit in a neat little genre package, but it's what I wanted to write and I'm glad I did it. I may never sell it, but I don't think it was a waste of time.

It sounds like the OP put tons of thought and effort into the manuscript and I think it's pretty cool to use what is a real setting and layer it with fantasy.
User avatar
mmcdonald64
 
Posts: 99
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 15:57

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby bcomet » 18 Mar 2010, 08:32

Bohemienne wrote:I'm having an existential crisis with my fantasy series. I've long been tinkering and tweaking forever with my worldbuilding, trying to make a magical but believable universe, with magic and industry and political strife and cultural clashes and all the fun that that entails. But as a Russian Studies major and a die-hard Russophile, a lot of the foundation I've built the main kingdom of my series on has been "Russia circa 1905, but with magic and demons." This is an oversimplification but it's where I started the process.


I think your world sounds intriguing. And if it intrigues you, if it causes you, the writer, to dream into it, it will take the reader on a journey too.

Following trends is futile. Trends are fickle and change.

Follow the magic. Write from your heart and with all of your senses alive.

Polymath wrote about Emily Dickinson's plight in a recent thread. In the end, you have to write what you want to write or you will lose yourself and that will leave you in a worse existential crisis.

It sounds like you have already written this novel.
Perhaps you can move on to the next with other ideas or ways to blend your worlds, but while coming up for air to see what is going on in the real world has its place, don't let it change who you are. If you can't dance to the current music, don't. Listen to what is playing–or wanting to be heard–inside you and dance to that.
bcomet
 
Posts: 581
Joined: 23 Jan 2010, 12:11

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby gonzo2802 » 18 Mar 2010, 10:18

The problem with changing the bulk of your story (and I think the setting/world in which the story takes place is a bulky part) in order to fit the market is that it's ever changing thing. Groups of good stories -- or in some cases, a single good story -- tend to create the market for those things, rather than the other way around.

Harry Potter didn't sell big, because it fit into a created market. It created a market, because it sold big.

Twilight wasn't the first vampire romance story, and it won't be the last. Vampire romance is popular right now, because of the success of Twilight. New writers were drawn to the idea and even existing writers were getting hints from their editors and agents at the beginning of the craze. Eventually, the craze will die down ... until the next new vampire book that captures everyone's attention is released (I'm convinced vampires are a permanent fixture in literature and not a fad... and I'm actually happy about that, because I love them, but I digress)

That was my long way of saying, I agree with the others. If you write what you enjoy and the world is interesting and colorful to you, then odds are it will be interesting and colorful to others as well. If you try to write to what you think other people will want, then your world will seem flat, cliche and it will be out of fashion before you get there.
User avatar
gonzo2802
 
Posts: 105
Joined: 08 Mar 2010, 15:33

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby marilyn peake » 18 Mar 2010, 11:29

Your post drew me right in. Your writing style is intelligent; your educational background and ideas for your novel are intriguing. You may be writing a great book. As others have already commented, I think you can take your novel in any of several directions. The important thing is that you create a cohesive world for your novel, that everything makes sense in the world you’re creating. If you’re not going to stick to real history, that should be clear from the novel itself. It shouldn’t look like you’re trying to write about real history but didn’t get all the facts correct, although there are ways around even that. Cherie Priest explained in the background information for her steampunk novel, BONESHAKER, that she actually blended different times in history because she needed to borrow certain elements from a time further into the future. One example is that there weren’t as many people in Seattle during the time in which BONESHAKER is set, and she needed more people for her story. Good luck to you! Your novel sounds fascinating.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.
User avatar
marilyn peake
 
Posts: 304
Joined: 07 Dec 2009, 14:29

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby Holly » 18 Mar 2010, 12:36

Bohemienne wrote:. My inner editor keeps nagging at me: Why not just set the damn thing in Russia, circa 1905, and throw in all the fun supernatural elements you want?


My sci-fi/urban fantasy novel takes place in Washington, D.C. I didn't choose D.C. because of the urban fantasy trend. When we moved to a small town several years ago, I wrote about D.C. because that's where my heart is and that's the place I know inside and out.

Like everybody else says, write what you want to write. I think you want to set your story in Russia.

The big questions:
How much work have you done so far versus how much work would it take to change everything?
Would you feel overwhelmed if you decide to Go Russian, or would you feel happy?

I want to close with a phrase in Russian, but I don't know any...
User avatar
Holly
 
Posts: 500
Joined: 21 Dec 2009, 19:42
Location: Gettysburg, PA

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby eringayles » 18 Mar 2010, 17:37

I have fun resurrecting my old rejections. One, a contemporary romance has just finished its morphing into a paranormal. 15 yrs ago it was a so-so, now my agent is really enthusiastic. I've had a face lift, and I know what it can do for you. Does the same for a book, I suppose . . .
When I read your post, the first thing that came to mind was parallel worlds. With your knowledge of Russia, you might be able to blend the real with the fantasy.
Neil Gaimen's 'Neverwhere', Brian Lumley ( I think he set one between Russia and a fantasy world - not sure), Steven King with Peter Straub 'The Talisman', Moorcock's 'War Among the Angels' (possibly not a perfect fit, but wonderful aura). These books might give you that aura experience that triggers motivation. If not, there are some good 'parallel world' sites.
Turn a problem into a writing adventure!
Have fun.
User avatar
eringayles
 
Posts: 69
Joined: 01 Mar 2010, 19:29

Re: Chasing the Market...

Postby r louis scott » 18 Mar 2010, 17:39

To think much more practically for just a moment, let's say that you queried your book today and were signed with an agent by the beginning of May. The agent might suggest some changes and there would be some back and forth and after all of that, let's say that for the sake of argument, you had a book that you and your agent were happy with by the end of November. He shops it to an editor that he thinks would love it but that guy gives it a pass. Your agent decides to wait until after the holidays to try again and after a round or two of submissions, your book is picked up by Big Books Inc. at the end of March 2011. They decide to bring it out with their fall sales so by the time the book you finished today gets on the shelves at The Big Book Store and Amazon (provided amazon is still on speaking terms with Big Books Inc.) it is almost a year and a half later.

Now tell me, what was the big thing in books a year and a half ago?

Can't remember off the top of your head, can you?

Seriously, chasing the market is impossible. Write your story and write it well.

Good luck.
r louis scott
 
Posts: 118
Joined: 14 Dec 2009, 17:36


Return to All Things Writing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

cron