by Lillian Csernica on July 10, 2014
When I started writing I’d go nuts with a new idea. I’d sit there with my pen and notebook or I’d be at the keyboard just going at it like lightning. Some ideas were big enough to carry me along for days. The characters just kept talking or fighting or having adventures. The worlds kept opening up to me, demanding a record of all their details. I’d end up with some really hot stuff, but a lot of it was middle, sometimes an ending. I had to go back and figure out the whole story so I could fit this smokin’ hot piece of writing into it.
These days I’m a little more cautious. I watch the sound and fury inside my head and think about it for a while. Novel or short story? One book or three? One genre? More than one? I tend to evaluate my ideas in terms of marketability. While this is a practical approach, it also takes some of the fun out of that first rush of inspiration. I do think about the nuts and bolts such as plot and character. Those can also be approached from a marketing standpoint first. A lot of editors want to see POC characters, LGBT characters, and stories that speak to what happens in their lives.
If somebody asked me, “So where is the best place to start?” I’d have to say, “What do you want? Where are you in your writing, and where do you want to go?” When you have a new character that you’re all excited about, run with it. Interview him or her. Let that character talk to you and tell you the kind of stories your best friend might tell you at 3 a.m. after a long night and some hard times. It doesn’t matter how much or how little of this material you use.
IT’S ALL WRITING, and WRITING IS GOOD.
Then there’s the other approach. You’re watching the market listings. You see a new anthology that wants stories about capturing endangered alien species for the Intergalactic Breeding Program. It just so happens you wrote a paper on the rare Checkerboard Chameleon that is rumored to live out in the wilds of Madagascar. Looks like you’ve got what you need to start building a submission for that market.
Step back for a minute.
Yes, you have serious knowledge about a rare species and its habitat. Have you been to Madagascar yourself? If you have, fabulous. If you haven’t, you can probably work around that. Do you have field experience going out and capturing live specimens? If not, you’re probably going to want to talk to somebody who’s done it and knows the pitfalls. Then you have to write the story, and rewrite it, and maybe have your expert look it over. When the story is done, you send it off to the market and cross your fingers. Your personal credentials will help, but the bottom line is the story.
All of this takes TIME.
What happens if that market rejects the story? Here you have this custom-built piece of fiction that represents a whole lot of time and energy. Are there any other markets out there where this story might stand a good chance of being accepted?
Now we have come full circle. That is the magic question you want to ask yourself BEFORE you sink all that time and energy into writing the story.
If the answer is yes, there are at least five or six other markets where your story fits the guidelines, then go for it. Be realistic. Don’t stretch the boundaries of likelihood just because you’re all hot and bothered about this one story idea.
If the answer is no, fall back and rethink your approach. There may be other markets where your expertise will give your odds a boost, and the story you come up with will have broader marketability potential. Maximize your investment of time, energy, research, and submission duration.
Passion, inspiration, drive, are all important to the creative process. Marketing strategy is crucial for business success. Knowing how to walk the line between them takes experience. The more you write, the more you submit your stories, the more you learn about yourself, your work, and the business of writing.
May your burning desire to write remain an eternal flame.