Finding your niche.

To write to market, or to write for pleasure? It’s the question that all indies have to ask themselves at some point–particularly if full-time authorship is a goal. I’ve toyed with writing to market, and to be perfectly honest, I just can’t. I hate sci-fi and fantasy, and anything with werewolves, vampires, or the undead just puts me off completely. Zero interest. So genre-wise, I’m in the position of writing what I know I’d like to read myself. People have widely varying opinions on this subject, but I think what you write rings more true if you enjoy the process and if you’d read the product yourself, so I’m not even considering dipping my toes into a genre that bores me.

I’ve had one story in particular that I’ve written and re-written a number of times since I started it back in 2009, and its current incarnation barely resembles the original draft, save for the location and genre. The characters’ names have changed, the idea of it being a single title romance has faded–I’ve even gone back-and-forth with present or past tense (and settled on present tense, which feels more immediate to me.)

What I have now is the first book in what I hope will be a long series, as I get lost in the place and the people every time I open my laptop and start to write. It’s set on a fictional island off the coast of Florida (a holiday-themed island called Christmas Key) and is populated with eccentric retirees, a young, handsome cop named Jake, and Holly Baxter, the island’s thirty-year-old mayor. Holly’s late grandparents bought the island when it was nothing but an untamed jungle floating in the middle of the sea, and over the years it’s developed into a rustic community with plans for expansion and tourism. The only real fly in the ointment is Holly’s mother, Coco, who handed her baby over to her own parents to raise when she was a teenager so that she could sow her wild oats. Coco doesn’t have the emotional ties to the island that Holly does, and now she’s got plans of her own to sell the island and turn it into a massive commercial resort–something that the full-time islanders are completely opposed to.

With my final edit still to do and another week or so in the hands of my formatter, I’m trying to be realistic and imagine publishing by April 15th. But in the meantime, I started drafting Book 2 the other day where Book 1 left off, and I’ve never been more happy to be writing the kind of contemporary women’s fiction that I personally enjoy reading. I’d love to hear from other writers–do you ever step outside your own reading area to write what you know will sell, or do you strictly write for the pleasure of turning out work that could stand up next to your favorite authors in your favorite genres?

The hero’s journey.

We’ve started a movie unit in my English classes that’s based on the idea that the hero’s journey is at the heart of every good story. We’ve got the 7 steps of the journey committed to memory, we’ve watched Big Hero 6 and talked about its important messages, and we’ll soon be watching some of the greatest movies of the 80s (Breakfast Club; Ferris Bueller’s Day off; Stand By Me; Goonies) so that I can feel like I actually brought something of substance to these young people’s lives when they leave my class in June.

But now that we’ve turned the theory of the hero’s journey inside out, I’m left wondering how I’ve been missing something so big for so long: my current WIP needs a stronger, more defined hero’s journey. I mean, I like it, it’s okay, I love the setting, the characters are nice enough, but…duh. I’m on the fourth draft, and I just hit the spot where I realized that this is my main character’s “call to adventure,” and it’s not very much of a call at all. She sort of stumbles through this story without ever completing a discernible hero’s journey, and that has to happen. Whether we know it consciously or not, we don’t invest in a story where no one grows and changes. We aren’t interested in a main character who (however flawed) isn’t even the hero of her own life story. So even though I have the cover done and had hoped to publish this one by February 1st (which clearly did not happen), there’s still more work to do. Before I can call it a wrap, my main character needs to slay a dragon or two and return home with an elixir. Her romantic interests and the other people in her life need to clearly be allies or enemies, and there need to be more tests and obstacles.

It’s kind of frustrating when you realize how much more there is to do, but it’s also a relief to discover what’s missing. Bring on the 5th draft!

 

 

Where are we in December?

We’re featured on the wonderful blog shesnovel! We’ve had the good fortune to be interviewed by the lovely and kind Kristen, and it’s so exciting to see our faces in her Featured Novel Writers section. Holly and I have been working away at book #2 in our series, and our goal is to have it done by January.

Fall got away from us as we got used to middle school (Holly) and teaching at a new school (me), but we’re still chipping away at our projects. I’ve got a first draft done (and a second underway) of my own contemporary fiction, and we’re writing together a little bit every day to get the first draft of our book done. I have grand visions of winter break being ultra-productive when it comes to writing, but the minute I start thinking in terms of word count is the minute that I get gloriously off-task, so…we’ll just see what we can crank out!

Happy holidays, and please check us out at shesnovel!

 

Our manuscript is out there!

We finished the first run-through of our manuscript and sent it to three people this weekend, so now we just (im)patiently wait for feedback. I know the best thing to do during this rush of “we just finished a NOVEL!” adrenaline is move on to our next manuscript and keep the creativity flowing, so that’s what we’ll do.

The original idea for this series that we’re working on stemmed from Holly’s love of the American Girl books, and a unit at school last year that introduced her to pioneer girls and their diaries. After talking through what she wanted to write, we came up with an idea for the this series. Each book will be a standalone novel about a young girl who comes to America and lives her own version of the American Dream. Because each protagonist will come from a different country, it gives us the opportunity to research and learn about other parts of the world and other languages, and it also allows us to give some thought to what it’s like to be an outsider, a newcomer, a person who is striving for something and overcoming obstacles. Using fiction to understand life isn’t a new technique by any stretch, and while I know it will benefit Holly as she goes into middle school next year and broadens her own horizons, I figure it can’t hurt me to be reminded that everyone’s struggles are real.

Book 1 is about a girl named Iris from Holland (we’ll get back to her as soon as our first reader reviews come in from my parents and some trusted friends), but in the mean time, we’re starting to think about Book 2. Who will our main character be? Where will she come from and to which state will she go? Letting your characters come to life as you research them is an exciting stage of writing, and one we both enjoyed immensely the first time around. So here we go with a whole new set of characters and themes and places: let the games begin!