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What to write next

November 4, 2009

I didn’t get too much done on my revision today, but I think I got some important sticky points figured out in my head. We’ll see if they work on paper. Fingers crossed.

Even though I’m still revising my second novel, a third novel has been playing around in my head lately. The main character has been chatting to me, and I’ve gotten to know her and her story pretty well. The thing is, the novel is a bit different than my first two, and I’ve been wondering if that’s ok or a bad move.

Interestingly, I read a great article today recommended by Editorial Ass on this very subject. Aprilynne Pike, best-selling author of Wings, wrote about firsts and how it’s important when you’re starting out to know where you want to end up. She said that, for most writers, where you start out in your career is often where you stay.

“Most authors tend to spend their careers in the genre they first break out in, and at the level at which they break out at. Bestsellers tend to continue being bestsellers (whether or not it’s justified), mid-listers often talk about how hard it is to break out of the mid-list range, and it is surprisingly difficult to move from a small publisher to a big one,” Aprilynne writes.

She went on to say that this applies to what genre you write in as well. So, knowing what you want out of your career should be a consideration when you’re breaking in.

What I got from Aprilynne’s article is that the first novel you write might not be the best one to start your career with. Aprilynne wrote a few novels before she got her agent, etc. So, instead of looking for an agent as soon as your first novel is ready to go, think about the kind of career you want and target your agent search toward that, even if it means writing a few more novels first.

(Something to consider: At the North Texas SCBWI conference last month, literary agent Lisa Grubka of Foundry said agents are getting more and more specialized in what they represent. So some agents will specialize in commercial middle grade, and others in literary YA, which is what Lisa leans toward.)

My career goals are similar to Aprilynne’s. I want to write commercial children’s fiction. Now, looking at my idea list, I have a two humorous middle-grade urban fantasy/fantasies with boy protagonists, one humorous middle-grade urban fantasy with a girl lead, one more dramatic urban fantasy with a girl lead, one middle-grade drama with no fantasy elements whatsoever and led by a girl, and one story that’s definitely YA but urban fantasy. My two first novels are humorous middle-grade boy urban fantasies, the second with sci-fi elements.

Mostly, I’m writing middle-grade urban fantasies, and I’m guessing that boy or girl lead isn’t going to matter too much. Suzanne Collins‘ follow-up to her Underland Chronicles series (brilliant, by the way; I finished the last in the series this morning), The Hunger Games (which I hear is even more brilliant and I can’t wait to start reading while I’m brushing my teeth tonight), has a female protagonist, and she’s 16, as opposed to Gregor’s 12. Of course, with Collins’ best-selling status, it probably wouldn’t matter too much. Aprilynne does point out that there are exceptions to the rule, with some writers successfully changing genre mid-career.

So, I think I’m on track so far with where I want to go in my career and the books I’ve written so far. The YA in my list is a little different, but it’s still an urban fantasy, and it’s a very personal story, so it might take me a while to write it. And the no fantasy title, hmmm, we’ll see.

But with the new story that has been talking to me lately, I have been wondering about the writing style, because it’s likely to not be too funny. Will that matter? Maybe. I don’t know.

And what if you’re a writer whose ideas are all over the place? How do you choose which to write next?

I always thought the answer was whichever story is talking to you the most. But after reading Aprilynne’s article, there are more things to consider.

How do you decide what to write next?

Write On!

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One comment

  1. I *loved* that post by Aprillyne Pike.

    How do I decide what’s next…honestly, it’s whatever develops. I tend to have a couple false starts before I find a story that sticks.



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