Compromise—it’s a bitch.
In any relationship there has to be some degree of compromise for it to work; this is true in real life outside of writing and it’s true within the industry as well. You bend a little to come to agreements with agents, editors, even critique partners, but what I’m referring to is the relationship between you and your writing. I’ve heard a lot of references over the last few years to “Writing the book of your heart.” To my understanding, this means the dearest plot and characters to you, hearkening back to some deep seeded childhood scar that simply must see the printed page. However, as one of the bad girlz once said to me, “Do you want to write a journal entry or do you want to get published?” And I have to tell you bad girlz of the world, I agree with her. In my experience journal entries don’t sell.
Don’t write the book of your heart; instead write a book you connect with that will sell.
I’ve always loved the idea of time travel. When I was a kid I had an ongoing daydream in which Laura Ingalls time traveled to live with me. I had to loan her my clothes, hide her in my bedroom and explain things like cars to her. (Embarrassing, but true.) So, of course when I got my first book idea there was an element of time travel in it. It was the book of my heart—a modern day heroine dropped into history just as I wish I could do. But, here’s the catch. Time travel is a really hard sell. I realized this by the time my first manuscript was written. Not wanting to write another manuscript that wouldn’t sell, I started paying attention to what publishers wanted. I originally thought I would write an American set historical next. Research would be easier after all. Eliminate the time travel aspect and it would sell, right? No.
That’s when I found out a crucial piece of information. A friend came back from RWA Nationals where she’d pitched her historical romance. She mentioned she hadn’t had much luck since her book wasn’t set in Regency England. Little light bulbs went off all around my head. Of course! What do most of the books I read have in common? They are set in Regency England! So, I compromised. I started writing a manuscript with no time travel set in a place that’s more difficult to research, but a place that I love nonetheless. Fast forward a year and a half and I had pitched that manuscript, signed with an agent and sold it as part of a 3 book deal. Is it the book of my heart? Who knows, but I connect with my characters and I love the story.
My point is this: If you want to combine 3 genres and reach new levels of obscurity in your plot lines, then be prepared you may camp on that manuscript for a very long time. If writing the book of your heart is that important to you then write it, be proud of it, but don’t complain about how long the publication process is taking. However, if you just want to get “There,” then compromise. Pay attention to what’s prevalent on the shelves at the book store and what agents and editors are acquiring. Write that, find common ground with it, and you’ll get “There” much faster.
Have you written a book of your heart? Have you compromised? Let’s discuss it!
xx- E. Michels