Don't Be a Poser: Write What You Love

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing author Tracy Wolff speak at my local RWA meeting. Her talk was about finding your place in the market. I figured the talk would be about what's hot, what's not, if you should go traditional or indie, that kind of thing. And she did discuss some of that.

But really, what the talk ended up being about and what I took from it was that you have to write what you love and what speaks to you.

Well, duh? Right.

Not really, actually. Tracy talked about how her debut book, a sexy, suspenseful romance, was the one that got her the first book deal. However, instead of it being bought as a sexy romance, the publisher wanted her to amp it up a bit to fit in the erotic romantic suspense genre. She agreed to that and got a multi-book deal, which meant she signed up to write more erotic romances.

However, she discovered that erotic romance wasn't really what came naturally to her or her style of writing. So she wrote her books and they didn't do as well as she'd hoped. After that, she moved on to write Harlequins, a paranormal series under a new name, and young adult. And she found her place in those genres and the books are doing well.

Now you may be thinking--oh, I know what I'm writing and it's what I love. Yeah, but what happens if an agent or publisher asks you to change that? 

When Sara signed me, she originally wanted me to dial up the suspense in my romance so that it was more erotic romantic suspense than contemporary erotic romance. I readily agreed to that because a) I loved Sara and liked the vision she had and b) I thought--sure, I can do that. I love suspense.

Yeah, well, I did it. I changed some things, pumped up the suspense, sent it back to Sara. And promptly got a  note from her basically saying in her very nice way--this isn't working, let's call a do-over. :)

What it came down to is that I am a character-driven writer whose main focus is the romance. I put suspense in my stories, but it is a subplot. My heart is with the romance and that showed when I tried to change the book into something different. Sara, luckily, recognized that and set me to rights. We did another major edit and brought the story's central focus solidly on the couple and my heroine's journey. Then we went on submission and the rest is history.

So, back to my point about not inadvertently becoming a poser. There are always going to be things that may be selling better than others. For instance, erotic romance sells well. So many times you see someone who prefers to write sweet romance or straight up suspense or whatever jump into that pool because there is a demand for it. But you know what often happens with that? The stories fall flat.

I can almost *feel* it when I'm reading an erotic romance by someone who is not totally comfortable in the genre. There are sex scenes that seem forced (not in a rape-y way, forced meaning they don't belong in that part of the story.) There's language (and dirty talk) that doesn't come across as authentic. In the BDSM subgenre, you see mistakes that show that the author hasn't done their research into that lifestyle. It doesn't work.

I write erotic romance because it's what I love to read, because it's the type of stories that come (*snicker*) to me. I also love young adult and read a lot in that genre. The first book I wrote was YA, and I haven't ruled out trying my hand at again one day. But say, high fantasy stories became super hot and trendy. I wouldn't be able to write one of those to save my life. I don't read them, I've never watched Lord of the Rings (I can hear the collective gasp on that one), it's not my thing. Even if I did all the research I could, my story would not be authentic.

So try to find the balance between writing a story that you think will sell with writing the story that you are passionate about. Your reader will feel that passion (and will be able to spot the lack thereof if it's not there.)

Have you ever found yourself tempted to write something "trendy" because you think it will give you a better chance? Have you ever read a book where you can tell the author isn't really a fit for the genre?