Monday, August 23, 2010

My Secret to Success

Lately I've had several people ask me "how?"

How do you write a "breakout" novel? How do you hit the market just right? How do you know if you're writing a novel that everyone will be excited about and want to read? How to you know if you're writing something publishers will want to buy?


Allow me to let you in on a little secret about Paranormalcy.

I didn't write it to sell.

I didn't write it with the market in mind, or with editors in mind. I didn't craft it to be a "breakout" novel. I wrote it for FUN.

Yup. FUN. It's something we writers occasionally overlook in our passionate pursuit of publication. (Say that ten times fast! No, seriously. Say it ten times fast. I'll wait.)

When I started Paranormalcy, I had another book on sub. And of course that book was going to sell, and it was the planned first book in a series, so even if I did eventually get around to Para, it was years down the road. I was not thinking of it in terms of selling it. My exact process was this:

1. I am bored.
2. When I am bored, things get dangerous.
3. I should write another book.
4. I should write a book with fantasy elements.
5. While I'm at it, I should try out first person.
6. Hey, look, my son is napping and BAM THERE IS THE IDEA guess I'll start writing it now.

When I finished I thought, "Hey, this is pretty good. Maybe it's even really good, or at least it will be after I edit it. Fun! Now, back to stressing out about being on submission." And after a couple of minor edits, I shelved it.

Then my first book didn't sell, which, at the time, seriously sucked. And I had a dilemma. Did I edit the first book and have my agent go back out with it, or did I focus on Paranormalcy and get it ready? There were pros and cons to both. First and foremost, I was scared of Para. Especially that my agent would hate it. (She's not exactly a fan of anything with "creatures," as she puts it.) So I talked with friends who had read all my stuff, and I considered the market. I'd always thought that Para was special, and it seemed to me an ideal time for it. (See, this is where writing a funny, atypical paranormal romance comes in handy! I can ask you if you love Twilight and similar books, and if you say yes, I can say, "Then Paranormalcy is for you!" And if you say no, I can say, "Then Paranormalcy is for you!")

I edited it (and edited and edited and edited it) and then sent it to my agent with my stomach all twisted into knots. When Michelle loved it, I knew for sure I had something.

But did I know that when I was writing it? Nope. All I knew when I was writing it was that it was fun. So write for fun, and let the market work itself out. Does writing for fun guarantee your book will sell? Nope. But NOTHING guarantees your book will sell, so you might as well be having fun in the meantime, right?


Stay tuned tomorrow for a Very Big Contest of Awesome Announcement! And now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go figure out what, exactly, a Very Big Contest of Awesome should include. I'm leaning toward car chases and explosions. Or maybe just pictures and prizes.


Steena Holmes said...

I'm sitting here, twiddling my thumbs, while my novel is out on fulls and partials ... and waiting for that BAM! to happen ;)

But for now ... I'll eat chocolate.

Karma & Adam said...

Thanks for this. Such a great reminder that you should have fun, no matter what work path you've chosen in life. As someone who writes (boring, corporate stuff) for a living, but dreams of writing for "fun" (and has one unfinished book and a bunch of Chapter Ones), this post sits just right. I can't wait to read Paranormalcy. Congrats!

Anita Saxena said...

I'm going to echo the above comment and say thank you for this as well. Sometimes I get so caught up in personal deadlines, outlines, writing schedules, that it all becomes to formulaic, job like. You are so right. I write because it's fun. Sometimes I forget that.

tymcon said...

I must admit, that's a bit of a silly question. Even if youw rite a book t try to fit a trend, by the time it's done it could go from paranormal romance to Dysotopian. Like most people who hit a trend rarely ever think about hitting that trend, they're just worried about gettign a book out.

Mandy said...

haha I agree with the girl up there who commented about chocolate. Meyb it's just me, but sweets tend to make my imagination grow, xD

BookChic said...

Very awesome post and totally true. Just write whatever strikes your fancy and see what happens with it. That's what I'm doing, but it's always nice to hear it from a published author. :)

Also, I am totally loving Paranormalcy and curse the fact that work keeps me from gulping it all down in one sitting! I'm at a good part too (around page 190, if you care)!

Indigo said...

Exactly! So many might be surprised to read what I'm writing and realize it's me. The thing is I enjoy writing what I do, I fit the niche like a glove. When you enjoy what you do and what you're writing, it comes out in the writing. (Hugs)Indigo

Kelly Bryson said...

Hey Kiersten- Does your agent ever see anything before you've triple proofed it, beta'd, revised, fixed some more things, sat on it for a few months? Do you ever show her less than perfect work? Or is that what you use crit partners for?

Thanks- Kelly

Taffy said...

Thanks! I needed a reminder that I think writing is FUN!
Can't wait for the contest too!

Whirlochre said...

I suppose it's about trusting your own capacity to surprise yourself rather than expecting to be surprised, especially when what's unsurprising is what you've kinda sorta heard about already; all that stuff you can prepare for in advance.

Heather said...

I love this post so much.

I think so many writers are always concerned about what's "hot." The No. 1 question that had pens a-flying taking notes at SCBWI was "What are you buying right now?" but that seems so silly to me. Agents and editors will buy what's good. (Alright, and to some extent what's marketable. But there's no way you can predict what will be marketable by the time you're done writing, so don't even try.)

OK, so I happen to be sitting on a dystopian MS right now. But I didn't look into my crystal ball a year ago and say, "HEY! Dystopians will be SUPER HOT and I should write one!" I just love that kind of story. And hopefully it will work out. But maybe not. And that's OK too. Because maybe it's the next book. Or the next. We'll see.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Very cool. Love hearing the "behind the scenes" story. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Kiersten.

Loved the excerpt online. Paranormalcy will definitely be the next book I download to my nook when I finish Mockingjay.

Only 7 more days!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for reminding us we should enjoy the process. Can't wait to read your book.

Ebony McKenna. said...

I completely agree with you. Let the market work itself out, in the mean time, write for love and fun.

Zachary Grimm said...

Passionate pursuit of publication. Passionate pursuit of publication. Passionate pursuit of publication. Pursionate pash of...oh shoot. =)

Excellent post, Kiersten! I am SOOOO looking forward to the 31st. I will have a full tank of gas so I can race around my neighborhood in search of a crisp, new copy of Paranormalcy. :)

coffeelvnmom said...

Great post. And it's so true. It's hard to remember to have *FUN*! Thanks for the reminder!

Christine Fonseca said...

Yep yep yep! LOVE THIS POST!!! Thanks for the reminder!

Aubrey said...

I love this story! I have a friend on submissions with a manuscript with her agent right now, and I think it is so hard because us underlings in the writing world (those of us who don't have agents) are kindof taught once you have an agent you will sell your book. But there is still work involved and sometimes the agent getting manuscript DOESN'T sell!

And now waiting for a contest of awesome!

Claire Dawn said...

Your number's 1 and 2 in the process are so ME! I love when we're twinsies.

Also, I live for fun. Because, what's the point otherwise?

One more week. After which I will be reading PARANORMALCY on my Kindle while I wait for my physical copy to arrive in the mail, and consider whatever intersting hoops I've made ppl jump through to win their own copy on my blog. YAY!!!

Lisa said...


I'm curious, K. Do you think anything will become of that first novel that didn't sell? Do you think, in the future, that could become a series after the Paranormalcy trilogy is finished? That'd be cool.

Dara said...

Everything you said definitely resonates with me. I don't write to fit the trends--I write for fun too. Although many people think I'm odd for writing a historical set in a rather obscure time and place. Yep, that's my idea of fun, LOL. It makes it challenging!

Ingrid Sundberg said...

It's great to hear about your process Kiersten. Sometimes it feels like writing is a marathon, but if you write something you're passionate about it will hit!

Ret said...

That's so true Kiersten. Having fun in all what you do creates a great energy that gives you greater result. When e say fun, that means we love what we doing. We become focus on what we do. Our brain and heart unite for our work. The result our work with fun, joy and true happiness is fantastic. You do it with freedom. That's what I like in such kind of work.