Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back in the Box

Home from the ACFW conference this week, free to process what I heard and what I learned.

I don't usually share sorrows. But I'm in a heavy mood over this one. It's nothing serious -- my loved ones are in health and I've really nothing to complain over. But my dear-to-the-heart 973 Wales book is not going forward in its present form. The story I wanted to tell is not the story the publishers want.

I heard similar things from two editors. The summary I presented on the one sheet caused pursed lips and raised brows. I explained that my plot points were true to their time, but heard, "Yes, I'm sure they are, but our readers will not accept them."

Point: though young women often were given in marriage in their mid-teens, my heroine cannot be in her mid-teens. She has to be older. Readers will not accept a main character who's considered a grown woman and ready for marriage at 15.

Point: my girl's true love and her husband have to be the same person. The readers will not accept that she loves one man and must marry another for political reasons. This, too, was true to the age, but the readers will not accept it.

Get the drift? The story I wanted to tell, how a woman can triumph over stiff odds, can come to love the quest for peace, can come to terms with an unwanted husband...all that must be taken out.

The more outspoken of us Christian fic writers talk about "the box." This far and no further. Write this and not that. Show these characters and delete these others. Deal with these themes and not those. Some of us would love to kick the sides out of the box, and some, including people I'm proud to call friends, have kicked the sides with some success. I honor them for it.

But not this story, and not at this time. Back in the box, PEACEWEAVER. The readers don't want you. Or so I'm told. To pitch this project (hopefully with some success), I'm selling out to The Box. I'm gutting my story.

I feel sad about doing this. What will be left (and I'm 40 pages in to the rewrites) will not be the story I wanted to tell. It may be something more banal, something perhaps less interesting, something I might not want to read were it for sale in a store. I hope as I overtype my original manuscript that it will be a better book than its predecessor, but hoping is all I can do until I see what it becomes.

Many factors in this writing/publishing life are beyond my control. My story and how I tell it are the only things I can control. Heaven knows I'm trying for quality.

I'm not complaining that the market is as it is. My wail is over the fact that it cannot be allowed to spread to cover a little wider span.


Tracy Krauss said...

I'm a bit confused ... If this is not the story you want to write then why are you writing it? Maybe the MASS market doesn't 'want' a story that is outside the norm, but is that all that is important?

I might be tempted to let the book 'sleep' as is for awhile and move on to something different that is more CBA acceptable, (if pleasing the market is what you must do at this time ...) and then release the original story once again at a later time - once you've had more time to ruminate. Even letting it rest for a month or two might be a good idea, rather than rushing to make sweeping changes so soon.

Just my thoughts for what they are worth. :) There are plenty of readers who CRAVE something different ... something 'outside the box'.

Deb said...

Tracy, I hear what you're saying. My issue is that this was supposed to be the "something different" I'd write in lieu of the last one the market didn't find acceptable. I mean, if I'm constantly writing something else, and letting Project A sleep, and then Project B must go to sleep, and after that Project C...

You get the drift. I now have six finished books that are "for later." What I'd love to find out is: what story, that I can write and write well, is "for now"?

Anonymous said...


This may not be at all what you want to hear, but have you considered putting out the books you want to write as ebooks? The process really isn't that hard. I don't know what your writer goals are... if "being published" to you only means going through a traditional publishing house, but striking out on your own has its advantages (and disadvantages). I should know. The stories I tell don't fit in anyone's box. They are all over the place--YA, adult, inspirational, full-on Christian... with characters who also don't fit in anyone's box.

Just a thought you might not have considered.

Lisa Lickel said...

Yeah, had that happen with Meander Scar. Got a lot of really uglies with what I wanted to have happen in my original outline and the first rewrite.

Cheri Jenkins said...

Just a do the "The Powers that Be" know that the readers won't be interested in something if they don't try it? I worked as a taste tester for Hershey's for a while. Several panels of us evaluated what we liked and didn't like. Often a product we loved and thought would sell didn't survive the first quarter...but (yep, you guessed it!) the ones we never thought would get off the ground became favorites. What would have happened if TPTB had decided that peanut butter and chocolate was gross? I never would have thought I would like M&M's with pretzels, but the Mars company made them one of my favorites! Unless you are psychic you cannot truly predict the tastes of everyone, and we have all been warned against consulting psychics! LOL! They can only base it on past statistics...which didn't include the "out of the box" story lines we are all craving. Maybe you should produce it as an e-book and break down the walls. When they see the popularity, they will have to admit they were wrong! (Well maybe not, if they are men...they never admit being wrong! LOL!) I say, "DON'T CHANGE A THING!!!", be a pioneer! Think of all the things that might have never been had no one wanted to break through those barriers...women's right to vote, women wearing pants, horseless carriages, and so many more things we take for granted these days...hmmmm.