Mind-bending exercises

I’ve been wondering lately if you can change your mind. Not just the “hey, I think I’ll have AmeriCone Dream instead of Late Night Snack” kind of change of mind, but actually change something fundamental in your thinking.

See, I’m having this work problem. My first novel, and the novels that I’ve attempted after that, were quiet literary pieces. The thing is, quiet literary pieces aren’t hugely popular, especially if you don’t do them amazingly well. Think Kate DiCamillo, or Jewell Parker Rhodes. So the question I had to ask myself, was: do I keep trying unsuccessfully to write the kind of novel that I’m not doing particularly well, or do I try to write something entirely different?

Now, a lot of people say, “don’t write to the market.” And it’s true that you shouldn’t. But you have to pay attention. And being a person who pays attention, I know that what’s huge right now are middle grade novels. Particularly ones that can be made into a series. I’m also doing this project for Scholastic where I have the opportunity to read a lot of middle grade novels, which has taught me a few things. I know what’s already published. I know what’s popular. I have some idea of what an agent or an editor is looking to snap up. So since I was fed up with being told that my writing is “lovely” or even “fantastic” but no one still wants to publish it, I began to ask myself if I could possibly write one of these books.

You probably think that I’m selling out my own muse. Or that I’m selling my creativity short. Or that I’m doing some other soul-sucking activity that undermines my own artistry. You might be right, but I don’t really think so. And here’s why. What I wanted to do, was try to think up something that goes in a vein that’s popular right now (sellout), but that is also uniquely me (makes the muse happy). The thing is, is that even possible?

After weeks of racking my brains, making notes on pieces of paper all over the house, not holding up my end of conversations (sorry everyone who’s talked to me in the last couple of months!) not blogging or reading other people’s blogs (I think I’ve already apologized for that), and essentially worrying myself all the way to the wrinkle-cream aisle at Target, I think I’ve actually hit upon an idea that I (a) LOVE and (b) think is commercially marketable. Of course, it’s just an idea. Execution is the thing that’ll make or break it. So what I’m saying is,  you’re still not going to see much of me for many more weeks.

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10 thoughts on “Mind-bending exercises

  1. Britton Minor says:

    The idea (of writing something that sells) and the idea (that you have struck upon and LOVE) are on your mind for practical, tangible, and even ego-based reasons/needs. There is not one thing wrong with this. There is not one reason to believe that you are (literally I hope) selling out-you are expanding your skills, your target market, and yes, your brain. your creativity will thank you for this next romp.

    I am excited for you, and look forward to reading what comes next. Onward! No apologizing necessary. Go. For. It!

  2. Tracey says:

    Thanks. I always seem to need permission to do the things my head and heart tell me to. Should probably talk to a shrink about that…

  3. elizabeth says:

    Tracey – sometimes we need a growth spurt like you just had to find where we need to be. I am excited for you and I think your heart and soul is leading you- not a bad group to be following. Write your book and we’ll all come to the book signing.

  4. Allegro non tanto says:

    If you’re writIng and you’re excited, then you’re exactly where you should be! Personally, I think the line between what is considered “literary” and “popular” is blurring more and more every day. I think of the novels of John Green (considered YA) which are wonderful stories and appeal to all age groups. Write from your heart and your readers will connect with your story. I’m excited for you!

  5. Deborah Batterman says:

    I know that feeling only too well — ‘The writing is wonderful but the book’s not for us’ — and I grapple with trying to find that perfect blend of something reflects my own voice, etc., but also has that spark of marketability. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that even when you think you’ve got that perfect mix — unless it’s a genre book — it takes a certain vision on the part of an agent to place it. All of which is to say, Go for it! And, like everyone else here says, ‘write from your heart.’

  6. Catherine Stine says:

    Hi-I think it’s a good practice to pay at least some attention to the market, and if you feel that you’ve wandered into the wrong niche by all means take a quick exit! That said, don’t become a slave to the market! It’s a fine line.

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