Mar 18, 2016

Writing Update and Request for Input

A few people have asked me how the novel writing's going. Those on facebook are aware of my querying and slew of rejections, seasoned by an occasional personal note from an editor telling me they enjoyed my pages but it's not from them, and also the very occasional request for pages.

I had a pretty big-time agent request my full, and then come back with, "I really enjoyed it. But it's too sweet and too YA for me and those I work with." In other words, (and in the words of a friend) "not enough sex or violence." I think. I think that's what she was saying.

At this point, I've finished (counting the current project) 5 manuscripts since Mile 21's publication. Two are LDS fiction novels that my current publisher, Cedar Fort, hasn't been able to find a place for. Two are fantasy novels that General agents haven't been willing to risk their resources on. So what I'm doing right now--I'm taking one of the fantasies (The "too sweet" one) back to LDS publishers, because I realized after that feedback, that an audience looking for fun fantasy but with a preference for clean literature is probably my best bet for that manuscript.

So, last week, I submitted it to Shadow Mountain. We'll see what comes of that.

Also, a few months ago I was contacted by Covenant Communications (another LDS publisher, not the one I worked with on Lightning Tree and Mile 21) that my manuscript Butterfly Years made it past a couple of tiers of evaluation and they'd sent it to their outside readers, and I ought to hear back in a few months. It's been a few months, so I anticipate I'll be hearing from them soon. If they want to publish it, I'll be ecstatic. I love that story. And while I'd like to take my writing outside of the niche of LDS fiction, I still love writing LDS fiction as well.

This is the life of a writer. You publish, you don't publish. You write something nobody wants, you write something else nobody wants, you keep trying until you hit a sweet spot of Market and Trends and Audience and someone is willing to take a chance on what you've written.

Anyway. I've written a few different types of fantasy stories. I started with my behemoth--the epic fantasy I've played with and written several versions of from the time I was fifteen or so. It ended up being 200,000 words, and I know it needs some editing, and I think I know how I can fix it. It got a couple requests for pages, and ultimately was passed on by my list of agents to submit to (about 120 long). Then I wrote something shorter, something fun and funnier and more commercial, and got the almost-break of that big agent as well as a couple requests and a lot of encouraging rejections. I had fun writing it, but ultimately, struggled. It was so silly and fluffy and honestly, while I love reading stuff like that, and I enjoyed writing it, I felt a bit sugared-out after finishing, if you know what I mean.

So the next thing I wrote (my current project) I decided to do something more serious. Knowing fully it probably wouldn't easily be marketable, I decided to write a literary fantasy story along the lines of Madeline L'Engle. And I really enjoyed writing it. A lot. Man. This is the genre of my heart--fantasy that explores the human experience. But anyway, I doubt a lot of people will be requesting pages because it doesn't easily slide into any genre. IT's got 17 year old characters, it's basically a hero's journey, and it's pretty introspective and kind of unusual. Most of the story is two characters on a boat fighting their way through an Alice-In-Wonderland type scenario. SO while I enjoyed writing it, I'm pretty sure not many people will be reading it. I'll still submit, of course, and try. But not a lot of high hopes there.

And that's OK.

I needed it. It was palate-clarifying, if that makes any sense. After trying so hard to write stuff that appeals to an audience, I needed to write something for myself to remind myself I love to write and why I'm a writer.

But now it's time to try something commercial again. I need to find exactly the right sort of story. Something that will appeal immediately to editors and agents and strikes the right chord in the market right now. I'm just not sure what that is. SO I'll be doing a bit of research before I choose my next story.

To that end, I'm going to ask. Those of you who love reading fantasy. What do you think is missing in the market right now? What do you wish you could read, or read more of, that isn't out there? What do you like most about what *is* out there right now? Let me know. The thing about writing is, writing itself is just a joy. So whatever I end up writing, sugary or spicy or serious or fluff, I might as well be writing what people want to be reading.


Krista Quintana said...

I'm so sorry to hear that things have been slow! I loved Mile 21, and you have obvious talent when it comes to writing. I hope to read something more published by you soon!

With fantasy, I know that right now, there's been a very big push toward steampunk (though I'm not sure if that's fantasy or science fiction. Maybe a little of both) For me, I'm getting tired of the trope of the girl who's got special powers and goes out and saves the entire kingdom. I'd love to see a good duo, boy-girl, who goes out and does something extraordinary, that has nothing to do with saving an entire empire.

Sarah Dunster said...

Cool. Thank you! Some food for thought.

Slow is kinda the name of the game when it comes to writing, isn't it :)

Sarah Dunster said...

Cool. Thank you! Some food for thought.

Slow is kinda the name of the game when it comes to writing, isn't it :)

Janell said...

In high school I adored the genre of Fantasy and I read innumerable books of the genre. A masters in science ruined me for fiction. I can no longer read fantasy without comparing it t every other book I ever read, analyzing it for tropes, and thinking about the entirely thing too critically.

I wish there were more things in the vein of Patricia C Wrede's Dealing with Dragons. There are several (happen to be LDS) authors who like to take existing fairy tales or myths, turn them inside out and inspect the guts, and then reskin them as a new story with a nice, strong female. Wrede's work isn't based on fairy tales, but it has that princesses, dragons, witches, etc thing going.

I also wish there were more things with the complexity and intrigue on the level of Melanie Rawn's (very unfinished) Exile series. In some ways Game of Thrones is on or above that level - but those books are just so full of gore and rape that I couldn't tolerate to read them any more than I did.

Other fantasy that has survived on my shelves is Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffery's YA, a sole Redwall, and Harry Potter.

Notably, I do tend toward wishing for fantasy featuring females rather than damsels in distress, but that's personal taste and preference. I got tired of an abundance of male characters (often whiny, orphan male characters prophesied to defeat the evil overlord only after they assemble a dream team of comrades and find the legendary long lost super de duper power giving weapon).

Margaret said...

I assume you've seen this -


Unknown said...

How much great literature was written to satisfy a niche in the market? Get unhinged. Become you. Only then will you be worth anything to the market. In other words, you tell us what we want to read!

Jannette LaRose said...

I, for one, enjoy your writing. I just finished Lightning Tree and I loved it! But I was a bit confused, near the end because my copy seems to be missing a couple pages. At the bottom of page 364 Maggie is sitting in the kitchen with Samuel but at the top of page 365 she is outside Stewart's with Henry. I really want to know what happens in between! Is there any chance you can help me with this?