Monday, August 17, 2009

Cross-Roads

As a writer we face many cross-road in out career (well, as a human we face many cross-roads), but for today's blog I wanted to write about a recent cross-road (writer-wise) that I've had to face and what I decided to do about it (and yes, it does involve the horses).

I started writing as a kid. I knew from the time I was about nine-years-old that I wanted to be a writer. The dream stuck and I wrote my first full length manuscript when I was in my early twenties. That book didn't sell, and neither did the next several. Looking back I realize now that I was writing to try and sell what was out there selling (big thrillers). It took me some time to realize that I wasn't able to compete with John Grisham. Fast forward twelve years later and I finally did sell my first series through a literary agent. It was the Wine Lover's Mystery series, which I have just turned in book 6 (A Toast to Murder)--the final installment in the series. After selling the wine lover's, I really wanted to write a mystery series involving horses and that's where the horse lover's mysteries came in. Horses are something I know better than wines, and I am far more passionate about the horses than wine. However, I loved writing both series and was sad when the horse mysteries were cancelled after the third book.

In between contracts I wrote a women's fiction piece that is out on submission now, and another mystery proposal for a new series. I get really nervous being out of contract usually, and this last time was no different. I tend to scramble and come up with a ton of new ideas sending them off to my agent for her opinion. Then, I took a step back and I asked myself this question, "What do I wnat to write?" Not, "What is selling right now and how can I write what is selling, and therefore sell more books?" That question sort of takes the fun out of it, doesn't it? Now, I knew that asking myself what I wanted to write might not mean that it would sell. But guess what, the other question gives the same answer as "It might not sell." Knowing that and understanding that writing/publishing books is sort of like playing the lottery, I changed my focus/attitude and decided that I wanted to go back to writing something that involved horses. This scared me a bit because of the cancellation of the horse mysteries. I realize that writing what I want to write could be a "longshot."

However, I took my questioning a step further and asked myself, "Who do you want to be as a writer?" Who I want to be as a writer or what I want to be known as writer-wise is the writer who writes horse-related fiction. Just like Grisham writes legal thrillers, I want to write horses. For me, that doesn't always mean that a horse(s) take center stage, but it does mean that in some way they make an appearance. Like in the women's fiction I finished last year titled "Happy Hour," one of the women (Jamie) has lost her husband. Her daughter Maddie is nine-years old. Jamie is having financial problems but Maddie has finally found a connection and something she loves, which happens to be horses. Jamie struggles to pay for riding lessons for Maddie. Eventually Jamie starts taking lessons herself in trade for volunteering on Saturdays at the ranch for handicaped riders. She finds herself healing from the death of her husband through the handicapped children she works with and the horses that work with the kids as well. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Maddie's and Jamie's riding instructor is a hot cowboy type (had to throw that in). So, you see where I'm going? Horses will somehow play a part in what I write in some way.

Asking myself the tough questions, also guided me into writing a Young Adult piece that because I am superstitious and because there is some interest in, I am keeping mum about (I think it's a writer thing). I can tell you that the horses in this book make more than just cameos. They are characters.

Being clear now on who I want to be as a writer and what I want to write has given me some breathing room. I may not sell, another book, but I am happy I feel as if I've found my niche. Writing isn't about selling, although it is great to have your book on the shelves and know people are reading it. Writing is about growth as a human being and writer. I think writing allows us to discover who we are and who we want to be. It enables us to look at human nature and for those of us at Equestrian Ink, horse nature as well. And, I think we can all agree that horses have a lot to teach us.

If you write (for fun or for a career): What are you writing? What do you want to write? Is there a niche that you want to tackle, but are possibly afraid to do so? Why do you write and what do you get out of it?

I'd love to read writers/riders responses.

10 comments:

Mary Paine said...

Great post, Michele! I'm cheering for you to have great success writing what you love. After writing two romances I realized I really wanted to be writing contemporary fantasy. I managed to work horses into my contemporary fantasy series The Foreseers & I'm loving every moment of it.

I don't have agent representation yet, but I do have some interest from a couple of agents. If I sell to a mainstream publisher that would be wonderful, but if not, I'll still be happy writing what I love.

All the best,
Mary

Michele Scott said...

Thank You, Mary! My fingers are crossed for you, too.

Jami Davenport said...

Great post, Michele.

I really enjoyed it. I, too, have struggled with the same thing. My one equestrian romantic mystery had horrible sales, yet I know it's my best book to date, and I loved writing it.

I have one more book under contract in another genre then I'm going back to what I like to write also.

M. L. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.
www.StrategicBookPublishing.com/TheHongKongConnection.html

M.K. Scott said...

I am hoping that when I think about writing what I love, it plays out something like that movie "Field of Dreams." Wouldn't that be cool? Afterall, writers are dreamers.

Laura Crum said...

Michele, I really hear you about writing what you love as opposed to writing what you think will sell. Though in today's publishing climate, even writing what you think will sell doesn't always work out, as you pointed out.

As for me, my mystery series is still being published--book number eleven comes out this coming spring. but...and its a big but, for the last three books I have taken the series in a new direction. My protagonist is no longer a hard working single equine veterinarian, but rather a stay-at-home mom. There are still lots of horses (I love writing about horses), but there is much about being a mom as well. Has this been a popular change for readers? Not so much. Many miss the old format. Some, who are probably moms themselves, enjoy reading about the life changes Gail is experiencing. Did I do it to improve sales? No. I did it because that's what I wanted to write about. My forthcoming book is all about a mom sharing horseback riding with her kid, something I think a lot of us can relate to. (Oh, yeah, there's a mystery involved, too, of course.) Anyway, I, too, have made the choice to write what I want to write, and though my publisher has indicated she'd prefer I go back to the "old Gail", she's still willing to publish the series (so far).

I think your choice is a good one. I hope that I will continue to write the books that call to me to be written, and not get trapped into writing something else on the basis of needing to sell it. I wish us all luck in this venture.

mugwump said...

Michele,The biggest gift I've gotten from my experience here and my blog is the habit of writing daily.
I didn't realize I couldn't call myself a writer until it became a daily ritual.
Finding out what I should write about came with the practice.
Figuring out what to do with it will come later.Maybe.

milwaukeecob said...

I guess I would like to write a blog or set of essays on what it means to grow as an adult amateur. I really don't want to be a trainer. In my job, I write about aesthetic theory as it is lived-out and made real. Riding is that very thing. Horses can't theorize, can't think in the abstract. But they have that incredible way of physically understanding a way to move (that comes from a different riding philosophy) that is completely different from anything they have done in the past. If it is presented to them in the right way. That understanding is completely dependent on the partnership they have with their rider. I am continually amazed at how intense, complex, and even sensual that partnership can be. That's what I'd like to write about. Because it HAS to be physical, it is completely intimate. Where else in life do you get that? --Okay, BESIDES that!

milwaukeecob said...

I guess I would like to write a blog or set of essays on what it means to grow as an adult amateur. I really don't want to be a trainer. In my job, I write about aesthetic theory as it is lived-out and made real. Riding is that very thing. Horses can't theorize, can't think in the abstract. But they have that incredible way of physically understanding a way to move (that comes from a different riding philosophy) that is completely different from anything they have done in the past. If it is presented to them in the right way. That understanding is completely dependent on the partnership they have with their rider. I am continually amazed at how intense, complex, and even sensual that partnership can be. That's what I'd like to write about. Because it HAS to be physical, it is completely intimate. Where else in life do you get that? --Okay, BESIDES that!

milwaukeecob said...

sorry, didn't mean to post that twice!