Writing from the Heart or To the Market

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, writing 5 Comments

By Rondi Bauer Olson

My first writer’s conference was with ACFW in 2009. I was so proud of my manuscript. Dystopians were hot, HUNGER GAMES had come out the year before, and it’s what I’d written! Agents and editors were eager to see what I had, and I received a number of full and partial requests.

Did I mention this was my first writer’s conference?

Yeah. My manuscript was a 140,000 word, description-heavy tome that had enough characters and plot lines to make Charles Dickens’ head spin. An unmarketable monstrosity, as I fondly refer to it now. You can only imagine how quickly my rejections piled up.

Fast forward 3 years, and I had learned how to write. My whittled- down manuscript finaled in the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest. I was ready. Unfortunately, publishers weren’t. After Hunger Games, there had been a flurry of dystopian acquisitions, a flurry I missed. Now, no one was interested. “Do you have a contemporary YA?” several agents and editors asked. No, I didn’t. Contemporary isn’t my thing. I don’t read much of it, and I had never tried writing it, but as my rejection pile grew, I decided I had to forget this dystopian stuff and move to where the market was. I wanted to be traditionally published, and a number of people had told me there’s always room for a good contemporary.

I spent the next year writing a manuscript based on a young patient I had back when I worked as an oncology nurse. I didn’t like contemporary, but as the months passed I grew fond of my characters and I tolerated the work. I was pretty sure I had something I could sell, but as I came closer to having a polished manuscript, dread filled me. I didn’t want writing contemporary novels to become my career. I wasn’t sure I had another in me, and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to writing a second.

Meanwhile, I kept thinking about what my dystopian characters were up to. The only time I felt real excitement was when I took a break from my contemporary project and scribbled down some short stories set in my dystopian world. Finally it occurred to me that life was too short to force myself to write something I didn’t really have an interest in. I decided to finish my dystopian series, even if I never found a publisher, because that’s what brought me joy.

You can probably guess what happened next, literally the week I gave up. A small publisher made an offer on my dystopian manuscript. Who knew? Not only is there always room for a good contemporary, there’s always room for any genre of book you are passionate about, if not by publishers, certainly by readers.
I never even tried to submit that contemporary manuscript. I suppose someone might like it, and it might see publication someday, but for now I am working on a series I love and enjoying every minute of it.

Have you ever tried to plow through a genre you hated in an attempt to get traditionally published? Are you stuck in a genre you’re sick of? Did you learn to love it, or did you find success following your passion?

Rondi OlsonRondi Bauer Olson is a reader, writer, and animal wrangler from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her debut novel for young adults, ALL THINGS NOW LIVING, was a finalist in the 2012 Genesis Contest and is scheduled for release in 2016 by Written World Communications.

Comments 5

  1. Thank you for sharing!

    My mom once told me, “Write what you feel God is calling you to write, not just what you think everyone is going to read”. I like this, because it’s a reminder that God is more powerful than trends–if it’s His will for my book to be published, He’ll get it into the hands of the right people, regardless of the genre.

    Congratulations on your upcoming book release! 🙂

  2. This is the big area where Christian writing has to be different from the market. Career writers can follow (or lead) the market if that’s their fancy. As Christians, we have to balance that with obedience to our God-given calling, and remember that we each have a different calling.

    Well said.

  3. Life is definitely too short to write something we don’t love! In my opinion the greatest joy God offers us through writing is the satisfaction we receive while doing the work. So I think it’s critical to protect our love of the work. To write OUR story. To be true to our inspiration regardless of whether others might like it. To stay true to our individual calling and let God handle the rest.

    The amazing thing is that often, if we do the above, God will show us that there *are* a lot of readers out there who love what we love.

    Good post!

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