So Obviously, I can’t Choose this Cup

Lately it feels like I’m in that scene from The Princess Bride where Vizzini the Sicilian attempts to use logic to decide which of two cups holds poison.  In one of his recent emails, my editor — who I love working with — gently suggested I should stop jumping eras.  This isn’t a shock.  To be Seduced is placed in Restoration England and my second (so far untitled) book takes place in Victorian-era Scotland.  My current work-in-progress is a medieval.

From a marketing point of view, this is madness second only to starting a land war in Asia.  ‘Author branding’ is a hot topic among romance writers.  It pops up in articles on self-promotion, in advice to acquire an agent, in conversations between writers.  The idea is that readers see your name and think ‘Regency, I’m in the mood for that’ or ‘I’ve been looking for a good werewolf romance, I’ll try her book’ or ‘Oooo, Navy SEALs’.  This does make sense.  When you watch Star Trek you want to see the USS Enterprise, not the Death Star.

Since Kensington has an option on my next historical, I should take my editor’s suggestion and either abandon my work-in-progress to develop another set of characters from my ‘Ideas’ notebook, or try to bring it forward to a later century.  Shouldn’t I write a book with the best chance of selling to the publisher that I am obligated to show it to anyway?

Therefore, I should reconsider my WIP or revisit characters and stories that would fit a later time and place, in my case probably 19th century England.

But what about ‘write for yourself, not the market, because it will change by the time your book comes out’?  Or ‘write what’s in your heart’?  My characters come out of the history I read, and I don’t limit that to one era.  Honestly, sticking with only one time period for reading and especially for writing would drive me off the Cliffs of Insanity.  My characters appear with their time periods attached.  Bringing my WIP forward would essentially destroy its hero and heroine, for they are a product of their time, just as we all are.  If I then abandon this tale for another, am I selling my soul?

Therefore, I should stay with my WIP.

I have two professional goals this year: get an agent and sell another book.  I need a finished manuscript to do either one.  If I present a manuscript with characters that are clamoring to get onto the page, that matches one of the time periods in my first two books, an agent could sell it and make a commission more easily.

Therefore, I should abandon my WIP.

But suppose I finish my current story, present it to Kensington and they pass on it.  I would have a manuscript with characters I love finished that much sooner, and an agent could start offering it to other houses with no strings attached.

Therefore, I should stay with my WIP.

Sigh.  Like Vizzini, I can keep this up for hours.  What must happen is a decision.  Neither of my choices are poison.  The worst thing that will happen if I stay with my WIP is a ‘no thanks’ from Kensington.  I’ll still have a manuscript to pitch to agents.  The worst thing if I shelve it in favor of a different story is that Kensington will say ‘no thanks anyway’ and I’ll have a  manuscript to pitch.

I’ve had the characters for my current WIP floating around in my head for years.  There’s no way I’m not going to finish writing their story.  It’s just a question of whether to do so now or later.

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10 thoughts on “So Obviously, I can’t Choose this Cup”

  1. I really enjoyed reading To Be Seduced and I usual read books set in the 1700 and 1800’s. I love a great story no matter the time, so I would write what was in my head. I read the preview in the back of your book and I hope that Kensington will publish the book. Best of luck!

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  2. Ann,
    I can SO relate to what you’re saying. I not only skip time periods…I skip around romance sub-genres. I have contemporaries, historicals, science fiction, fantasy and paranormal stories all clamoring to be told. Some are long. Some are short.

    Like you (and Vizzini) I could go with the current WIP or pick another shapeshifter story (which sold well for me). Both stories want to be told…eventually.

    Granted, authors are encouraged to “brand” ourselves. But just consider…going with something outside our “normal” area shows our versatility as writers. It shows our flexibility and our interest in expanding our skills as writers. Well, that’s MY story and I’m sticking to it. grin.

    I like going where the stories take me, which is one reason I’m so happy to be with Ellora’s Cave. My first book was a paranormal with shapeshifters. My second was a medieval with paranormal elements. I just had a contemporary novella released. Who knows what I’ll write next.

    Good luck with your decision. I’m sure whichever way you go, it will be wonderful!

    Francesca

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  3. I always fly with the advice of the editor. They’re in the biz to make money, and they do that when you sell books for them. Bottom line is selling books. You sell books, you make them look good. You make them look good, they buy more books.

    Yes, you get pigeonholed, but you also make a name for yourself by fulfilling reader expectation. A writer can always branch out with another name or another publisher.

    Just sayin’.

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  4. Francesca & Cheryl,
    I am touched that both of you took time to read & comment on this entry. I’ve done enough theater to appreciate range, but nobody is going to argue that branding works. Ah well, life is made of decisions, yes?

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