Thursday, August 15, 2013

Going Mainstream

by Allison Pang

First off, I just want to apologize for missing last week's post. Things got busy between work and travel plans and I completely forgot all about it. >_<

That being said, this week's topic is a bit of a sore spot with me.

First off, I know some of my fellow word-whores discussed a little bit about literary vs genre. It's fairly common knowledge that genre writing gets no respect in the literary world. Sometimes it feels as though literary writers are basically editorial hipsters. Those of us who write genre have "sold out" for the chance to make a buck.

It might even be true.

My first run in with the literary crowd was in college. I'd taken some creative writing courses to round out my biology degree - and I'd even played around with the idea of becoming a writer. But I quickly learned that I didn't fit in. After being mocked for indicating that Charles de Lint was one of my favorite authors, it was pretty evident that these were not my people.

And I quit writing all together. For nearly twelve years.

Even when I started up the process of figuring out what one had to do to get published, I often found that I had to phrase things carefully around certain people. As one author sniffed at me.... "I don't write fantasy. I write speculative fiction."

Um. Okay. Still sounds like fantasy to me, but whatevs.

I understand the quirky - my entire Abby Sinclair series is full of quirky pop-culture references. What's interesting is watching the reactions of readers. Some of them get it and realize a lot of it is tongue-in-cheek. And others...don't.  Probably something I should watch out for in later books. >_<

Anyway, I'm going to leave this with a bit of a cautionary tale. A number of the other posts this week indicated that you should write the story you love and you'll find an audience. But what happens when your editor asks you to change something fundamental about your story?

Here's the thing - editors are not always the end-all, be-all of your book. As the author, you *can* call the shots as to what gets changed and what doesn't, but it can be a fine line to walk between "I don't want to change this because it's really important to the story that it be here" vs "My writing is perfect and I don't need to change anything."  Pick your battles, as they say.

But when I got my first book deal, I didn't know I could say no, so I went ahead with the changes that were requested, the biggest one being that I needed to add a love triangle to the series. Urban fantasy/PNR books were full of them at the time, so I was told I needed one too, even though I had no plans for such in any of the story lines.

But I trusted my editor that this was the thing to do, so I reworked and reworked and wrapped my brain around the concept and I made it happen. (And let me note, I adored this editor and I still do - so I don't have any issues there - and I think I pulled it off okay. I'm not unhappy with the way the books turned out.)

However, it was a bit rough at times to read reviews with readers lamenting that I'd jumped the on the love triangle bandwagon and OMFG do we have to do this *again.* But here's the thing - after my first book, my editor left the publishing house and I was orphaned.

The problem with this is that often an author gets thrust upon another editor who isn't as invested in your work as maybe the previous one was. Which is what happened to me. My second editor didn't give two shits if I lived or died. Didn't edit my book. (At all. In fact, my first editor did it on the sly as a favor to me because I wasn't getting any sort feedback from this new one.) Ignored my emails. Mocked my writing to my face. So, you can bet she didn't have any sort of direction when it came to love triangles or where my series was going and I was left trying to figure it out on my own.

Only to be orphaned again when editor number two also left the publisher and I had to start the entire process all over again.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that sometimes it is worth considering what may be popular in mainstream writing today may not be so popular tomorrow. The publishing road can be very rocky, so make sure the story you are working with is one you can live with, regardless of *who* you're working with.


  1. "A number of the other posts this week indicated that you should write the story you love and you'll find an audience. But what happens when your editor asks you to change something fundamental about your story?"

    I'd argue that you moved away from the story you loved to accommodate your editor's vision. And I don't think it was the wrong choice - I was there when you made it. Still, it's an excellent caution. I think that is, and continues to be throughout our careers, the hardest line to walk: when do we say "No" and when do we go along with editorial vision?

    An ongoing learning curve.

  2. A good cautionary tale, one I will try remember. Just say 'no'. hehehe.