An old friend used to say, “You can fall in love with a rich girl as easily as you can fall in love with a poor one.”
(I used to say, “You’re a jerk,” but that’s another whole story. And to be fair, at the time, he was a 17-year-old boy quoting his father. He’s still a good friend.)
I had a conversation on Twitter yesterday that started as an exploration of whether there was any market for f/f/m erotica and turned into a discussion with the Bree half of Moira Rogers about whether you could fall in love just as easily with a marketable story as with an unmarketable story.
Writers, especially writers willing to admit that they care about “the market,” worry a lot about whether they should write for the market or write what they’re passionate about. The conclusion of my conversation with Bree? It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Bree says that she and Donna (the other half of Moira Rogers) “know we can’t write to the market, but we CAN write the most marketable of our ideas.”
In other words, you can fall in love with a lot of different ideas, but you can choose to devote the lion’s share of your energies towards writing the ones that you believe will be successful in the market. (In my case, I’m probably going to eliminate the f/f/m scene I was contemplating in favor of the far more marketable m/m/f or m/f/m that can serve the same purpose plotwise. I’d rather write the f/f/m, but it won’t be a hardship either way. ;-))
If you’re thinking “I don’t have enough ideas to throw any of them away”—which is how I used to feel before I started writing romance—I sympathize. But in that case, the solution is to stop believing that about yourself and start looking for ideas everywhere. Instead of viewing yourself as someone with a scarcity of ideas—and the world as stingy with its offerings—imagine that everything’s an idea. Every story that comes out of your best friend’s mouth. Every piece of gossip that falls from the lips of your neighbor. Every stupid “what if” or fearful worried fantasy you have about what could go wrong—or what could go way more right than you think you could handle. Every thing you’ve never allowed yourself to wish for because it’s “not practical” or “not likely.” Reacquaint yourself with possibility, because even though I have been there, in the place where it feels like there aren’t enough ideas, it is not a place you want to accept as a long-term dwelling.
Sometimes, though, you can’t help falling for an idea that’s just not market-friendly (just like those poor romance heroines can’t help falling for the wrong guy—if human nature worked any differently, we’d be out of a job). In Bree-Moira’s case, it’s her “sick love of genre mashups and trope subversion. Sometimes it works out okay. Sometimes… LOL… Ahhh, well.” In my case, it’s ideas that are dark-dark-dark. Something terrible happened and my heroine just can’t get past it. And now more terrible things are going to happen! I also tend to have ideas that are overtly political—characters who are message-bearers for a certain cause. They’re good characters, they’re just not marketable characters.
If you’re flat-out writing with no downtime, you might have to set those true loves aside for another day, but some of the speedier writers I know have times when they’re waiting on a contract or to hear back about a proposal, and those downtimes are ready made for secret love children. You can write that secret love story during your downtimes or on the side when you’re struggling with a revision that makes you feel like you left your writing talent by the side of the road. Since the secret love child can’t survive in today’s market, there’s no hurry to get it done, and if you have to suddenly pick up something with a deadline, you can set it aside. You’re passionate about it, so you’ll always come back to it. And meanwhile, it will reinforce your self-esteem and refuel your passion for writing. (Except when it breaks your heart.)
Also, there’s always the faintest chance that the market for your secret love child will break WIDE open while you’re working on it, and if so, you’ll be poised for breakout success. But don’t hold your breath on that one. Secret love children are for secret loving. The mean, cold world wants your hardiest ideas.
Do you have a lot of ideas? Do you have a secret love child? Do you write “for the market” or “for yourself?”