Passion vs Marketability

Now that I’ve finished the first draft of MUSE, this manuscript will go into hibernation for a while. So I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering what I should move on to. It’s a battle between a call of the heart or market sensibility.

I can go back to a previous manuscript, a story I dearly love and which has garnered some attention from agents, but not enough for a contract. Clearly, there are problems with it that I’ve not yet identified. I can spend the next six months in a familiar world, with characters I know well and adore, and try to fix the problems with this manuscript. I’ve invested many years in this story — there’s even a first draft for the sequel — and I’m not ready to give up on it yet.

Another possibility is an urban fantasy I started early last year. I came close to the end of that draft and lost both momentum and interest in the story. Yet the idea had been rattling around in my head for several years before I was finally in the right place to write it. I’m sure I will eventually regain my passion for this story but it’s not calling to me just now.

I could start something new. I’ve been playing around with a number of ideas. One has a post-apocalyptic setting, something I’ve always wanted to try.  Think Dan Brown but with more grit. Another is an urban fantasy in which the faerie world still exists side-by-side with the modern world. Human sacrifices, immortality, Pandora’s box. There are so many things I want to write about. The post-apocalyptic story is the one I suspect would be the most sensible to write. It’s controversial and, I think, eminently saleable. It would, if done right, be a gripping read. But it’s not calling to me either. At least, not yet.

I started writing this post about eight weeks ago, at a time when finishing the first draft of MUSE seemed very far off indeed, and over the last few weeks, no matter which idea I try out, it’s that first one, the story I’ve already spent ten years on, that draws me to it. In fact, it seems my subconscious has decided for me because last weekend, without ever making a conscious decision to return to this project, I went to the copy shop and had the manuscript printed and bound, all 585 pages. It’s sitting on the desk in my study now, along with new packs of pens and highlighters. And it’s calling me. For better or worse, this is what I’ll be spending the next few months on. Only time will tell whether it’s a wise use of my time or just another round of edits on a project that will never sell.

How do you decide between projects?  Do you analyse the market and write what you think has the best chance of selling?  Or do you let your heart make the decision?



5 responses on “Passion vs Marketability

  1. Evan

    I’m having sort of a difficult time with this very question. I feel I should start something new (I’ve been trying to start a new project for the last few weeks; it has a lot of potential but is putting up heavy resistance), and yet my own 10-year-old project is crying out to me. Frankly, I’m not sure if my ten-year-old will ever shut up, and yet I know — intellectually — that I should set it aside for a long enough period for me to come at it with both fresh eyes and a heightened skillset.

  2. KylieQ

    I know what you mean. I’m trying to tell myself this is my last pass on this project but I don’t know whether I will ever be able to put it aside and accept that it really may not be saleable. Perhaps the resistance you’re feeling with your new project indicates it’s not the right time for this one.

  3. Evan

    That may be. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep fighting it for a while longer. If I only did what felt right, I have a feeling I would have written 10 sequels to Colony by now. 🙂

  4. Brandon M Lindsay

    I think that the best stories are written by authors who really believe in what they are writing. You can always tell when someone wrote something they didn’t really want to write for themselves but for what they believe other people would want. It can sometimes feel contrived; I think their work suffers for it. I think as long as you work on the things that capture your imagination, you have a better chance of creating the same response in your readers.

    Of course, you have to draw a line somewhere. If your interest flits from one project to another before you even finish a paragraph, you’ll never get anything finished. I guess you have to balance your passion with discipline.

  5. KylieQ

    Agreed. I’m still not convinced I’m making the best decision in letting my heart decide in this case but to spend so much time on a manuscript, I have to love it. But I also need to listen to the market and let it direct me a little more than I have been.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *