Friday, August 29, 2014

Writing in Selling Genres or Writing Issue Fiction? What's An Author to Do? ~ Jennifer Slattery


Writing Issue Fiction
By Jennifer Slattery
I wanted to hurl. Or cry. Except there were way too many people EVERYWHERE. So I did the only thing I knew to do—run! I spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room, tears streaking my puffy face with mascara.
It was my first national conference, and quite frankly, I arrived to my initial appointment more than a little cocky, believing I had crafted the next literary masterpiece.
Obviously this was pre-critique partners.
Appointment after appointment, my confidence waned and seriously considered smashing my computer to bits, forever destroying every story within it.
Apparently my genre of choice—if you can call it that—wasn’t selling. Rather, at the height of the recession, everyone wanted to find what I coin lollypop tales where the greatest character conflict evolved around a bad hair day or mismatched socks.
“People don’t want to read about real life,” I heard. “Theirs is hard enough already.”
My friends, wanting to encourage me and to help the thousands-upon-thousands of words I’d PAINstakingly pounded gain actual ink, urged me to write a sweet, fun romance.
Everything in me rebelled at the thought. Not that there’s anything wrong with sweet and fun. It’s a big world, after all, filled with many genres that appeal to a widely diverse readership, and I actually enjoy adding a fair amount of hilarity to my stories.
With an equal amount of depth centered on real issues—issues I felt we as a collective church needed to address.
Back home the following Monday, God and I had a long, very melodramatic talk. (Insert image of a snotty faced, pouting, foot stomping thirty-something two-year-old.)
In essence, I told Him if I couldn’t write stories with depth that focused on Christians reaching out to some really tough and incredibly broken folks, I didn’t want to write at all.
“This,” I said, pointing to the floor, as if words would suddenly appear there to emphasize my point, “is what I want to write.”
“Then do it.” The thought came so quickly and with such clarity, halting my tantrum, I knew it came from God.
I stood there, mid-stomp, stunned.
“Uh... Okay, then.”
And then I returned to my computer where I proceeded to pound out another million or so words, over half of which I quickly deleted.
Fast forward a couple years to another conference where, wise enough to know 90% of my work stunk but as convinced as ever of my calling, I met my publisher who was... Yep, you guessed it. Looking for issue or “missional” fiction.  
I was glad I’d held tight to my stories, my passion, my brand. Because God knew all along, and by the time I signed my first contract with Dr. Andrea Mullins from New Hope Publisher, I had five completed manuscripts waiting. She asked to see them all, offering two additional contracts in the months that followed.
Meanwhile, “issue” fiction has grown with an increasing number of publishers looking for stories that deal with things like domestic violence, alcoholism, orphanology… homelessness. *wink*
This doesn’t surprise me. Studies tell us millennials are the most cause-oriented generation yet. Meaning, they’re passionate about social justice issues. It’s only natural their taste in fiction would show a similar pattern. If this growing shift is any indication, issue fiction will thrive for some time.
So what’s the point?
We writers are an insecure bunch who like to measure our work against market trends or the most recent best seller. But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our sensitivity to the still, small voice beckoning from within. The One who created us to write that very story burning within—perhaps the story we’ve been told will never sell.
In other words, write what you love and leave the rest to God.

Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for a great price! You can find it here: 
Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 
Beyond I Do:
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancĂ©. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Novel Rocket Staff: Kelly Klepfer

14 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

Jennifer, the first book I wrote was Biblical fiction. It wasn't selling back then. I went ahead and shelved it and turned to where my heart was calling me, which was contemporary women's fiction. As soon as I was ready to pitch a two book series, guess what was selling again? LOL I stuck with what I love, though.

You have to. Otherwise, you'll be chasing the market forever. It's easier for a multi-published author to write to market, and you see it happen a lot. But it doesn't work well for a pre-published author.

Terri Tiffany said...

I went through a similar time. I write women's fiction and was told it is a hard sell. so I finally wrote a sweet romance and I really hated writing it. I went back to what I write and thankfully I have finally sold one.



Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great post, Jennifer! I think most authors shooting for traditional publication have to come smack up against those walls of "what's selling," "what's marketable," and "what's trending." Then we have to dig deep and decide if we can write those genres/markets with integrity (some are a fit for those genres--it's their calling!) or if we need to continue writing our passion (and perhaps wait or find another way to get our books out). So glad God blessed you for sticking to your vision. And I personally love books that deal with life "beyond I do."

Michael Ehret said...

From the day I first read your writing, I knew this day would come! So excited for you, friend. And I can't wait to read it.

Beyond that, the point you make is an excellent one. For Christians writing fiction, chasing the market is a huge challenge. Since it is God who places the stories on our hearts, we have to write what He's put there...anything less is, well, less. And who wants to do less for God?

Thanks for sharing this turning point in your career. It will help many others struggling similarly.

Jennifer Slattery said...

Ane, I can't wait to read your novel! I love reading both wf and biblical fiction. Actually, I love pretty much every genre.

An interesting question... how will the market change with the influx of self-and-indie published books? I suspect we'll see a wider spectrum of books released and read. It's an interesting time, for sure!

Jennifer Slattery said...

Yay, Tiffany! Congrats! I heard that, too. And yet, I personally love wf! And I see a lot of great wf on the market. I've heard it can be harder to sell but that once it does, it does very well.

Jennifer Slattery said...

Thanks, Heather,

That is so true! I also think there's many ways to make the type of novels one enjoys more marketable. I added a romance to my stories to make the tough issues more palatable. I also try to add a lot of humor in, which I thinks help counter some of the heavy stuff.

Jennifer Slattery said...

Michael, you have been such a support and great friend from day one! I still remember when I first met you at the Indie ACFW conference. I was scared out of my mind, a bit overwhelmed with the ginormous amounts of people, and felt a bit out of place. But you treated me like a welcomed friend. Same at CWG. And you really opened opportunities for me, which taught me a lot, from Afictionado to the Journal to the CWG blog. Plus, you helped me with the pitch for my second novel, "When Dawn Breaks." Not sure if I ever thanked you for all that.

Dina Sleiman said...

I was just asked to teach a class on issue fiction this summer at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I absolutely agree that the upcoming generation is very interested in outreach and social justice, and this will increase the demand for issue fiction.

Janice L. Dick said...

Jennifer, thank you for reinforcing my desire and calling to write what's on my heart, as opposed to "what is selling." Your post was a real boost.

Elaine Stock said...

Jennifer, I'm so happy & relieved you didn't give up on writing issues fiction. You're always an encourager.

Jennifer Slattery said...

That sounds like a great class, Dina!

Jennifer Slattery said...

I'm so glad you found today's post encouraging, Janice. :)

Jennifer Slattery said...

Thanks, Elaine, on both counts. :)