Escape less, relate more – a struggle between genres

Every time I see the hashtag  #MSWL, I get excited to see the wondrous things on agent and editor lists. Then, without fail, I read through the wishes and my heart sinks.

Everyone likes Fantasy (well, you know what I mean), and by that I’m including Magical Realism, Urban, Paranormal, and the like. People want to experience a world bigger, more crazy, exciting, and more unique than their own. They want to get away from their perceived boring lives and escape to extraordinary places behind the eyes of characters who can do things we only dream about.

But the market is so over-saturated with Fantasy, specifically YA. Every contest I do is jammed with that genre, but I see less and less of it in the winner’s circle. Even if I thought my MS, Scales on Our Eyes, was unique and captivating (I totally do), my chances of letting it fly into the literary world are small. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.  Writing talent and doing things (like queries) correctly is a leg up on the odds. I’ve seen more “all telling, no showing” #TenQueries than I can even count.

But back to the MS Wish Lists. I don’t see fantasy on the wishlists very often. And when I do, it’s “world building,” or “unique premise.” Perhaps John Green opened a huge pandora’s box of contemporary fiction with TFioS. That’s all I see now – contemporary. I’ve noticed lately that people want to escape less and relate more. They want characters of different ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, uncommon jobs, and real problems. And, holy cow, has NA blown up – I didn’t know NA existed before, and now it’s everywhere.

And here’s the rub.

Before I immersed myself into the literary world, I simply wrote an MS to see if I could, and because I always wanted to complete a novel. I wrote Scales, and, at the time, I was at a very low place in my life. I experienced financial troubles in the midst of a dead-end job during the depressing, post-college struggle into my field career. I lost one of my best friends to cancer while in college, and I struggled to keep my Crohn’s disease in remission since. (Note: I now have a cozy career as a graphic designer, I’m financially stable- or close enough, and I’m in remission – it does get better!)

I remember listening to BIGBANG (Korean pop music, not the show, though the show is great) and realizing that Kpop careers have a short window. 90% of Kpop groups disband within the first 5 years. Don’t quote me on it, but I know it’s a high percentage. I remember thinking that I was the same age as the members of BIGBANG, and I remember thinking “I’m 25 and just waiting for my life to begin. They’re 25, and they don’t have much time left on their shiny fame.” Then a deep sadness struck me, as a new realization hit me: my friend who passed away never made it to 25.

I started a second novel, Quarter Turn, an NA that I mistook as YA for a long time. The synopsis is in my writing page, so I won’t put it here. It encapsulated all of the aforementioned suckiness. You know that “When Will My Life Begin” song form Tangled? Yeah, that. And on top of that, fears of leaving one’s comfort zone, because of illness and financial insecurity, and being a girl who’s not all into that party scenario (alcohol is a no with Crohn’s disease), but totally into World of Warcraft.

Disability, check. Real problems, check. NA Contemporary, check. Now let’s add in the fact that three-quarters  (I can never read ¾ anymore without a British accent – side effects of HP fandom) of the book is set in South Korea, and all but two major characters are Korean. Ethnically diverse setting and characters, check and check. And Kpop is a HUGE market, untapped in the book world. I can’t find fiction on it anywhere. Boom. Unique premise, check.

Everytime I read #MSWL, my brain is a cacophony of “that’s Quarter Turn!” “that’s Quarter Turn!” that’s Quarter Turn,” and sometimes a “Scales could fit that.” It’s heartbreaking when your finished novel doesn’t fit, but your unfinished MS is wishlist goldmine.

Just one more thing, and I’ll tell you why this is getting nuts.

Last November, I slammed out 40k worth of Quarter Turn. I only had a few more chapters left and of course, lots of editing. The last week of NaNo, my hard drive bit the dust. Before it completely melted into oblivion, I shoved all of my Scrivener files onto my flash drive and pushed my MS into iCloud.

But now, I don’t have a Mac to check my Scrivener files, which were only notecards, anyway. But I don’t have the names of new characters anywhere else or my thoughts and breakthroughs I had during NaNo. And my MS that I sent to iCloud? Corrupted. Yep. Gone. 40k+ words gone into oblivion with my hard drive.

At the same time, I got into PitchWars with Scales. And since the end of Pitchwars, Scales has come a long way with the new edits, including a new theme (which was there all along, hidden under unnecessary scenes and contrived character interactions), and it’s more polished than I could ever imagine it becoming.

Guys, I’m really struggling here. Don’t get me wrong. I love Scales. It’s my 3-year baby. I’ve poured countless hours into that MS and those characters. But my heart is in Quarter Turn, and I feel that what agents and contests and readers are looking for right now is diverse, plausible characters in Contemporary fiction.

Do I continue the push on Scales, though the edits seem endless and the thirst for the Fantasy genre is fading? Do I start over on Quarter Turn, a genre that’s blazingly on fire? I know ideas are subjective. I know writing for trends is like trying to catch water with a slotted spoon. Regardless, I am torn between the needs of both much-loved MSs.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Escape less, relate more – a struggle between genres

  1. Yes! As a YA fantasy writer, I feel you. I keep telling people that my ms is pretty good, but might not be right for the market. That’s how it goes. Don’t ever lose love for past ms. I have quite a few sitting around waiting for me to return and I will, because I love them all. If it’s time for a change, it’s time. You’ll know in your gut when, sounds like you already do. But don’t mistake moving on for giving up. My ms has one last shot, if (when) it gets rejected, I’m giving it a break. It needs it and I need a break from it.
    As someone who has seen a bit of Scales, I want to read it and had my fingers crossed all through pitch wars. The market is against us, but what can we do? We write what is in our hearts to write. That’s all we got.
    Keep living. Keep writing. Keep smiling.

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