Which Come First: the Story or Market?

Cara Uncategorized 0 Comments

I’m a Nebraskan at heart, and as I’m sitting here working on Sandhill Dreams — set in, you guessed it, Nebraska — I was doing some quick research on Nebraska authors to make sure their books were in print in 1943. As I did that I ran across this quote from Bess Streeter Aldrich. Some of you may have read her books including A Lantern in Her Hand (truly one of the great prairie stories). Anyway, the author notes at the beginning contained the following quote that I thought you might enjoy.

“A Lantern in Her Hand” was written to please no one but my own consciousness of the character of many of those pioneer mothers. It was written in the so-called “mad twenties” when most of the best-selling books were about sophistication, flaming youth, or far-flung countries. There was some youth in it, but not of the flaming type. There was no sophistication, for Abbie Deal was of the soil. There was not even diversity of scene, for Abbie was only a homemaker.

“Lantern” seemed destined to be lost in the wave of the popular type of the times. That it has made new friends each year since that day might be a bit of a lesson for young writers. Regardless of the popular literary trend of the times, write the thing which lies close to your heart.” (quote found at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500521h.html#e01)

One challenge for writers is whether to write for the market or the story. The thinking is what good is it to write a great book that noone will ever see. Why not focus on markets that I know editors are looking for? I never planned to write historical romance. Yet three of my first four books are in exactly that genre.

However, I have been able to marry my deep love for Nebraska and World War Two into these books. They have been a joy to research and write because I find them fascinating. I’m blessed to have editors who are as intrigued by the stories as I am. Hopefully, readers will love them, too.

I also write suspense. The book Love Inspired Suspense purchased is high intensity and set in Nebraska. I wrote the book thinking there would be a market, but knowing that it was a story I wanted to tell. It was the kind I love to read. I didn’t know if it would find a home, but wrote it anyway with a couple ideas for houses that it might fit at. Fortunately for me, one of those houses agreed with me!

So Bess’ quote resonated this evening as I read it. Especially in light of a conversation we had today at the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. Should we write to the market or to the story? Like any self-respecting attorney, I think the answer is a mix of both.

So as I chase the dreams God placed in me to write, the challenge is not to chase the market so much I lose the story. Yes, I need to know the market. But even more I need to be obedient to tell the story God gives me. And just maybe I will write something timeless that is still read 80+ years later.

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