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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING, TOO

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
-Mark Twain

American Werewolf in London
Yesterday I posted about writing another book, and solicited comments from people about a few choices of novels I had in mind. I have a few dozen others, but these were the ones I thought would probably be the most commercially viable or ones I want to do.

I got a lot of feedback (for my blog at least) and I want to thank everyone for their thoughts on the matter. I thought I'd give some information on what had in mind with each book and what I figured and perhaps get some feedback on that.

The werewolf in WW2 book is, I believe, the most cinematic book; that is, it is the one most likely to easily translate into a movie or television program. It deals with content that is a typical best seller or topic of interest: Nazis, World War 2, and Werewolves. For some reason right now supernatural monster stuff is hot, particularly with younger readers. However, this would not really be a young adults book. In fact it would be a bit harsh for young readers as I have no intention of pulling any punches when dealing with Nazis and the Polish occupation. I've studied and researched the war, gypsies, British intelligence, resistance movements, and so on for decades and there's a lot of story to tell here. And I have the book more than half written, so that's a big bonus.

My only concern is that this is a supernatural thriller, which kind of limits its market. WW2 fans probably wouldn't appreciate the werewolf, and werewolf fans probably wouldn't appreciate the horrific monster that he is. History fans probably wouldn't like the fantasy elements, and so on. So it might be a tough sell, although Abraham Lincoln, Zombie Hunter did well.

The Water Mage book would be one more in a series I'm writing, seven total books. Without giving away too much, six of these books (including Old Habits and Snowberry's Veil) are telling the story of each character, who then are grouped up in the final book. They have some crossover, as I'm trying to give the feel of a larger, more complex world.

This kind of book would be very easy to write, I could knock it off in a month or so. People say write what you know, and I know fantasy very well. The problem is, while I'm told continually by people who don't read or like fantasy that they like my fantasy, that's only because they gave the book a shot, and its a niche market that is glutted right now. Everyone is writing fantasy, and frankly there's an ocean of crap out there.

The Western is another niche market and is mostly a concept book. The film Payback would so readily be ported over into a western setting its just begging to be written. But Westerns aren't big sellers these days unless you're a big name writer like Compton or Johnstone (or write one of those awful soft core porn ones). It would be an easy write, but the main character isn't especially heroic and it would be sort of a shock to people who've read my earlier stuff.

The detective novel is very difficult to explain. The problem is I cannot really tell what its like or give details without giving away the mystery, so it would be a really tough sell to a publisher and probably even readers. The concept is fascinating (to me at least) and to the best of my knowledge nobody has even attempted a story like this. It involves an understanding of Christian theology put to practical test and what that does to an atheist detective's understanding of the world, ultimately. The detective himself is somewhat unique as well, but again, I can't get into that without giving too much away. So probably a tough sell.

The Reality Show fantasy I think has a tremendous amount of promise. It brings together two concepts that I really like: the fantasy world and the lack of understanding by too many people - especially the type of people who get into show biz - of how the world really works and what matters in life. Forcing pampered egos and hedonist soft living types into a rugged, dangerous setting without all the niceties of life would result in a fascinating character study. And lots of deaths.

And I have a great twist to make it work: the reality show is a zombie survival show, staged in one of those abandoned cities in the far east. Ultimately it would be about learning lessons about reality and truth, but it would seem to be an exciting adventure story. Still, fantasy is a tough sell, even with zombies and reality TV thrown into the mix.

The War Horse short stories I'm going to keep writing, one way or another. They probably will show up on Kindle as freebies so people can get a feel for my writing. I think its a fascinating concept that people would like, appealing to horse lovers, nature lovers, and fantasy geeks. But short stories are not an easy sell.

The superhero book is a rough one. Eric is right: I've yet to have read a really successful superhero novel. Without the dazzling visuals, they just seem to fall flat. The difference here would be that its not so much about the fights as the life of the characters. X-Men and New Mutants had such an amazing opportunity to tell these stories, but they never really do. Anime tries, but always ends up focusing on some pathetic wretch of a boy who inexplicably is the object of lust of the hottest girls in school.

This would be the most "young adult fiction" of the books, and would have a broad appeal to girls, as many of the characters would be female and would be pretty powerful. It would be about relationships, troubles in school and so on mixed with how to deal with powers, what its like to have a superhero (or supervillain) as a parent, and so on.

My biggest problem? At 46, I'm kind of out of touch with youth culture, slang, and problems. Granted I can pick up on that with research but I would fear it would have a second hand feel and not be as convincing as it would need to be. And again, superhero fiction maybe not a great sell. but if it was done right, I think it really could do well and be an easy part of a long series: one for each school year.

The Romance is probably commercially viable but a tough write. The bulk of the story would actually be a historical one stretching over about ten years including the War of the Roses which I have some understanding of but would need a gargantuan amount of research to really get right. Historians are ruthless with mistakes in this kind of book. They'll put up with fake characters, but they won't put up with fake language, technology, or ideas.

And I'm not a fan of romance, which means the romance wouldn't be the story so much as the development of the relationship. And this runs the risk of seeming like some disgusting pedophile book with a man marrying a 10 year old girl. Clearly that wouldn't be the case, the guy would treat her as an annoyance (and at his age of 19 he'd be more interested in having fun gambling and drinking and finding girls his age).

The Dollymop book shares the same concern: a story about underage prostitutes in Victorian England? You sick bastard! But the Lord is a guy who has traveled the world and is in no shape - literally - to deal with girls of any age. It is a host of historical problems, largely getting the slang and language right. I know an awful lot about the time period but I am not British and it would be a challenge to get the dialog properly rendered.

This I think could be a seller, the topic is salacious enough to interest people, it would deal with both Victorian England and the old west, and would have plenty of politics and violence. Taking away the best moneymakers the criminals of London have - and the dalliances of powerful lords - would be met with no small resistance.

And finally, there's the elevator. The truth is, I only have this one in the conception stages. I thought about it and said "wow that would really work" but that's as far as its gotten. It would be easiest if I used one person as the storyteller, sort of a Scheherazade calming the panicking people down as they hear alarms going off and terrible crashing sounds above them.

It would be sort of depressing, and it would be a challenge to get the point across without beating people over the head (although I think I've done okay in my books so far of making the point without being too preachy about it). The primary challenge would be to come up with, say, six stories that are interesting, fresh, and to the point enough. The rest of the book more or less writes its self, with descriptions and dialog between the stories. And the 9/11 angle really would pull in interest.

I'd prefer not to do the big reveal right away, just start off with people stuck in an elevator as the lights flicker. On the other hand, the buzz would be "9/11" so it would be like writing a book about a sinking ship then revealing its the Titanic, while selling it as a book about the Titanic.

And yes, they'd all die. That sort of makes the final point, as this would be a book about justice, understanding life, and death, and facing how you lived over the years.

I can see this as commercially viable, if sold right, but I'm just honestly not sure I'm the one to write it.

Anyway, that's how I see these books.

1 Comments:

Anonymous JoelAT said...

As I have some inside knowledge into your thought process, I would rank what I want to see in the following order.

The Detective Novel
WW2 Werewolf
Water Mage (I want the whole set)
Western
Dollymop
9/11
Superhero
War horse (I like the idea of the free kindle, you could then sell the full collection)
The Romance

That's my two sheckles

2:44 PM, September 05, 2012  

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