I talked a lot about rewriting Wren recently – well buckle up cos here’s some more in that delicious vein!
WRITE TO MARKET
Chris Fox came up with that snappy term – WRITE TO MARKET. It is best summed up in a simple Venn diagram that I just made you’re welcome:
While being aware of this, I’m not a big doer of this, though I think I am trying. I definitely pick popular genres that people want to read – however when I go in I tend to lean more on what I want to write than what most people want to read.
Looking at what I did in Wren that doesn’t match what readers want in my chosen genre – vigilante/terrorism thriller:
- Go heavy on third rail social issues as the core issues – race, child abuse, income inequality, etc… (would fit better in literary fiction)
- Go heavy on the perspective/psychological makeup of the bad guy (would fit better in serial killer fiction)
- Go heavy on guilt and the consequences of violent action on mental health (would fit better in literary fiction)
- Open with a main injustice unrelated to the main character (would fit better in detective fiction – open with a murder)
- Go heavy on cults (would fit better maybe nowhere – maybe literary or serial killer)
- Go heavy on DOMESTIC TERRORISM (not a common thing in terrorism thrillers or anywhere – they’re usually focused overseas on jihadis)
- Not have a woman and her son in need of protection (pretty common trope in vigilante justice)
- Go heavy on violence, gore and torture (would fit better in horror or serial killer)
- Go heavy on swearing (would fit better, hmm, serial killer?)
- Open with the protagonist behaving as an antagonist (much more a literary device – real bad good guy)
- Have the protag abuse drugs repeatedly (nobody much likes this – maybe serial killer)
- Go heavy on social justice with a black protag (I’m not sure where this fits – my impression is most terrorism/vigilante readers are white folks in the US heartland, probably leaning conservative, so I’m off base)
That’s a lot! Looking over this list, I can see over the last year I have fixed many of them. Some things it seemed I couldn’t really change, though – primarily the focus on social issues and the domestic terrorism angle.
Change those and it’s totally a different book. Pretty much everything else I’ve softened or removed considerably. So I’m learning the market.
Why not serial killer?
One interesting issue I faced when I first started approaching this fix-up operation was whether to go lighter (terrorism/vigilante) or darker (serial killer). I went lighter.
If I’d gone serial killer, I could really have stayed as the book then was. Serial killer readers love gore, violence, darkness, getting inside the bad guy’s head. I wasn’t sure at all what call to make here – other than go with the book’s core thrust.
It’s not a serial killer story. Those are pretty clearly bounded, as far as I can see. One evil guy, killing individual victims. Not mass-scale terror and vigilanteism. I figure I’d probably get just as many bad reviews if I try to make this square peg book fit in that round hole.
Also – I didn’t set out to write a serial killer book. I don’t really read those books. Whereas I do read Jack Reacher, and I did watch 24 – and those are more more what I was inspired by. That’s the kind of story I want to tell, and the market I want to tap.
So – was it a mistake? Well, who can say 🙂 I could always re-launch the original version with all its violence, darkness and swearing under a really dark cover. That doesn’t appeal, though. I like where we’re at right now. Fast, clean, a couple of points of difference while the rest should be a smooth read.
Thus far I have rewritten Wren 1 and am currently working on 3, MAKE THEM PAY. I already took out all the Handel Quanse POV, and am thinking very little is lost, really… Now I’ll sharpen and speed various other sections and we’ll see if readthrough to book 4 goes up.
Wren FB group
The Wren FB group is progressing really nicely, with 39 members, and I’m kind of learning what posts get more responses. Photos and real human stuff seems to do the best. Separating things a little from always talking about Wren – which is maybe a kind of sales pitch in itself.
Selfies. Cat pics. Getting to know you chitchats. They are doing best so far, and are the most fun to engage in really. My chatty, newsy newsletter is getting some lovely responses – makes for some nice little email conversations.
I was thinking last night (the night I wrote this post) about why, if all the tropes of my book were so close to serial killer, I hadn’t moved toward the darkness, kept it as it was, and branded it serial killer?
I already said above about the focus on single victims in serial killer fiction rather than terror attacks, but I was thinking that was probably surmountable. Then I hit on the best reason – my Wren books, unlike serial killer and unlike even vigilante justice – have huge special effects-laden action scenes. Really big stuff, large numbers of people, explosives, weaponry.
That’s not even close to either other genre. And those are facets I can’t change either. So, this is just to say that, although it has proved a lot of work to grade Wren for the terrorism genre, it’s the right choice. Big sales are a different matter – but as ever, I’m closer now than I ever was before.