Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What Kind of Book Do YOU Want to Read?

Big time literary agent Donald Maass runs an interesting feature over at his website. It's called "What We're Looking For This Month." It lists some of the agents' story ideas that they'd like to see cross their desk. I admit, what I write generally isn't what they're looking for, but that could change pretty darn quick. For example, this month's ideas are more on target with what I write since they center on historicals.

But the whole thing got me to thinking about just how vast a pool of ideas there are out there. What we may want to read about is certainly not what someone else wants to read. That's why the library is so full of different kinds of books and well, the world is so full of different kinds of people. It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round! That's what makes things so darn interesting.

Aspiring authors often hear the advice, "Write the book you want to read but can't find." Excellent advice, with one caveat: if you are planning to write a multi-generational saga that rivals War and Peace on page-length for your very first novel, you might want to take another look at that idea. ;-)

So do you follow this advice? Are you writing the book you want to read or can't find? Or have you already written this book and are waiting to find a publisher? Or is your published book the book you wanted to read but couldn't find?


  1. If you write your passion, your questions, your scrutinies, you're putting your heart on the page. It shows when a writer does this, regardless of whether or not there are already similar books on the market. So I'd say, write your heart, not the market.

  2. I would have to say I am writing the book or books that I want to read and have a hard time finding--or as Joanne puts I write from my heart not for the market.

    I check out Donald Maass's site and what they're looking for and it is never anything I'm working on...darn :).

  3. Good question. My first three books (co-authored inspirational) were what I wanted to read, but couldn't find. Like Chicken Soup but with recipes, poems, stewardship tips added to the personal essay/stories.

    The one I've just finished is a first try at women's fiction, and it's exactly what I'd want to read but haven't ever found one like it. Now, isn't that cryptic? ;)

  4. Yeah, I've written books I want to read. Fortunately it wasn't a 1000 page epic *g*. Each ms is something I'm interested in, yet hopefully, still marketable.

  5. So many interesting things to think about and explore. I like people using history as a benchmark but I've never felt able to go that route in my writing. I think it is the scientist in me. I hate twisting what really happened, instead I make up my own stories LOL--and they are the sort of stories I like to read.

  6. I try to monitor their list of wants as well but so far have never had anything that fit.

  7. Joanne - I completely agree that you should write the book of your heart. Do you also think that the book of your heart translates into a book that you want to see on the shelf but can't find?

    Jenna - It's never anything I'm working on, either! But I bet there are people who look at those suggestions and try to write a book based on one just to see if they could get representation by Maass.

    Angie - I think it's awesome that you wrote a book that you would want to read but couldn't find. Here's another question - was this a conscious decision? I suspect that a lot of the time we write a book that is close to our heart and then later look to see if it's one that isn't available in the marketplace.

    Tess - Absolutely - it has to be a subject/topic/time period that we're interested in. I could never write a book that I wasn't passionate, that's for sure!

    Toni - That's where it's so cool to me how many ideas are out there floating around. I am naturally drawn to write historical pieces and naturally drawn to reading them, too.

    Travis - Me, too. :-)

  8. Melissa, I don't think it necessarily translates to a book you can't find. If your heart is on the page, it'll shine even among many others of the same type. Also,a thought this post brought up is: If there's a certain type of book you can't find on the shelves, maybe there's a reason? Maybe not enough of an audience? Just a thought ...

  9. Joanne - I think you're right about there not being an audience, or maybe the powers that be don't THINK there will be an audience. It is sometimes frightening how much marketing influences this business.

    To me, when I start to write a new novel, I don't think I've ever thought, "ok, what can I write that I'm not finding on the shelves?" It's never been a conscious choice. Instead, it's been whatever characters/plot/etc. moves me the most. I don't know if this actually translates to it being a book you can't find on the shelves and you never realize that's what you're doing until after the fact or what...


    I think my mind just went "POP" over that one. Too much deep thinking!

  10. I write the book that I enjoy reading, which is a good thing as I end up having to do several drafts of them before going onto the next. It's a good thing therefore that I still like the book/characters as I'm going over it for the fourth/fifth time.

    I just hope I'm also writing something that others will want to read too.

  11. Very often I've started a new book or story because the "what if?" itch wasn't scratched in the bookstore, or I see an idea used in a way I find unsatisfying, so I rework it for self-satisfaction.

    That's combined with the fact that I usually work from character, with characters "telling" me their stories.

    But both approaches wind up with me writing what I want to read and usually can't find.

  12. Ultimately, after (near) endless writing advice, I have to write for me.

  13. That's how I wrote my first book--I didn't know of any other books quite like it, saying what I wanted to say. I remember thinking at the time, This is what I want to read.

    Maybe I'm struggling a bit with my third book because while the subject matter fascinates me, it's not exactly what I want to read right now. Hmm...food for thought!

  14. SW - You're absolutely right. Write for you first - then I think the rest will come naturally.

    Christine - Y'know, I think that's ok. We go in reading spurts. There are times when I want to read a good thriller, other times I want something romantic and cute. So I think that if your story fascinates you, then you should keep with it. :-)


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