Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Ideas and Writing for Specific Markets

Welcome to this week's Tuesday Tip.

When my friend asked me a few weeks ago whether there were any tricks to getting published, the first one I thought of was writing for a specific market.

In my case I had been working on a novel for the last eleven years. (Yes. That long.) It was a great tool for learning how to write, because I made soooo many mistakes and then had to correct them. But one thing that it showed me was that I quite enjoy writing sex scenes, and I'm pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

When I decided to really buckle down and try to tackle writing as a profession, I did a lot of research. I toyed with the idea of being a paid blogger, or writing internet articles, but eventually I decided that I wanted to get some short stories out there and hopefully build a following. Non-fiction is great, but fiction is what I really love. I can always start another novel, but working on a novel doesn't get me any fans or get my name out in the industry.

Having decided on short stories, I did more research. While I love writing fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, it turns out that those are some pretty tough markets to break into. Erotica, however, has LOTS of open calls. The pay isn't great with some of them, but I could consider those as practice and as marketing. And I already knew I could write erotica, good erotica with characters and plot and an intelligent vocabulary.

So now we come to the meat of this particular post: getting ideas for specific markets.

One of the first things I did when I decided to make a go of erotica writing was to make a spreadsheet listing all of the anthology markets I had found, their deadlines, webpages, word counts, dos and don'ts, and compensation. I also listed open markets. I decided what markets I particularly wanted to target first, and when I got started the first call that was going to close was Torquere's "Bite Me" anthology. MMF with biting, and the call had a definite paranormal slant. Perfect.

Now I just needed a story.

I had been doing a lot of research (I've mentioned before, I love research) on ancient Greek and Roman magic, and two things stuck out in my mind - curse tablets, and a goddess (or demigoddess, or daimon, depending on the time period) called Empusa. Many ancient curse tablets called upon daimones for aid, and I could imagine a scenario where a suppliant received an answer to his or her spell that they did not expect. Once I had that kernel of an idea, the rest of the story fell into place. Plus there were upcoming anthologies in my list for vampires, love spells, and demons, which meant that if Torquere passed on the story I would have other markets to submit it to right away.

One that was harder was Ravenous Romance's Threesomes anthology. They were mostly looking for MMF or MFM, but said they wanted at least one MMM and FFF. Go for the safer route, or assume that most people will be doing that and there will be less competition for the FFF or MMM? I decided to take the gamble and do FFF. But what about? My mind was blank. I picked a word at random - palace. Mm. I wanted to do contemporary. Caesar's Palace? Three women in Vegas? And there were more lesbian calls on my list, particularly Cleis's Girl Crush anthology. Spark. "When in Rome" was born.

Not all of my stories have been accepted by the first market I sent them to, but that's why I tend to have more than one market in mind when I brainstorm. This is why the spreadsheet is so useful - when a story gets rejected, I just open the spreadsheet, find an appropriate market, and send it out again. Plus it gives me more pieces to build a story from. I find I need at least three pieces to get a story idea. Vampires? That could be anything. Lesbian vampires? Still too vague. Lesbian vampires in the French Revolution? Now we're talking.

Keep your idea pump primed while you read, regardless of subject. Figure out what you want to write. Research the markets. Figure out what they are looking for. Combine a couple of calls together (ideally the calls should have deadlines at least two months apart) to help you get ideas and ensure your piece has a wide appeal. Then write it!

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