Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good news and what I learned from it

Camy here, with some great news! I just got another 3 book contract with Zondervan!

The books are not a series—they’re 3 stand alone titles. The first book is slated to release May 2010 and is tentatively titled The Year of the Dog (they’ll probably change it). It’s a women’s contemporary novel. Here’s the back cover blurb from my proposal:

Tessa Ota, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year.

While moving ahead with renovation plans for her new dog kenneling and training facility, Tessa needs to move in with her disapproving mother and her antagonist sister. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate engineer whose car she rammed a few weeks earlier.

Charles Bretton has enough problems. His mama has just shown up on his doorstep all the way from Louisiana, and his brother has to move in with him after being kicked out of his apartment—with a dog in tow. And guess who the dog’s owner is?

His brother’s slovenliness, Mama’s diabetic bouts with low blood sugar, and the dog’s bad behavior are all distracting Charles from his wedding plans with a woman whose family connections will help Charles in his career. But he can’t help being attracted to the dog trainer whose sunny smile masks her bitterness at hypocritical Christians, and he starts to wonder about his own professed faith.

Will Tessa’s disjointed family and Charles’s disruptive home prevent both of them from discovering what’s really important?

But my post today is not about my good news (although I hope you are all setting your calendars with a “buy Camy’s book” reminder in May of 2010!).

After I finished writing Single Sashimi in Fall of 2007, I asked my editor at Zondervan, “What do you want me to write next?”

She said, “I want a contemporary romance with a dog in it.”

Did I say, “No, I don’t want to write romance, I like writing chick lit.” or “No, I don’t feel like it”?

Of COURSE I’d write what she wanted. I’m not STUPID.

But here’s my point: Your muse is a myth. Get over it and write what you should write.

I am not saying to write to the trends, because they come and go too fast.

And I’m not saying to write what you don’t feel comfortable writing.

But I am saying that for writers to cling to their “muse” and what the “muse” is telling them to write is just plain dumb. And bad business practices.

There is no such thing as a muse. What there is are writers who target their energies toward writing good books. Period.

“You should write historicals.”
“You have a great historical voice.”
“No other historical writer writes that setting/time period.”
“Your historical books are better than your contemporaries.”

Are you going to listen to your “muse” who says that the “book of your heart” is a contemporary women’s fiction about your traumatic past, and only focus on that, or are you going to listen to peers and professionals who say you have a great historical voice?

Look at Ruthy. Tina dared her to write a non-women’s fiction novel, and it ended up winning the Tara contest.

Did Ruthy say, “No, I don’t write anything except Women’s Fiction”? Heck no. She said, “Sure, I take your dare,” and look what opportunities it opened for her!

The “book of my heart” is a fantasy epic novel hidden under my bed. Did I cling to my “muse” who said that fantasy is my favorite genre and I should only write it?

No. I wrote chick lit because I also like reading that. I wrote romantic suspense because I also like reading that. I stuck the “book of my heart” under my bed to play with the dust bunnies.

Bottom line: Be flexible. You will not survive in this business otherwise.

Contests are a great opportunity to experiment with different genres, different “brands” for yourself.

Be willing to try different things. Be willing to focus your energies on sound business decisions about what to write next.

Be willing to be willing.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!


Marissa said...

I like that Camy, be willing to be willing.

I think this post was exactly what I needed to hear. I've been struggling to find my "muse" and it's reassuring to hear that it's okay to try a few different things. Thank you Camy!!

Lisa Jordan said...

This is great advice. Fortunately my muse has been in alignment with what I like to read and write.

Would you consider your new novel more women's fiction than romance? Looking forward to reading it.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great advice Camy. Writers can and should be flexible. I've tried so many different things and find each one helps improve the others.

Your new series sounds great. I love dogs, so can hardly wait for this one.

Cara Slaughter said...

I love your advice, Camy! I can't imagine NOT following your editor's advice since she knows what she's publishing and what she wants. Listening to your muse and sticking to her (him?) is fine if you're writing solely for yourself. But if you're writing hoping to publish, then listen to the pros.

And Ruthy--what should we have for a mid-morning snack???

Eileen Astels Watson said...

CONGRATULATIONS on the new three-book deal! Way to go, girl!

I have a question, Camy. How does this fit in with "branding". You mentioned it in your post, but I've heard a lot about it on the web lately, and many professionals suggest you stick to one brand. But what you are suggesting is to jump around in genres, and I take it you're sticking with the same author name for all these genres you're publishing in. Do you have a different "brand" for each genre then, or is yours broad enough to cover multiple genres? Or have I got all this branding stuff wrong.

Kim said...

WOO-HOO!!! Congratulations, Camy!!

With this great attitude, and your great ability to be flexible, I bet we'll be seeing your name on book covers for a long time!



Ty said...

I have a similar question to Eileen's about branding. I tend to read mystery and suspense more than anything, so that's what I have been writing mainly.

On the flip side, while I don't read too many historicals, I can picture myself writing one. That's weird, but I have tossed around ideas. I think the research part would be a lot of fun.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Well, writing a romance with a dog in it is kind of general, and since you've already done some romance in your chick lits, I don't really see that you're changing your brand. And you can still write it the way you want.

You showed your flexibility when you asked what they want you to write next. I don't think I'd be that brave! But I hear you. Don't be stubborn or "high-brow" about your so-called "muse." I never liked that term myself. It's kind of arrogant to think you have your own personal "muse" (whatever that is) telling you what to write, and you can only write what "it" tells you to write. Hello. That's a little too New-Age-ish for me. I try to write what works, what works for me, and what works for the market. Try to, anyway. (Really, Mary, I do.)

Erica Vetsch said...

Congratulations, Camy, on being willing to be willing. Three more books from Zondervan! How cool!

Rebekah E. said...

Congrats on your three book deal.

lynnrush said...

Be willing to be willing. I like that as well. Oh, and congrats on your book deal. God bless.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

This is such great advice, Camy. If I stuck to writing only action-driven romance...I may still not have sold yet.

And I'm so excited to read the dog romance! I remember brainstorming it with you and can't wait to be able to read the final version.

Was Snickers your inspiration for writing it? LOL!

And never let me read your epic fantasy! Send it to Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press!!!
Squirly-who has a secret love for speculative fiction.

Julie Lessman said...

Camy, You go, girl!!! Super congrats on the sale, girlfriend, and may there be many, many more!

Great post and SO very true!!!


Patricia W. said...

Great advice, Camy.

Ladies of Seekerville, you have been awarded the I LOVE THIS BLOG award. Because this is definitely one of my faves and for all your encouragement and info sharing, you are more than deserving. See more here.

Missy Tippens said...

Such an excellent point, Camy! If I had waited for my muse, I wouldn't have made it past one or two manuscripts. Some days I feel that inspiration, that "in the groove" flow. Other days I battle to make mayself start typing. But I do start typing. And often the work for that day stinks. but then I have something to fix.

Congrats again on your sale!! I love the story idea!


CatMom said...

Great advice, Camy!! And a BIG congrats on the 3-book deal - - WOW!!
Patti Jo :)

Janet Dean said...

Camy, I'm so thrilled for your three book contract with Zondervan!!! You're wise to be flexible with your editor, who's also wise for offering that contract. I'm almost finished with Single Sashami and loving it!!! Great job!


Anita Mae said...

Great post, Camy. I thoroughly agree with you.

When you first mentioned muse, I thought, ' believers have a muse? I don't think I have a muse...'

So far, I've rarely had writer's block but I think that's b/c when I do, I pray and then try to be very still and soon, something just pops into my head. ya think God could be my muse? I'd really rather drop the word muse and say He's my inspiration.

I do remember watching the movie Xanadu where Olivia Newton John is a muse but I couldn't really relate to the story although the music was a hoot.

So thank you for writing about a muse. You keep this up and I'll feel like I'm just a regular person. :-)

Anita Mae said...

Oh and congrats going out to:

Camy - Wow, a 3 book deal! I am so happy for you.

Ruthy - great job on finaling with Running on Empty AND Seeking the Garden in Finally a Bride

Christina Berry said...

Great tip!

If any of you Seekers want to know more about Camy's love life, hop over to my blog. I just posted an interview of her and a mini review of SINGLE SASHIMI.

Camy Tang said...

Thanks for the congrats, guys!

Lisa, my book is more romance than women's fiction, I think.

About branding:

Before you're published is a great time to try different genres so that you can find your brand. That's why I wrote both chick lit and romantic suspense--to figure out which I liked best. I liked both, but thought my chicklit writing was stronger, and that's what sold.

However, even my third book, Single Sashimi, has a little suspense in it. And then I was offered the contract with Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, and it was a good fit because I'd already written suspense and had some of it in my third book.

My brand is "Asian American characters," and that particular brand can jump genres, to an extent. You may find your brand can jump genres, or you may find your brand can't jump genres. It depends on what your brand is, and also how you feel about writing several genres.

For example, while I can write Asian "romance with a kick of wasabi" in both chick lit (which has romance and Asian characters) and romantic suspense (with Asian characters), I don't think I'd be able to carry my brand over to straight women's fiction very well (no romance), or to straight suspense (doesn't have much romance). Does that make sense?

But use this time to find out what you like writing. It won't be time wasted. And like Sandra said, when she tried different things, it improved her writing overall.


What I meant by "muse" is when some writers insist only on writing what they're "inspired" to write. Often this is the "book of their heart" or whatever genre they feel "inspired" in. They write based on their feelings.

My point is that writers have more than one book in them. And if you are gifted in writing to one genre or brand but the "book of your heart" is something completely different, maybe it's time to set that book aside for a little while. If you're serious about writing for a career, you have to make tough decisions like that.

You also can't write based on feelings. You should write based on your own particular abilities and based on solid business decisions. Leave the "feelings" to the New-Agey people.


Anita Mae said...

I really like your post Camy.

Rachelle Gardner posted some questions a couple days ago and one of them was if you had and knew your brand. I didn't. At this point I can't even imagine one.

The 5 novels I've written are divided between 3 romance genres: Contemporary, Historical and Inspy. I've entered contests in all 3 genres. I've enjoyed writing all 3 genres. I guess I'll worry about branding after I'm pubbed.

I thoroughly agree with your statement about writing a book in response to an editor's request. That is, in effect, what I do when I enter contests like Cheryl Wyatt's Prompt, and the Writer's Challenge on the eharl site. I'm given words or a theme to work with and if I want to win, I have to stay within those parameters.

An added bonus is that b/c of one of Squirrel's contests, I've discovered that I also like writing Suspense. So, I'm using Nov and NaNo to attempt an Inspy Suspense.

I figure I might as well get all my 'wanderings' out of my system now before I'm pubbed so that when I actually am, I can settle down to the real work. :-)

Pam Hillman said...

I've written contemporary romance, romantic suspense and historical romance.

I'm glad I experimented with different genres early on. That way if an editor asks me to write something a little out of my comfort zone, I'll know that I can do it.

Seekers are more than willing, I think!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, tomorrow we've got an interview coming up with Robin Miller (aka Robin Caroll).

Don't miss it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


You mentioned me in your blog. Girlfriend, I'm so honored!

And you're absolutely right. Ya gotta keep on keepin' on in this business or get stale. Or overlooked.

Or something.

Very pointed post. Loved it. And I love that your new contract pushes you to other dimensions. Absolutely true that if we change, we grow.

Go get 'em, girl.

(Laughing at the whole 'branding' thing since Camy and I have gone round and round with that idea too many times to count...

And what's our 'branded' chick lit girl doing?


Writing suspense and now WF.


I like that she's spreading her wings. Good for her. I think we'll invent our own special 'brand' for the Amer/Asian chick lit suspense women's fiction author...)


Ausjenny said...

congrats on the contract and will look for it.
Sounds like good advice too and not just for writing.