Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Pushing the Boundaries

Editors love it when you push the boundaries, or so they say. They love it when you bring something fresh, something different, something totally whacky to the table. Er, maybe not totally whacky. But you get my meaning. Basically, they want you to take a tried and tested idea and put your own spin on it, make it stand out in a completely unique way.

And here’s where I start getting palpitations! I think the last time I read anything totally unique that blew me away was when the book (Presents, of course) started with fairies being given their assignments as to who to pair up back on Earth. I kid you not. I remember thinking, fairies, in Presents? And yep, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now don't get me wrong, there are new authors and even well-established authors who blow me away on a regular basis. But something soo different that I'm left thinking, wow? Hasn't happened since the fairies sprinkled their dust.

Cue major heart failure now. How on earth can I make my work stand out in a way that makes an editor's heart beat faster without my hero growing fangs or my heroine literally sprouting wings and flying into the sunset with said fanged hero? I think my new ms is unique enough. I've certainly not read anything like it, but am I kidding myself here?

How do you know when you've pushed enough to be different, but not so far out as to be mistaken for a complete nut job?

Answers on a postcard please (or barring that, comments in the er, comment box).

Happy Easter to everyone!!!


  1. I struggle with too, but even if my hero had fangs or wings those are not new anymore. The market is flooded with them. I have no clue how to make my book different from all the rest. Somehow I seem to pick taboo issues that no one wants to deal with without even trying. Heroine who lies, heroine suffering from loss of child, heroine making bad choices. I hope my WIP is better, but I'm afraid I'll be told the heroine is too childish.

    I do know one book series I have read in the last few months as a sci-fi. I loved it because the main race was not human. They were trying to survive after humans from earth had invaded their planet and taken over. Telling the opposite side of humans searching out a new place to live.

  2. It's so hard, isn't it. We want to stand out, but we can't break too many rules. I suppose all we can do is keep trying.


  3. Well, this is what my editor said to me, Maya. Because even having two MSs in and accepted and being contracted for more, the boundary pushing thing is still tricky for me to grasp completely. When I was asking her about a particularly different hero of mine, she said that if I could keep the Presents promise (glamour, passion, seduction, strong alpha hero) apart from that, the sky is the limit. A reader picking up a Presents has certain expectations, and those need to be met, that's our promise to the reader. But there's no real formula there.

    That comment really opened things up for me.

  4. Jasmine, I think it takes a brave soul to push the boundaries well outside their readers' comfort zone, but I believe if done right, the reward could reap dividends. JK Rowling, anyone? That sci-fi book sounds interesting. What was the title?

  5. Yes indeed, Suzanne. We just need to keep at it, :)

  6. Maisey, that's just it - keeping to that fine line between the ok and the outstanding while sticking to the Presents promise. No matter how many times we hear it, it still comes back to haunt us at some point or the other. Glad to see I'm not the only one, lol!

  7. Hi Maya. I think the presents promise is the most important element. And what thrills is not so much the uniqueness of the story, but the quality of the writing. That's what captivates and adds ptq, and you have it in spades! (you minx!)

  8. Hi Maya,

    I've heard the phrase 'pushing the boundaries' alot since the comp last year, and I think it's given as all the heebie-jeebies and made us think we need to try to re-invent the wheel!

    In my feedback they asked that I try to make my writing as fresh and contemporary as possible, and I think Lucy King demonstrated this perfectly with her debut Modern Heat. The way she used the ebay auction idea was so modern and cool, but she still remained faithful to the modern heat line.
    That's what it's about for me - taking a fabulous alpha, a sassy heroine and a glam backdrop, and then adding your own thoroughly modern sparkle to the plot.


  9. Not sure I can be much help here since, as you well know, I am a complete nut job, lol, but in all seriousness, I think you have a great voice to your writing and your stories always keep me captivated, especially the dynamics between your alphas and your heroines, so no worries :)

  10. Sally, thanks so much for the lovely endorsement! One can't help but be nervous with all these expectations flying about from editors, but I live in hope!

  11. Jo, definitely living the in the land of heebie-jeebies at the moment right along with you, lol. I'm about to send my requested 3 chapters off and I'm as nervous as hell. I remember being green when I read Lucy King's chapter *sigh*. Oh, well, what can we do but our best, eh? Thanks for dropping by.

  12. Felicity, your endorsement always brings a lump to my throat. Seriously. Your belief in me helps so much more than you'll ever know. Bless you, dear! Bless you. And you're not a nut job...well, maybe a little. Not, lol!

  13. When you figure out the answer can you tell me too? ;-) I'm trying to push those boundaries as well but they're damn hard to find! It's the problem with newbie authors too - they want you to push the boundaries and yet remain inside them enough to show them you can toe the line and do what they ask. Which is tricky. But Lucy's is a great example - if you can think of a new twist and then work it into your story so that it fits the line, then Robert's your father's brother. Easy. ;-)

  14. Jackie, sometimes it does feel like the paradox wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in the er, other stuff, doesn't it? Be different, but stay the same; push, push, push but, er, not too much, mind! I definitely have some hair-pullings moments, I tell ya. On the plus side, I'm getting nice feedback from my lovely crit group with this one, so we'll see!

    Hope beach was lovely for you.