Tuesday, June 30, 2015

IWSG: Writing is like Iris hybridizing? But I thought it was like construction??

And here we go, another installment of writer's support group. Say "Hi" to the Ninja Captain and hop on the Linky. Also drop by our co-hosts, Charity Bradford, S.A. Larsen, AJ, Tamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda! This blog hop has gotten huge, and we need all the wrangling we can get.

This week, I’m taking care of my mother’s Iris habit. No, really, we’ve reached addiction level, and to make matters worse, she has started breeding them. Last year, she made somewhere between 500 and 1400 seeds from her various crosses. Of those, some 300 or so sprouted and are currently building up enough gumption to bloom (but probably not until next year).

And out of these hundreds, it’s likely only one or two will ever be taken to an Iris show. Hundreds of possible genetic combinations, and only one or two will get to go to the show to compete against the one or two brought by the other dozen hybridizers in the region. Of those, only a handful will go on to the next level of showsif you’re into writing and publishing, I bet you know where this is going.

To start with, those seedlings, the original crosses are new genetic material, the likes of which the world has never experienced before. So are the thousands of novels cranked out by writers every year. No one else has a novel like yours. Sure, it has some similarities, but it’s a new creature altogether. And of the books that get published, well, only a few of them will do well in any given year.

As I’ve been watering those hundreds of seedlings (did I mention it was 110 today? I’m wilting just thinking about it), I keep thinking about how much writing is like those Iris. Some of those plants are going to make Iris blooms. Bright lovely blooms that look just like every other Iris introduced twenty years ago. Sure, the flower is pretty enough, but that’s not enough. If it looks just like the other flowers, it’s got nothing.

Almost as bad are the hideously ugly ones. Sure they have the form of an iris, but they come out looking like someone painted a flower using manure. No joke, dog doo brown is a common color in the iris world. But at least there aren’t a million other people introducing a flower called Hero’s Duty (my mom would probably say that’s because everyone else had the sense to throw out the plants that looked like the dog crapped on top of the stem).

But that’s part of the problem, with writing too. Your story might be amazing, but how much room is in the market for a book like yours? Worse, is that book really in the Poo Parade? Our society sort of romanticizes the idea that hard work pays off, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you work really hard, you have a great book and a great idea, but all the hybridizers were crossing romance and sci fi this year and your book is suddenly elbow deep in competition.

So am I insecure? You betcha. I’m one of the seedlings yet to make a bloom and come to my fate (my mother has promised me she’ll ruthlessly destroy the unwanted flowers to make room for the ones she likes). And I feel, increasingly like there’s a lot riding on the outcome of this book.

I’m told nerves are part of the game.

Deep breathes.


  1. True that there may be a flood of one particular genre, but it's not about that. It's about building a readership, and in order to do that, all you have to do is connect with readers. (Unless you're going for a big publisher of course.)

  2. You know, I've always heard that if what you're writing isn't what's popular that year, hold on to it until it is, but then I think about Harry Potter and that wasn't something that was popular - that was brand new-ish and made it big. So I'd say if the market is over saturated with sci-fi romance crossovers... submit that high fantasy horror or whatever. I don't know. I'm talking about my butt.

  3. Your future as a writer will never depend upon just one book. It's a journey, so enjoy the ride.

  4. For a second there, I thought you were going to talk about the rare iris blooms that are amazing and beautiful and like nothing else, and that was going to go into how we sometimes feel about our books. But no, you went for dog doo. :P

    The metaphor works, though. But at least we can edit our stories. I doubt the iris show would think much of a flower that had been cut apart and taped back together.

  5. I'm not going to see any irises at all this year, though last we had some gorgeous dark purple ones. The bunnies may be the culprits, or maybe it's the deer. So are these critters like the agents, nipping queries in the bud?

  6. It would be good to think that all excellent writing would find a home, but I don't think this is necessarily the case. Sometimes it is down to trends, sometimes it is down to landing on the right desk at the right time! I wish I know the magic formula. I enjoyed your iris analogy, I was picturing all these beautiful purple blooms, I never knew they could look like dog doo!
    Happy writing :)


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