Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Perils of Compromise

I write "cozy" women's fiction. That means there's not a great deal of sex, there's hardly any violence, and there's very little cussing. Not that I'm opposed to those things or never read books that contain those elements. But "cozy" fiction just happens to be what I enjoy writing the most. Exploring the intricacies and complexities of relationships. Examining the deeper "life" questions we all struggle with. Looking at the nuances of decisions people have made, decisions people are trying to make...those are the things that interest me most.

And, sure - I realize that leaving those sex/violence/cussing elements out of my work (for the most part) probably lessens my chances for publication. Of course, there are those rare published/successful exceptions: Rosamunde Pilcher, Jan Karon, Debbie Macomber. But, like I said, they're rare. The majority of women's fiction tends to include darker subjects, like child abuse or infidelity or scandal. Or, the "chick lit," which tends to contain quite a bit of promiscuity, cussing, drinking, etc. Which is FINE, but it's just not "me."

So, what about compromise? What about sprinkling in a little more of those "modern" elements, in order to heighten my chances for publication?

Yes, these are questions I've asked myself, and it's a tricky answer. Because I'll never be so staunch and set-in-my-ways as a writer that I won't consider compromise. I am flexible, and I will consider adding certain things. But - I'll also never "sell out" to the point that I don't recognize my own writing anymore. I have to stay true to myself, bottom line.

Here's an example: I wrote a magazine article a few years ago, and the magazine wanted to publish it (yay!). The catch was that they wanted me to add even more personal information to it, information that I wasn't comfortable sharing (my article was about my divorce, and it was already so personal to me that I submitted it under a pseudonym). The editors wanted me to go into GREAT detail about why I divorced -- but, here's the thing. The article wasn't about the details of my marriage. It was about the healing process AFTER divorce. It was MY story, not my ex's story. The details of the marriage really shouldn't have mattered in this particular article. That was not the purpose. That was not the focus. So - I compromised slightly, giving the editors only what I was comfortable giving. A couple of extra sentences. But when the editors kept pushing, and when it became clear that they wanted the details in order to make the article a bit more salacious, I said "NO." And, in the end, they did still publish my article, as it was.

So, I guess my point is this -- as an author, be willing to compromise, but listen to your gut, in the end. Compromise is good. Flexibility is good. But selling out beyond what you're comfortable with - is not good. You must stay true to yourself as a writer, and if people aren't willing to accept the "real you," then maybe it's time to move on.


  1. I love cozy mysteries. I didn't realize that there were other types of cozies.

    I hereby declare myself a cozy fantasy writer. ;-)

  2. You've got the right attitude....a 'little' compromise is fine....but bottom line (as you said), staying true to who you are.