On writing to the market

Mum says that most people know what they want to be, they’re just too afraid to say it.

I’ve wanted to write for money since I was in third grade. See how I said write for money there? I could be a writer and not be paid for it. But I had a goal and it was a goal I held from the beginning.

So, third grade. Just imagine the oddball collection of stories I’ve created since then in this quest. In the pantheon of my lost writings, there’s a strange outlier. I don’t know why I recalled this recently, other than the fact that it involves rabbits and my children are bunny-crazy. There’s total bunny escalation around here and it gets worse around Easter. My son will sometimes put all the plush bunnies in a pile on the floor and roll around in them. (I totally need a picture of this to show his future anything.)

This particular lost story only exists in my memory and never progressed more than a few paragraphs. It was about a mommy bunny going out for a picnic with her baby bunnies with a basket full of sandwiches and carrots and all that. The grass was green, the sun was sunny. Blah, blah…

This story is an outlier because if you look at the rest of my early body of work *tee hee*….my third grader to sixth grader body of work, you can already see elements of the writer who would become Jeannie Lin. My first full story was a haunted house mystery. I cut my teeth on stories about space ships and quests and big adventures. The bulk of my early work was what I later learned was called fanfic. And my fanfic was all Voltron and Transformers. Big clashes. High drama.

So what was this idyllic bunny crap?*

Ah, realizes current day Jeannie. That must have been me trying to write to market.

8-12 year old Jeannie would look at published books to figure out how to write quotations “like they did in real books.” So it makes sense that early Jeannie would look around at children’s books and wonder, what would actually sell? Early Jeannie read Charlotte’s Web and Bunnicula and heard everyone raving about this thing called Watership Down (haven’t read it yet…I should remedy that.)

This must have been why she tried to sit down and write this sunny, happy bunny story about a picnic. Early Jeannie had never been on a picnic! Picnic’s were things people did in books. Jeannie’s family shuffled off to the beach with a plastic shopping bag of bao and oranges. We didn’t have baskets of sandwiches and carrots.

After realizing this, current Jeannie imagined a conversation with my then writing circle, cousin Mary and my brother. Where we all sit around and gripe about what’s selling or not selling after our latest round of Voltron re-imaginings.

And this scene, which never actually happened, made me smile. Lots.

There’s no great point to this story than the fact that 1) I’ve always been trying to write to market, 2) I’ve never been particularly good at it and 3) I’m smiling.

A final note, sunny bunny picnic stories are exactly the type of stories I tell to my children when asked to perform ON COMMAND at bedtime now. This is a new market for me and, let me tell you, here I’m the Nacho Grande #1 Bestseller.

I wonder if I can put that on my next book cover…

See? Nothing is ever a waste in storytelling land.

*I sincerely apologize to anyone who came here thinking they’d hear something big and important about how to write to market.