Five Immutable Laws
One of the tasks I've set myself while Rivers and Roads is in going through Query Hell is to "Get To Work on My Next Project." To this end, I've begun scribbling in a brand, new journal. I'm interviewing potential new characters, drawing maps, making rough outlines.
The trouble is, I'm not quite sure what my new project should be. If it turns out I can't generate Industry interest in Rivers and Roads, I'll need to try something completely different. The only trouble is, just what, exactly, can I try that is different from what I usually do, but is still something I would want to read?
In case you haven't yet read my post about Books I Might Not DNF, I've grown picky in my old age. As far as I can tell, nobody nowadays writes what I really long to read. Which is why I started writing in earnest about eight years ago. And I'm not going to waste the years I have left writing stuff that doesn't make my heart sing. I did that for a living, for decades! I don't do That Stuff anymore.
But if The Industry is not interested in what I want to read (which would certainly explain why I can't find it in bookstores) then how am I going to write Something Different enough (that is to say, similar enough to what everyone is already publishing) to get a foot in the door without compromising my principles? And just what are those principles, anyway?
I scribbled on, and on, until I finally distilled my thoughts down to a concise handful of main points I was/am not willing to compromise under any circumstances in my efforts to pique Industry interest. Five is not too many, right?
The Five Immutable Laws of anything written by Kim Beall
The Magic Is Real - objectively, empirically real within the context of the story-world, and not merely real within the narrator’s own unreliable head.
The protagonist is an adult - preferably over 40.
The protagonist is a human woman - though under some circumstances she may be a deceased human woman. Ghosts are people, too! Within strict limits, some vague claim to a long-distant non-human ancestor may be permitted.
The setting is in the contemporary United States of America - no long-distant past, no romantic foreign places, no fictional worlds, and absolutely no Cotswolds!
The world is Beauty - This beautiful world may be under threat by grimdark evil, and we may get bone-shuddering previews of what might come should the protagonist fail, but the goal of the characters is not merely to survive in a grimdark world. The goal of our protagonist and her allies is to preserve the beauty, even if they have to go through hell (and several sequels) to do it. The Final Image, if the protagonist succeeds, is of a world that is worth saving in its own right, and not just a bleak container within which hominid DNA may continue to replicate a while longer.
Addendum: Things that are Right Out as I will throw up if I have to write about them, so please do not even suggest them:
Sexy shifters of any kind
Shifters of any kind
Toxic relationship tropes between the protagonist and the love interest. (This is why my protagonist is a grown-ass woman, FGS.)
Sexual attraction to a toxic male (see above) (except, within limits, for some incidental side-characters)
Chiseled abs and perky breasts (except, within limits, for some incidental side-characters)
Conflating ghosts with demons
Needless to say, this idiotic rigidity of mine makes it hard for me to find anything to read, let alone write anything that The Industry will consider looking at. But if I've learned nothing else about tropes (even my own) I've learned that they can work, if done right. People will gobble them up, if only the author can think of some way to turn them on their heads.
It's all about Positioning.
With this in mind, I'm not even going to wait until Rivers and Roads makes its the way through the querying process to whatever end. I'm already starting to churn my Immutable Tropes around in my mind. I am determined to, and I know I can, honestly and with integrity position them as something agents and editors are actually looking for. (Because another thing I've learned from the past few years is that there are, in fact, lots of people who are just as hungry as I am for what I write.)
I'm still also gonna write the sequel to Rivers and Roads, though. I don't want to Emeraldize Geddy and Wing, after all!