Monday, November 8, 2010

having it all... your book.

one of the ongoing great debates i see among writers and publishing peeps online is the battle between writing and storytelling. which one is most important when trying to land an agent/editor/reader?

of course, the winning answer is always... both!

but that's not really where the discussion ends. if you cruise around the internet, you'll find agents and editors are looking for even more than prose and plot. any one of them might be looking for any or all of the following:
- concept! good hook! - if you can sell your story in one line, you can probably sell it to a publisher.
- characters! - the heart and soul of your story. agents and editors fall for them before falling for you.
- angst or grit or romance or humor or something that strongly defines your MS, makes it easy to categorize.
- originality!
- voice!
- pace!

holy crap, that's a lot of stuff to squish into a book! it puts pressure on a writer, no?

well, let me tell you a secret. i just scanned my bookshelf, and i can honestly say there is no book that excels at all of these. "Lord of the Rings" wows with characters and originality, but pace? ummm, no. history of pipe-weed. 'nuff said.
several books on my shelves have brilliant hooks but only 'meh' writing. in one book, a break-neck pace takes time away from characterization. in another, the incredible voice makes up for a not-so-original plot. all over my shelves, i see books shattering rules and still making readers smile.

i'm not saying don't reach for all of the things on the list above. i'm just saying don't punish yourself if some of them come through stronger than the others.
one of my books has a hook that probably helped it sell. the concept of the current WIP is harder to pin down in one line, but the characters are strong.

i'm trying not to get caught up in the pressure of fitting everything into one book. instead, i'm concentrating on showing off my strengths one book at a time. (at least, that's the goal. haha! i'll let readers be the judges.)

what about you? do the same strengths shine through in all your stories? or does the story itself dictate which skills come through?


Phoebe said...

i'm just saying don't punish yourself if some of them come through stronger than the others.

I could hug you for this advice!

I think it's difficult to realize that what needs to be strong on some projects isn't always true across the board. I suspect the same strengths--and weaknesses, though I'm working on those--are always evident in my writing. But that's true for all writers, isn't it? We can't be all things to all readers.

erinjade said...

Exactly! And when I look at books on my shelves that are allegedly "lacking" something, I can't imagine trying to beef up that element without taking something away from the story. Different authors offer us different things, as readers, and we offer up different things from book to book as writers.

E.J. Wesley said...

Hey Erin,

I featured this post on my blog, and wanted to say thanks for sharing. I thought it was great!

Here's the link:

erinjade said...

Cool! Thanks EJ. :)

Claire Dawn said...

Sometimes I wonder if every book is even meant to have all these things. I'm sure most people don't sit down with cozy mysteries for depth of character.