Friday, December 16, 2011

deja vu deja vu

today, i am participating in the deja vu blogfest! (however, unlike many of the other participants, i can't figure out how to make the fun marks over the e and the a in deja.) Lydia Kang has a list of all of the blogs in the fest, and you can play along too! just re-post one blog entry that you would like to see the light of day one more time.

my contenders were:
the evolution of my query letter from suck! to success!
a vlog about my favorite book covers
or thoughts on my favorite literary couple -- Fred and George

but in the end, here is the entry i chose to repeat:

write what you want to write. (original post 12/10/10)

"I want to write a book about vampires, but all the agents say vampires are over."
"I want to write a contemporary YA, but all the 6-figure deals are for dystopian stories."
"I have this really great idea, but I just heard about a book with almost the exact same concept."

but.. but.. but NOTHING!

i see all of the above lines and many more from authors lamenting how the story they want to write, isn't what they should be writing, if they want to get published.
well, here is a huge, not-so-secret-but-hard-to-believe fact i have learned: the #1 way to get published is to write the best book you can.
and in my opinion, the best book you can write is the one you want to write, have to write - the one with the characters who keep you up at night. even if they ARE vampires.

that's the good news - freedom to write the story you want.
here's the bad news: you're right. it might not get published. this post is about why that's OKAY.

JM Tohline put together a great blog post on
the biggest mistakes writers make when querying agents. one of the agents JM quoted on his blog, Cameron McClure, said something that really resonated with me:
"Most writers query too soon – either before the book is really ready to be read by an industry professional, or with a book that is a learning book, or a starter book, where the writer is working through the themes that will come out in later books with more clarity, getting things out of their system,making mistakes that most beginners make, finding their voice."

the bold is mine. i wrote that book - that "starter" book - and it was everything McClure says. it was my training ground for the kind of themes i wanted to write about, for practicing plot and pace, for learning whether 1st or 3rd person worked better for me and above all, for finding my voice.

fortunately, i never made the mistake of querying that novel. during the year i spent pecking away at it, i also learned a lot about publishing. by the time i was done, i could see all the reasons it didn't work. so i recognized it for what it was - a book i had to write for me, and not for anyone else.

one of the first conversations i had with my agent was about this very thing - about the books you have to write versus the books you might actually want to sell. we were talking about my other WIPs/ideas, and i was asking what kind of stories she'd like to see... and she told me she would never discourage a client from writing anything, because there are stories in us that just have to be told - even if we only ever tell them to our laptops.

i guess it's impossible to know, when you start a new manuscript, whether it's one of the stories you'd be proud to put out in the world or one of the stories you need to learn something from. but i would argue: it's equally important, either way.

if i hadn't written LOSERS, i'm 100% certain i never would have been able to write BUTTER.
i have started taking lines and scenes from L and working them into new manuscripts. i basically stole one of the characters and made him the MC in BILLY D.
i will probably keep deconstructing L until there is nothing left but the concept, and then i might steal that too, and write the whole thing over again from scratch.
for all of these reasons, i know, without a doubt, that my time was not wasted on that first manuscript.

if you feel compelled to write something - write it. the story that never gets published may very well be the most important one you ever write.


Lydia Kang said...

I queried my starter novel, and of course it didn't get me an agent, but it taught me the cold hard truth--that my writing wasn't yet up to par. Great post, and thanks for joining in the Blogfest!

Timothy Brannan said...


I don't write books, but I do write games. But the same is true. I am much happier writing what I want and what I like than writing what someone else tells me is whats "hot".

I also think I am a better writer for it.

Sage advice, glad you repeated this one!

Came by from the Deja Vu thing.

Julie said...

What an inspiring post! I'm a new follower from the Deja Vu fest and it's so nice to meet you. Congratulations on Butter!

Donna K. Weaver said...

How can a reader feel any passion for the book if you as the writer don't feel it?

Nice post.

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

I think a good book will still be a good book 10 years down the road, regardless of what is trending now.

I'd probably never finish writing a novel if the characters weren't begging me to write down what happens next.

Great deja vu post.

Allison said...

Thank you for this post! I think a book is only great when the author does exactly that, and writes what they want to write. I am always afraid that I will not do the story I want to tell justice, but I'm taking the plunge anyway, because it is in my head demanding to get out!

Allison (Geek Banter)

Coleen Patrick said...

Great advice! Congrats on Butter! Glad to have found your site--this is a fun blogfest :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's very true.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

HA! Loved this, b/c I'm one of those "early query-ers." I even queried an non-completed novel (definite no-no for a newbie, debut author). Enjoyed your blog, just Deja-Vu-ing around today! I'm blog #33. And I'll be following you!

DL Hammons said...

Guilty as charged! Yes, I queried my first book, but thankfully it was to only a handful of agents. Heck, it wasn't even a proper query letter! It's embarassing to think back on those mis-steps knowing what I do now, but its all part of the learning process.

This is such an excellent choice for a re-post! Thank you for taking part in the blogfest and helping to make the day so special! :)

LynNerdKelley said...

Yep, my first novel was a learning tool, for sure! I still write what I want to write. I have to love what I'm writing. Nice to meet you! This blogfest is great fun!

Nisa said...

Exactly! Excellent way of putting it. Thanks for posting!

Vicki Rocho said...

Excellent post! I took a writing class awhile back and there was a guy in there who just wanted to know what was hot so he could write about that. Said he didn't want to spend a year writing something that wouldn't sell. I tried to tell him all of the above, but I think you said it very well. Pity I can't find him to wave your post under his nose.

Sophia Chang said...

See I love posts that take that old advice and nuance it or turn it on its head. It's SO TRUE.

Love this blogfest, don't you?

And won't you join the revolution to destroy word verification?
Top 3 Things Well-Meaning Bloggers Do That Drive Readers Nuts

Nancy Thompson said...

I'm querying my first novel. And I have no regrets. I think it's worth it. I might not ever get there with this one, but I don't want to say I never tried. Life is too shirt. Give it all you've got from day one.

BTW - it's nice to make your acquaintance. Found you through the blogfest and am now a follower. I love to read blogs about writing and querying and enjoy learning from other writers like you. Thanks for reposting this.

erinjade said...

thank you, everyone, for stopping by and welcome to the new followers! it's going to take me the weekend, but i can't wait to read through all the other deja vu blog posts. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I landed a publisher with my first novel, BUT - it was the second time I'd written the story. It had hung out in a drawer for years before I pulled it out and rewrote it completely. So there was still growth and much learning on my part.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I guess you could say I only ever write the books I feel like writing. I'm never even sure up to the very end if I'll share it with ANYONE, never mind try to query it to an agent. Thanksfully some of my projects have turned into worthy reads and I have some beta readers that are worth their weight in gold. Great post!

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm glad you reposted since I just found your blog through the blogfest.

I have several starting books. Others get it right the first time. But most don't.

This summer, I saw 3 YA authors at a book panel. They said virtually all fantasy books selling have been trilogies. I'm not going to force a story into 3 books for a trend.