Yesterday, I read a blog post from Janet Reid (the literary agent). What I spied with my little eye was the bit about the writer who was very, very good but she’d turned him down because she’d seen that story a dozen times. A debut novel needs to be something fresh and new, she said.
Over the weekend, I attended an SCBWI conference where Alexandra Cooper (an editor) mentioned that writers should do their homework, see what publishers are buying and pay attention to what kinds of books are glutting up the marketplace. But what if a writer’s been working on a book for a couple years and NOW the marketplace is glutted with her kind of story? What to do then? Ms. Cooper suggested that perhaps that “overdone” novel might need to stay under the bed for awhile. A debut novelist needs something…yep, fresh and new.
The last query response I received was very sweet. I can’t remember the agent’s name off the top of my head, but she personally answered the email. Loved the title, she said, loved the humor, and she felt that the writing was good and that the book would find a home. But this sweet agent already had something like my novel. Honestly? It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a response along those lines.
And so I’m considering, or perhaps I should say re-considering, whether this manuscript is the one I should be putting out there as a debut novel. I really love this story. I love these characters. And I want to tell more of their story. A story that may, if I keep pushing, sell sooner or later.
But is it fresh enough and new enough to be a debut novel? In the last three months, I keep hearing this message, and now it’s beginning to take on an ominous tone, like a warning. To wit: just because you can get your first book published…should you?
Which just goes to prove that October may be all about scary monsters and things that go bump in the night, but what really keeps a person wide awake and terrified is freakin’ reality and the choices we make that might affect the rest of our lives. (Boo!)
So, I’m getting down to writerly business (Really. I am.), but I’ve got a few thoughts jumbling around in my head, banging to get out. And you know what they say, “There’s more room on the outside…”
*On Why I Don’t Journal
Someone asked me recently about journaling. The someone happened to be a non-writer, but writers often ask me if I journal. And the short answer is no, I don’t seem to be able to stick with journaling. I do write down funny things I’ve heard, or jot a story idea, and make endless Things To Do Lists, but that’s not the same as journaling. I write stories. I suspect that helps me work out the stuff I’d journal about, if I could stick with journaling.
*On Reading a Really Good Book (When You’re a Writer)
I’m reading Incarceron right now. Actually, I’m inhaling Incarceron. Before I started writing Young Adult fiction, I could read books and thoroughly enjoy the experience. But now, when I read a really good YA book, I want to bang my head on the desk, then throw my manuscript into the fireplace, light a match to it, and cry in despair because I will never, ever write something even close to that really good YA book. And then the Beneficent Mr. Hall finds me in a closet and asks, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I try to explain but it’s impossible to explain because of course, the man has such ridiculous faith in me until he really starts to worry and says, “Maybe you should try some other job?” Somehow, I manage to drag myself out of the closet and get back to work. But first, I read a really crappy book. (Coincidentally, I have a lot of stories where characters face their shortcomings.)
*On Looking for Mrs. (or Mr.) Agent
It’s a tough business, looking for an agent. Rejection is part of the game. And just for the record, I do not crawl into closets after every rejection (Mostly because I’d end up living in the closet.). But when I get a personal rejection, even if it’s just a reply with my NAME in it, I don’t feel so bad. And if an agent takes the time to say something nice, even if it’s just a couple words about the title, or liking the humor, I’m thrilled. It’s a crazy world when I’m fist-pumping over rejection.
So, I think I’ve got a little room in my head now to get back to writing. After I put a little ice on the banged-up part.