Friday, February 25, 2011

Who do we really write for?

So, I just passed the one year mark on getting the news from my literary agent that all of the publishing houses where she submitted my YA paranormal/suspense manuscript said, "No thanks."  I remember the call vividly.  I was watching my son try out for Little League in the middle school gymnasium.

His tryout was going about as well as my phone call.

Of the ten houses where the manuscript was sent, only two even replied back.  Little Brown was the most gracious, sending a detailed critique.

My agent remained upbeat, even while I sat there like a puddle of goo watching my son take grounders on the wood floor.  We'll just rewrite and resubmit, she said.  It's a normal part of the process. Don't give up.

She was right, of course.  But I couldn't help but feel like one of those kids trying out for a baseball team.  Three years and still the answer was, No.  So, I clicked off the cell and resolved to make the changes necessary to get published.

Therein lies the rub.  What changes does one make to ensure publication?  What's the balance between an author's satisfaction with a piece of work and the acquisition committee in some board room collectively nodding its head that my words will leap off the page and hit the right demographic?

My agent had a few people read the manuscript and give me feedback.  The problem was, those individuals took me in very different directions.  One critique was a 45 minute phone call with suggestions ranging from making my adult characters carry some secret sin to the protagonist's mother having an affair with the town sheriff. At one point during the call, I wondered if this person had even read my novel.

The story had become muddled in my mind, characters walking in circles, listlessly waiting for me to give them a new direction, a new life.  It wasn't long before I became as listless and aimless as them, hence the one year anniversary of rewriting the book.  So, now I would estimate that I'm 75% through the manuscript.  Some days the words flow out, others, it feels like concrete hitting the page.  But my characters are responding, making new decisions, taking new chances, and there are even some new faces born.

In the end, I went with my gut, and traveled back to the one paragraph critique sent by Little Brown as a starting point.  The advice from the editor made the most sense to me.

But it was my wife, Beth, who really set me straight:  It's your story, just tell it the way you want to tell it.

Words to write by.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes plodding through is what we have to do succeed. I liken the writing process to a marathon- so much long, hard work, but a great accomplishment in the end. If you stop enjoying this process then you're on the wrong path, writing the wrong story. (I agree with Beth.) So COURAGE, as the French would say. Listen to your inner voice and get it done! :) You're intelligent, talented, and funny. Don't let the pub world get the best of you. WRITE ON, my friend!