Twilight was Stephanie Meyer’s first book. She pitched it to Judy Reamer, who snapped it up and the rest, as they say is history. Allison Brennan’s first sale The Prey debuted on the NY Times Bestseller list.
Dude, we all want to be that guy. But for every writer that it does happen to, there are thousand more still stuck in the slush pile.
I’m willing to bet that every single writer looks at that first book and goes oh yeah, this is the one, baby. And when it doesn’t get immediately snapped up for a bajillion dollar advance, movie deal and foreign rights, well, then publishing sucks and they don’t know what they’re missing out on.
Welcome to reality. Publishing is hard to break into. Regardless of how much ‘crap’ you’ve read, someone read the same book, liked it, offered on it and put it into print. Part of the reason that publishing is so hard to break into is that you have to find that one yes in a pile of no’s that can feel higher than Mount Everest. Writing is easy.
Writing something that sells?
Not so much.
The first writer’s group I ever stumbled on had several unpublished writers in it. They weren’t seeking publication because, well, they wrote for themselves and they didn’t want someone changing their work. This was what the world was meant to be and they weren’t going to budge. Which is fine. That does not mean it’s saleable and many, probably the majority of writers out there, are fine with writing just for themselves.
I’m not one of them, which means that I need feedback. The harsher the better. I might not want to hear it at the particular time, but I recognize that I do need to hear it. And I might not do anything with it right off the bat but in the back of my mind, I’m working on it. Looking at how I can make the story better.
Revising, for me, is a bigger part of writing. When I first started out, I looked at what I’d slapped on the page and loved it. Every word. Every fragmented sentence and awkward phrase. I. Loved. It. I wasn’t able to look at it and see what needed to change, which meant that by and large, my so called revisions were window dressing. They weren’t the kind of change that the book needed to really take shape. I queried. And I got rejected. A lot. A hell of a lot, but you know what? Every rejection that came in that wasn’t a form rejection, I read. I saved. And when I started to really think about revisions on a certain project, I could finally see the things that were wrong.
I ended up throwing the whole book out. I rewrote it. And I haven’t pitched it again because it’s sitting in my Scrivener file folder, waiting on its turn. Because it’s back to being a first draft and if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that my first drafts need major work.
Same story with the second book I pitched. That book landed me an agent but it never went anywhere. I was waiting for revision comments to help me see what needed to change. I never got the comments I thought I needed and my agent and I parted ways, primarily because I wasn’t getting input on the manuscript. I wanted to work. Hell, I was in Iraq and I needed to work. I needed guidance but ultimately, I think I needed too much guidance for her.
I still need guidance but the one thing I took away from every single rejection that came after I left my agent was that its MY BOOK. I am responsible for how it turns out. So while I thought my agent was going to give me guidance, until I could see what was wrong with it, I wasn’t going to be moving forward.
I am agentless now but I am not without guidance. As I work on the 3rd project I am getting ready to query, I am better prepared. I am able to take comments from my critique partner and see what’s wrong with, unfortunately, entire chunks of the book. I am able to see better what needs to cut and tighten and trim. Not entirely. I still need her input to give me prompts, but as I work through this book, it is my responsibility to be able to see it.
No one is going to do that for me. No agent is going to snap me up and turn me into the next Allison Brennan or Stephanie Meyers. Writing the book that gets me sold is my responsibility. I still need guidance and I still need advice and I’ve had some incredible support from the romance writer’s community.
But it’s my book and I need to be able to see what’s wrong with it before anyone else, agent, editor or otherwise is going to polish it up with me.