Saturday, November 28, 2009

If Your Heart Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You?

It's fundamental, writers are told repeatedly, not to try following market trends but to write what's what we're passionate about. Don't write something you don't love just because it's selling better. People will know when you're faking it. Follow your heart...

Yet, we also have to sell what we wrote if we want to go from being a writer to being a published writer.

Agents and editors frequently answer the question, “Would you have rejected Twilight?” Most say they would have, in a heartbeat.

What I ask myself is, “Would you have pitched it?” And the answer is no. Had I written that book, it would be sitting in the back of the hard drive somewhere never to be seen by anyone. I may well have never even bothered with revising it from the rough draft. Because while I could clean up the language, there's no changing the fact that the story is slow, Bella isn't the strongest MC in the world, there are a wide array of logic-holes in which to sink, the vampires _sparkle_, the hero spends most of the book stalking a teenage girl a century younger than he is (creepy! And she's flattered by it? WTF?), and it's at least twice the length it should be. Everyone knows vampires are overdone and impossible to sell. And all this from a writer with zero credentials?

Meyer says when she sent out queries for the first book, she didn't know any of this was wrong. People had to explain to her later exactly how lucky she was to have found an agent, let alone a publisher. Her ignorance may have been the reason she's now a world-famous multi-millionaire author. Well, that combined with managing to create a story that spoke to millions of people. We never would have known she'd done it if she educated herself out of trying to see it published though, if she'd moved on to something with a sane word count, a stronger MC, less sentiment, more plot, and something less overdone than vampires.

So if your heart is set on a slow and wordy vampire romance, maybe you should leap off the bridge with it. Yeah, there's a good chance it will get broken when it smashes against the rocks of reality at the bottom. But maybe it won't. And maybe, either way, it's still the right path.

And, yes, I'm talking to myself here. I have far too many stories being ignored because I lack confidence that I can sell them. It's in danger of happening to Shadow. (Seriously. There was a Twitter conversation a few weeks ago where a few agents were going on about how they were seeing way too many ghosts all of a sudden. They weren't trying to fling my spirit on the ground and dance on it in stilettos, but...)

Thing is... The people saying not to force something that isn't there are right. So I'm sitting here quoting Polonius on repeat... Above all, to thine own self be true. If it were easy, we wouldn't have to be told that though.

PS – I finished my National Novel Writing Month novel today. I'll likely talk more about that later.

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