Sorry we haven't had posts for the last couple of days. Two of our bloggers had emergencies and we're unable to post.
Here's a little something on letting go of your first novel from your friendly blogmaster, Karin Gillespie
“I don’t think this is marketable,” said the literary agent who’d been assigned to critique my novel. The pages of my manuscript were returned to me with a rash of red marks, and my heart felt like it was splitting in two. I’d come to my first writer’s conference seeking representation and validation of my talent. Three years of labor had gone into my book. Had it all been a waste?
As the conference wore on, I met an assortment of dejected attendees: Authors who’d been trying to sell the same re-worked novel for years. Writers who had agents but hadn’t heard from them in months.
“You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than get published,” said a world-weary participant.
I felt the stirrings of a challenge. Determined to beat the odds, I took a long, objective look at my manuscript. The agent who’d read it was right. It wasn’t publishable, and I was going to have to start over from scratch.
My first novel came out of pure inspiration. Before I typed a single word of my second novel, I was determined to do my homework. I scoured bookstores, read publishing trades and studied bestseller lists. What kind of books were people reading? How were they pitched to agents? I immersed myself in the business end of writing, but also perfected my craft by joining a novel critique group and taking numerous fiction workshops. Soon I started hearing the voice of a young small-town woman in my head. Her name was Elizabeth Polk, and she worked in a dollar store. From my research I knew there was a market for Southern books based in small communities, so I began to write.
One year after my first writer’s conference, I submitted Bet Your Bottom Dollar to a New York agent, and she sold it to Simon and Schuster as the first novel in the “Bottom Dollar Girls” series.
We have training wheels and training bras. Why not a training novel? The truth is few “first” novels are sold to editors, but that doesn’t mean fledgling efforts are a waste of time. I learned much about pacing, plotting and characterization while I wrote my first novel, and eventually I came to accept my manuscript’s purpose as an extended exercise. Instead of trying to rework and polish my lump of coal, I let it go and went on to write a novel I could sell.
I’ve even taught myself to “let go” of my novels after they’ve been sold. It’s easy to get caught up in the promotion and excitement of a soon-to-be-published novel and neglect your writing. I allow myself a week to wallow in the joy of completing a novel, and then I start writing the next one.
Don’t let yourself get stalled by your first novel. Honestly access the marketability of your story. Where would it be shelved in the bookstore? What successful novels are similar to it, and how is your manuscript different from competing titles? Can you describe your plot in three sentences or less? Remember your novel is a product. The easier it is to categorize and summarize, the easier it will be to interest publishers. If it defies description or doesn’t fit into a particular genre it will be a hard sell.
First novels are rarely an author’s best work, and too often writers waste valuable time and energy trying to sell a novel that will never make the grade. You should be persistent in the publishing business, but you also need to know when to cut your losses. A superior and saleable second novel may be just around the corner.