did I write the wrong book?

Twitter’s #MWSL hashtag and the related site Manuscript Wish List are brilliant. They give agents and publishers the chance to post brief overviews or short descriptions of the genres and/or types of books they want to see cross their desks. They can be inspiring, random, and even laugh-out-loud funny.

Those posts also make me wonder if I wrote the wrong book.

I expected my first completed novel to fall into the science fiction genre. As a scientist who’s loved science and attempted to write fiction since a single-digit age, it made sense. However, my imagination — and, potentially, my stress — had other plans. I finished my first novel as I finished my PhD and entered the world of full-time research. While the world of this novel had a set of rules it followed, it wasn’t sci-fi. It was fantasy. Urban fantasy, to be specific. I discovered things about myself and my perspective on the real world through the eyes and experiences of the two main characters. I’d expected it to be a tragedy, but beta readers had better ideas, and now I’m developing a sequel.

Unfortunately, I frequently see comments about the current saturation level of the urban fantasy genre, and that dumped water all over the fires of my passion to get it published. Many of the agents I’ve queried have echoed this with lines like “this isn’t what I am/the agency is looking for right now” even as they compliment my writing style or approach to the story.

I’ve ripped apart the first chapter to change my first 250 words (which apparently still need more work…). I’ve revised/edited the entire novel three times now. I’m preparing it for upcoming contests aside from Twitter pitches. And I’m starting to feel the burnout.

I’ve heard various forms of advice that boil down to the same thing: write another book. I didn’t think I could write another one, not one different enough from my urban fantasy novel for it to “matter” (that is, for it to do a better job of piquing the interest of agents). And then a new idea hit me in the face on Thursday. A young adult fantasy. Something that’s just for fun, that’s different, that has a voice that’s more silly than serious. Rather than laugh it off, I’ve decided to run with it. I’m using it as my CampNaNoWriMo novel, and the more I think about it, the more excited I get.

So, perhaps I did write the “wrong” book. The wrong book for the current market. The wrong book for the agents who have rejected it.

But it’s not the wrong book. Not for me. It’s the book I wanted to write, the book I needed to write. It’s the book that taught me that I’m capable of finishing a novel, of revising a novel, of improving my writing craft. Thanks to academia, I have July off from work. Perfect timing for Camp. Perfect timing for a new novel idea. Perfect timing to get a lot of writing done before my next job — as excited as I am about it — steals all my time and energy and creativity.

I started this post needing support — which I’ll always accept! — but now I feel like I should offer some as well. Keep writing. When the going gets tough, just keep writing. Chase those ideas you love. Play with the weird ones that fall into your lap. Revise your drafts, send the polished versions to agents, participate in contests, and when all of that fails, write another book.

Eventually, you’ll find the right one. My hope is that each and every one you write is the right one for you.

This post is part of the July series from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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17 thoughts on “did I write the wrong book?

  1. If traditional publishing is your goal, then keep shopping it (or save it for later) while you write something else. But keep in mind that just because publishers can’t sell enough of something to justify a contract, that doesn’t mean readers aren’t reading the stuff.

    Case in point: western historical romance. I self-published mine and sold thousands. I think one of the things that helped was that publishers WEREN’T signing very many of them, and die hard readers of the genre are starved for good westerns. They gobbled it up and asked for more.

    You have to treat each story or series individually. Traditional publishing might not be the way to go with your fantasy, at least right now. You should probably either publish it yourself or save it for when fantasy becomes popular again.

    IWSG #123 until Alex culls the list again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great point. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Thank you for offering a different perspective! It’s entirely possible I’ve spent so much time with the story that I can’t see the bigger picture right now. I’m hoping a different novel for Camp will help.

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  2. I once heard a famous author talk about their closet books. The ones they wrote, couldn’t sell, but set aside. They went back years later and sold it. I think this might be common. I’ve got a few myself. :0

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  3. Believe it or not, I only heard about #MWSL a few weeks ago. #duh Great idea! However, I still am a firm believer in writing what moves YOU. Don’t write for someone else or for the industry; both are too fickle. If you write what moves you, you will create something – regardless of genre – that no one can resist reading. That equals sales. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, even if my emotional state would rather cry out “But I gotta write what they like if they’re going to like me as an author!” from time to time. And it’s my dream — as I’m sure it is for every writer — to write something irresistible. Thanks!

      If I’m honest, part of the reason I was inspired to pursue my new idea is because there are so many neat YA-focused agents out there I’d love to work with. #MSWL helped me find some of them.

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  4. I think #MWSL is a mixed bag. It’s great when you’ve written a novel that they’re looking for, but not so great when you’re not. Like, when I was querying my YA, several agents were looking for books like that, so it was awesome. But recently I looked to see if agents are interested in books like my current WIP, a MG, I didn’t see any. I think the agents on their tend to be younger agents, new to the business, so I don’t think it means that other agents wouldn’t be interested.

    Congrats on your new idea! You might be able to come back to this other one later with some distance and see what needs to be fixed. Or the market might change in the future too. I have several “trunk” novels–some trunked because of the market, some because they still need work. I still have hope that I might revise them or sell them at some point. But I’m moving forward with new stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true. I’m trying to see #MSWL as a sort of agent-promoted “writing prompt” list — for those days when I get stuck or want to write something random — but it can be hard to think of it that way, especially when I’m in a querying phase.

      I hope so! It’s surprisingly hard to create that distance, to walk away from my “baby” and not think about it for a while. The new story idea is helping, though. πŸ™‚

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  5. I’ve just discovered urban fantasy and enjoy this genre, so I believe your readers will find you with or without a traditional publisher. But the really good update here is that you are already in love with the next story. Write on — with passion! Maybe one day you will take a deeper look at self-publishing for the industry continues to change rapidly, with more and more established writers putting their work out on both platforms. Have a great time at Camp.

    Beth IWSG #276

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For some reason the idea of magic in “our” world fascinates me, especially when done well (I’m a big fan of the Dresden Files). Even though I’m a scientist. πŸ™‚ The fact that I feel any passion at all for a different story is relieving after feeling down for a while over my urban fantasy novel, and the encouragement from you and other IWSG members is so uplifting. Thank you!

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  6. Welcome to the IWSG!
    It’s not the wrong book – just the wrong book right now. This business is so much about timing. (Trust me!) Write the next one but keep that first one in mind. Revisit it later. I revisited a thirty year old manuscript and it became my first published book, so you never know!

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    1. Thank you for the welcome, the support, and hosting this wonderful group!

      I’m grateful for the timing of Camp that forces me to think about a different novel and give me the distance I need to revisit the urban fantasy manuscript with a clear head. I just hope it doesn’t take 30 years! πŸ˜‰

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  7. If it’s a book of your heart, it’s the book you were meant to write, even if it might not be popular at the moment. A truly great book will find its time, even if it’s not immediately. Historical sagas aren’t as popular as they were a few decades ago, but I’ve kept writing them because that’s just what I write and love to write.

    One of my hiatused stories is a true dystopia, in the classic sense of the genre, but I’m very reticent to label it as that, given the obscene oversaturation of post-apocalyptic books marketed as “dystopia.” I’ll probably call it spec-fic, even though it really fits the traditional definition of a dystopia.

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    1. Thank you! It’s amazing how much better I feel about my writing when I talk to and get insight from other writers (which is one reason I’m so grateful to have found these blog hop groups). I’m glad you write what you love, and I’m sure that shows in your writing. I hope your dystopian story finds the right audience regardless of how you end up labeling it.

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