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.