Thursday, January 18, 2007

Trying Not to Trip, Stumble, or Fall Flat on My Face

There I was: a pumped, excited, writing fiend. I had a great idea; one that would surely get an editor’s attention. The pages were flying out of my fingertips. I was on page 21 (okay, so maybe “flying” isn’t exactly the right word), when I saw it: A literary agent said on her blog, “If I see another book about (insert my great idea), I will set my hair on fire. It’s been done to death and done badly. There’s no way to make it work. No editor anywhere will ever buy it.”

I stopped cold, abandoned the manuscript, and felt really, really sorry for myself.

A few weeks later, I started again with a different idea. The more I wrote, the more excited I got. I diligently studied the line I was targeting and carefully crafted my book just for it. I was certain I was on my way to the perfect book that would make the acquiring editor for that series leap from her chair, shouting “Where have you been all my career?” Then I saw it: “(insert the line I was targeting) is ending. No more books will be acquired for it, starting now.”

I stopped cold, abandoned the manuscript, and felt really, really sorry for myself. This time, I waited a long, long time before I started writing again.

But I finally did. I resurrected an old manuscript that I thought might have some promise. The more I read through it, the more excited I got. It did have promise! The characters were looking pretty darn good; the plot was on its way to being a viable entity; and the line I was targeting didn’t appear to be in danger of folding.

And then I saw it. I had volunteered to judge a contest, and when I opened up the first manuscript, there it was. My story. Oh I don’t mean the writer copied me. But the premise was the same as mine. The characters were uncannily similar. The setting was almost identical. And the worst thing was that this manuscript was light years better than my own.

After stopping cold, temporarily abandoning my manuscript and feeling really sorry for myself for a few hours, I decided to keep going on my book.

I don’t know what the rest of her book looks like. It may be incredibly fabulous. Or it may fall apart after this first fantastic chapter (but I really doubt it). I don’t know if it’s finished. She may never finish it. Or she may never submit it.

On the other hand, I may be over at the B&N romance rack someday, perusing the cover blurbs, and see it right there in front of me.

But that’s something I can’t control. The only way it can make me fall flat on my face is if I allow it to. And I have no intention of giving it that kind of power.

So there, you mean old stumbling block. Outta my way. I've got a book to finish.

How do you deal with the stumbling blocks that crash into your path and try to derail you from your writing journey?


Deborah Matthews said...

There are only so many plots (?24), so your idea is always going to be out in one form or another. Yours could be the one the editor likes.

The story that makes one editor set her hair on fire another will love.

There's not much you can do about a line closing, except make it fit into another line.

I really don't know how to say this is how you keep going. You just have to keep going. It's hard sometimes, but if you quit without finishing the ms. or the proposal, then you'll never sell.

JoAnn said...

Truer words were never spoken, Debbie. :-) Thanks. And you're right. If I don't finish the manuscript and submit it, it's GUARANTEED that it will never sell.

Karen Beeching said...

JoAnn, you just crack me up. I was laughing reading this.

The bottoms of writing do seem nonstop sometimes (lately especially, at least for me) but you just have to hold on and keep typing. My hubby helps me get my second wind every time one of these situations happens to me. And sometimes I just want to give up. But hang in there and know you're not alone.

It was almost scary how much I could relate to your comments.

I read this aloud to my husband and he said, "Wow, that sounds like you talking."

Carla Swafford said...

JoAnn, I can't tell you how many times and ways I've come across the same things. But as you probably know, your story will have its own edge, special spin no matter how similar the other one was.

BTW, I swear Maggie Shayne's vampires and mine are related some how. Thank goodness I had finished my first vampire book before I "discovered" her.

JoAnn said...

Thanks, Karen. It does make me feel better to know that I'm not the only one. :-)

Carla, you're right too. No one can write my story but me.

Thanks, ladies. I feel much better. Just the same, I think I'm going to start wearing steel-toed boots when I write, just so I can kick the (*&^* blocks out of the way. :-)