Is your writing fresh and new? How can you tell?
I was recently catching up on Janet Reid's great agent blog, and she addressed this very issue. After discussing how she handled the 122 of 124 writers she chose not to represent in 2009 (!), she gave some advice for aspiring authors.
First of all--and the part I can really get behind--any progress toward your goal is a measure of success. Don't think of writing as all or nothing. That is, if you didn't get published, but you made great strides in improving your writing, that's not failure. If you learned what not to do. That's not failure.
The part that gave me pause, however, is something that keeps cropping up in agent blogs, workshops (Dianna Love & Mary Buckham mentioned this very thing), and writing books: Make sure your writing is fresh and new.
This part scares me. Not because it's bad advice, but because my own gauge for whether anything I write is unique seems to be broken.
Ask me what's different about my stories, characters, and settings and I draw a blank. Well, other than the fact that I wrote them. And, which part has to be special? The voice, the characters, the premise? All of it?
I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
So how do we figure out what hasn't been done before? Of course, without being so different that no one wants our work. (And people wonder why writers are crazy?)
According to Ms. Reid, Joe Finder and Lee Child read voraciously in their genres (and still do), and did research to make sure they weren't just duplicating the rest of the market.
The logical, business major in me loves this idea. It makes sense. I want to sell my books. But as a writer, it sounds so clinical and cold. Where's the passion for the story of your heart?
The reading part I have down pat. No problem. I can only hope my "fresh and new" meter gets calibrated soon. I'd really like to quit writing stale, overdone stories sometime before the next decade.
Maybe I should write in a refrigerator.
How do you keep your writing fresh?