Well Enough vs. Even Better
Friday, September 27, 2013
First, a little update on TARGET. In querying I've been lucky enough to receive personal feedback from four agents that I truly admire. four agents I would DIE to work with. And they've all said the same thing in slightly different ways:
It just didn't pull me in.
In other words, the concept is working, the tone of the story is working, the writing is technically strong, but it's my WORDS. The words aren't... compelling enough. They're not rich enough. Not lure-me-in-until-I-read-so-much-I-forget-five-hours-have-passed enough.
I don't know how else to explain.
But now I understand.
You see, there are a LOT of books out there. And these days, almost anyone can produce something "good enough" to make money in publishing, whether it's via traditional, small press, or self publishing. Now, I'm not saying any of those are better or worse than the other. They can all produce amazing books, and they all can produce crappy books. Flaws exist everywhere.
What I AM saying is, look at the books that stick. Look at the books that EVERYONE is talking about. And not just the popular ones that come one year and are gone the next, but look at the books that last in any genre out there...
Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Narnia
Pride and Prejudice
The Wheel of Time
The Book Thief
The Fault in our Stars
(Okay, TFioS is more recent, but the point applies. Just wait.)
These books are successful not only because they had an amazing concept, not only because the authors knew where to put periods and quotation marks, but because of something I heard Brandon Sanderson say once:
"Nothing can compensate for bad writing."
You can have the best story, the best gimmick, the best brand, and the best sales team. But if your writing isn't top of the line, your story may not have the staying power that these do.
So for me, the question is now, 'Do I accept the "well enough" and keep submitting the same thing hoping someone will like it? OR do I want to improve my craft and re-write this book to make it even BETTER?' Again, my answer came from something I heard Brandon Sanderson say in a podcast:
"The problem you'll run into is, 'It's working well enough. Do I want to try to make it even better?'... Just give it a try."
My story right now, is GOOD ENOUGH. I'd bet people would buy it if it went up for sale tomorrow.
Can it be better?
I know it can. But can I write it better? Well, I'll never know until I try. I drafted this book in Jan-March 2013. I've read and written a lot since then, and I would hope that my style has improved. Even so, I may also just keep reading more books and working on other projects until I feel ready to give this one the attention it deserves.
Either way, for me it's no cutting corners. No shortcuts. I want this book and those that come after it to be the best it can be. So I'll work, and write, and read, and practice, and get better.
Because if they can do it, so can you, and so can I.
What are YOUR thoughts? Have you ever felt like your work could be improved but you weren't up to the task? Or maybe you were, and just didn't want to? I'd love to hear what you guys think about this.
Author of YA and MG speculative fiction. Gryffindor. Mommy. Fangirl. Wandmaker.