Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sifting through to find those gold nuggets

Imagine that these hands belong to an editor and each grain of sand represents a manuscript. If so, then this editor has a ton of manuscripts to choose from (which they all do, by the way, more so in today's market than ever). However, this editor (like all editors) doesn't want to buy just any manuscript. He/she is looking for a gold nugget... a book that rises above the rest and shines; a unique story, written well.

I'm posting this because a writer friend emailed today, disillusioned because the novel her agent recently took to market has been rejected over and over. (I won't say how many times or by how many houses, just that it's a painful and humbling process).

That said, my friend has written 5 novels and still isn't published (a common problem, I'm afraid). Frustrated, she's decided to put this one aside (as she has with the others) and has started writing another. I'd like to have it finished by June so my agent can hopefully sell before summer. What do you think?

I told her what her agent probably told her -- that every editor/publisher is looking for the same thing: a big story. That story is more important than anything. I told her IMHO she should focus on quality, not quantity. That she needs to slow down and spend 90 days brainstorming a unique story instead of 90 days trying to write another cookie-cutter chic-lit novel that doesn't stand out from the masses. That once she's got that slam-dunk great story, she should then take at least 6 months to a year and write it.... taking... her... time. I'm not sure I got through to her, but she reads my blog so hopefully this will :)

17 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great advice. Outlining well and going through Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel book and workbook will slow her process w-a-y down. I know b/c I'm slogging through my ms right now. Ug!

Victoria said...

Who writes a novel in 3-4 months?! From what I've heard it takes much longer than that!

Ramona said...

I'm a huge reader (as you know) and I gotta say I agree with this post. I hate it wasting my time reading what you call cookie-cutter thrillers or mysteries or romances. I want something different.

kyla-dale said...

Your writer friend sounds impatient, more interested in getting published than in what she publishes. Good advice.

Terri Tiffany said...

Great post. I'm about finished with my manuscript but I know i need to edit and edit and edit before submitting!

Malena Lott said...

Great post. In this time when editors are being even more selective because of the market conditions, the story has to really be a stand-out. BTW, can't wait to read your books. May try to get one to read over spring break in a couple weeks!

Travis Erwin said...

Great advice.

JKB said...

Aw man. It's valid advice.

This time to be subbing stinks. I'm in her situation *although we're only on first pass*.

I'm sending a hug her way.

Patti said...

I don't think I could write a novel in 3-4 months, at lest not a good one.

Slow and steady wins the race, right.

ORION said...

Yeah it's easy to feel like you are in a hurry- I'm one of those writers who Holly told to "SLOW DOWN!!!!!"

Mystery Robin said...

So, Holly... it sounds like great advice, but here's what I'm really curious about. I feel like it takes me about a year to write a novel, maybe two if we're counting all the rewrites.

And that scares me!

Because it seems like once you get a bite, and you're published, you have to put out one novel a year.

So... how does that work?! Do you get faster? Can you take more time? Do you mind sharing how that's worked for you?

Holly Kennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

Don't envy you people (authors). Trying to please agents and editors and publishers and reviewers and then, of course, the ever important reader.

Nope. You guys got guts!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I got it, even w/out reading yer blog. Slow down. Quality vs. quantity. Yu-huh, yu-huh...
Biggest problem I have, girlfriend, is I'm no story wizzard and you know it.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I recently cranked out a novel on spec in three months, and I have yet to regret it. We'll see how it plays out.

On the other hand, I have a WIP that I've been simmering for almost two years, adding ingredients with care. I don't want to rush it. It may be the one that gets me an agent.

Therese said...

It IS good advice, generally, but at the same time I respect and support the burning desire behind your friend's plan. It's what led me to write SOUVENIR (in six months), which as you know for me was "the one."

Burning desire+prudent planning and execution; they have to go together.

Oh, and Holly, I see that your latest is selling nicely on France Loisirs!

Holly Kennedy said...

Mystery Robin -- I'll send you an email and answer your question offline, okay?