The Abandoned Manuscript
Now it may seem odd that last week I urged you to be true to your art and then the next week write about consumerism, but in reality they go hand in hand. Unless you plan on writing only for yourself or the enjoyment of people around you without making a dime, then more power to you! You should probably skip this post. But most of you, like myself, write to fill a need inside ourselves and want to share our work while also hopefully making some money as well.
So in the marketing world there lies a duality between your art and your consumer. Canvas artists may be closer to this than a writer because they watch their consumers make snap judgments about their finished product. As a writer we could stand over someone’s shoulder and watch them read while we gauge every subtle nuance of their facial expressions, (which I might have done before) but consumers can be unnerved by that kind of attention I’ve found. Even your best friend doesn’t appreciate someone breathing down their neck while they consume your work.
All creators of art, written and drawn, tend to be a bit off-centered when it comes to the norm of society, but I wonder if that is because a part of us is always on display for others perusal. The trick is finding a constructive way to channel your nervous energy or as I like to call it, your muse. Channeling your muse can be difficult at times when a million ideas are flying at you. I’ve attempted to write them all down, but they tend to be incomprehensible by the time I want to work on them. So pick one and channel that muse. Don’t worry about what it will turn out like or the ideas you may be missing. If you were meant to write them, they will come back. Once you’ve channeled your muse and have a solid idea, then it’s time to work.
Be passionate about your project. Without your passion, your work will not get finished. Once it’s finished then comes the hard part, making it marketable. Which is actually a lot more difficult than you would think. It isn’t about writing what’s “hot” right now, it’s about making it relate-able. You can have as many sparkly vampires, werewolves, mermaids, pokemon, and attractive people as you want in your book, but if the plot and circumstances aren’t relate-able to your core audience then you have a problem. I will use an example from my book that I shall call : “The Abandoned Manuscript”. (I call it this because, as I’ve said in previous posts, it will never see the light of day.)
The Abandoned Manuscript had everything the popular Young Adult (YA) fantasy novels have. It had a love triangle, magic, intrigue, psi-vampires, and most importantly an awkward post-adolescent woman confused by the attention from all of the above. I can laugh about it now, but two years ago this was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me. It was my first book that I had finished and I was proud that I had written it, puffed chest and all. I had friends read it and of course they told me it was good, it was amazing and wouldn’t it make an awesome movie? It filled my ego enough that I never thought to ask what they didn’t like. I mentioned in the last post about how I took all their advice while I was writing. This could be part of the reason they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but it also shows the importance of beta readers. So like this I sent it off to several publishing companies and waited on pins and needles for three months each. I receive many rejection letters and I considered self-publishing it.
During this down time, I started analyzing my manuscript from a consumers point of view. I love to read as much as I love to write. So I began reading books that were only self-published to see what my competition looked like. After reading a few, I couldn’t believe the basic spelling and plot errors that seemed so prevalent. I was horrified on two counts: (1) they published these awful novels and (2) mine had a lot of these problems. Instead of trying to rewrite it, I decided to give myself some time to detach from the project. I was just too close to it. That was the first step to recognizing the problem with my manuscript. The second was starting a different project.
The biggest lesson I learned from The Abandoned Manuscript was that having all the popular elements of popular books does not make it good or marketable. Even if you are an amazing writer, if you add too many plot elements and fail to follow a single plot line, your book will fail because it’s confusing and unrelatable. I followed my muse, but I tried to incorporate all the ideas I had rather than just a few. Pick one idea and expand slowly. Too much too fast will put off your readers and if you want to sell your product, you want to make sure you don’t put them off while also maintaining your own voice. It’s a fine line to walk, but one that many have walked successfully before. The most important thing to remember: DON’T GIVE UP!
I started a new project. Something completely different: A science-fiction novel about women running the world. Great idea right? Possibly. But it cuts out a key buyer of science fiction: Men. After that project I thought writing a book about the adventures of death, who was a vampire of course, then I came back to magic again. There was always something that pulled me back to magic. So this time I approached it differently and left it about the magic and the impressions of the main character. Instead of giving voice to everyone in the book, I focused on just the main character and her experiences. It may sound cliche: I let her tell me the story. Then something amazing happened: I could see the ending. When you’re writing do you ever have trouble seeing how your book would end? I’ve always had that problem. Maybe it was because this time I wasn’t the one tell the story, my character was.
The lessons I learned while writing were hard-earned and I hope you can benefit from this blog. Lessons to remember from this post: DON’T GIVE UP! If you give up then you won’t learn from your mistakes and you won’t succeed. Making a book relatable is more important than including what’s popular in the moment. Time and space from your novel is important before publishing, it can save you from embarrassing yourself. Try the traditional publishing route at least once because it may give you that time and space you need to review your manuscript and you gain the experience of being rejected. Which may sound awful, but it’s actually really exciting. Read the books in the same genre as yours to see if their flaws echo in your own work.
Next week: Character development.