February 11, 2011

The Writing Meltdown Explained

I've always been a big proponent of writing what you love.

When I started drafting my first novel, I didn't worry too much that most editors weren't looking for space operas. I just wrote what I loved---namely, aliens and spaceships and intergalactic battles---and I was fortunate enough to find an agent who loved my book as well.

I used this same mantra to tackle my next project, a YA dystopian. Now, I recognized that this genre was very trendy due to the popularity of The Hunger Games, but I decided to write my novel anyway. Why would I do such a crazy thing? Because I loved the book's premise and because the story itself was bursting to be written.

But a few days ago, I got some sobering news that really shook my confidence in my novel. It ain't easy to sell a YA dystopian these days---I knew that---but I suppose this sentiment didn't really sink into my heart until this past Tuesday afternoon.

So I panicked. And I fretted. Should I scrap the book I loved due to market saturation? I was confused and frustrated and sad. I had poured so much of myself into this book---specifically, my angst about becoming a mother and my issues with my religion---and I was nearly finished with the first draft. The thought of throwing it away made me want to cry.

After a few days of contemplation though, I think I've decided what I need to do. I'm going to finish my book and then assess it. If I feel it can stand out from the crowd, then I'm going to edit the shit out of the book and send it to my agent. But if I feel that it falls flat, then I'm going to shelve the novel for now and work on my new WIP.

Shelving this manuscript will be tough, of course, but I'll do what I have to do. After all, publishing is a business and my books are my products. The last thing I want is a product that won't sell, right?

Does that sound really cynical? Gosh, I hope not. At the end of the day, I consider myself a ridiculously optimistic and hopeful person. And I still believe strongly that you have to write what you love.

But now, I'd add a caveat to that: you gotta write what you love AND you gotta keep trends in mind.

On that happy note, I'm going to have myself a bowl of ice cream! 


  1. By the time you're done with the rough draft, editing, working with your agent, selling it to a publisher and actually getting it out to the public, perhaps everyone will be ready for that genre again. And I agree with you, if it stands out, it will sell.

  2. Oh trends, how I loathe thee.

    I've felt similarly worried over a YA dystopian idea I'm still playing around with. By the time I get it written and edited, the trend will probably be dead and buried. I'm hoping the horror elements might make it stand out, but... I guess I'll discuss that with my agent when it's time to start on something new.

    Since you've already started on it -- and gotten pretty far, I think? -- that must be so much worse. I think finishing the book is probably a good idea; you're not on deadline yet, so you can afford to, and it'll at least shut up the characters. Plus, like you say, Jim might see something in it he can sell.

    Anyway -- good luck. <3 E-mail (or Gchat?) me whenever you like, I'm usually around.

  3. I worry about this all the time. I'm not working on a dystopian right now, but I do get stressed out if I see many books in a genre I want to break into. I actually just finished a book the other day, and one of the characters had THE SAME backstory and character arc as my WIP's protag. *sigh*

    How about I join you in eating that ice cream? ;)

  4. One of the ideas for my next book after I finished THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS was a YA dystopian reality-bending horror novel. But, like you mentioned, he said the market was saturated, so I've put it back in the file marked, 'Some Day' and instead got on with my YA fantasy.

    I'm happy writing fantasy (I do love the genre along with SF and horror), but I'm sure one day I'll get back to that idea.

    Hope the ice cream cheers you up and good luck with the edits, Caroline. As long as you enjoy it, the time won't be wasted.

  5. I had a sobering experience myself. I saw that a book was sold that was very similar to an idea I thought was brilliant. :-/ So, yeah, I understand. ;-)

  6. I can sympathize with the meltdown. I write futuristic YAs (part sci-fi, part dystopian), and while I enjoy the popularity the subgenre's getting (all the awesome books to read!), it's definitely sad to know that I might try to submit my manuscript just as the trend I genuinely love ends.

    I'm hoping it'll be around for a bit, with the books-based movies coming out within the next few years.

  7. I always think it's hard to predict trends, because most books take at least a year to write and who knows where the market will be then. We can guess, but it's just that - a guess.

  8. Keep hanging in there! Glad I was able to help you through this mini-meltdown a bit. The tables will be turned eventually and I'll be leaning on you for support!

    I hope you enjoyed a large dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream!