Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are We There Yet?

It looks as though I'm in for another round of revision. At first the rejection news is disheartening, frustrating, and reason enough to down a vat of raw cookie dough. But when the dust settles, I think a little harder on the suggestions so kindly offered by the rejecting editors and slip them into three neat categories:

1.  Matters of Personal Taste—  You just can't win these battles.  And they are not necessarily wrong or twisted or evil.  They are simply opinions.  So I file these away in the "Ah, that's what this editor likes/doesn't like" file.

2.  Repeat Offenders — These are those annoying little points the seem to crop up in several rejection letters so you can't ignore them.  Now these can fall into 2 sub-categories:  things I can fix and things I don't want to fix because they have little or nothing to do with my goals for this book.
    • Things I can fix:  These will not change the story.  They are little quirks in my writing or basic structural or characterization issues that require more tweaking than full-on re-writing.  Quirks can be good, but sometimes they are distracting, so I weigh the comments and decide how to proceed.
    • Things I don't want to fix:  These are things that involve completely altering the direction of the book or trying to make it something it will never be.  Sorry guys, but I won't add sex or romance or addiction just to spice things up or appeal to a broader market.  Uh-uh.
3.  The Identity Crisis — Where does my book really belong?  I have a great story, but the how of it might fit better into MG than YA.  What?  But I always thought of myself as a YA writer!  Yep...I'm a straddler.  Much about the story is YA, or at least it would have been in another time.  But the modern YA reader comes from a very different place than many of us did at that age.  Add in the historical element and you complicate the issue even further.  How do I keep it authentic but still appeal to a modern teenage sensibility without completely re-writing the book?  That's the tough point.  It's a question that I have to ask myself.  And because I am a writer, I will ask it.

But how do I overcome this breathless sense of failure?  I revise my vision of success.  I want to write the best story I can write and I want kids to read it and enjoy it.  That part hasn't changed.  Refocusing this piece won't change that either.  I'm just starting this part of my career in a slightly different place than I thought.

So here I stand contemplating yet another revision.  Thanks to my dear BB buddy Mindy for talking me off the ledge and to my fabulous agent for hashing over all of it and coming up with a good plan for the next round.  And as Ernest Hemingway once said:

Optimism can keep a fool from accepting failure.

I guess I'll just be a happy fool and dive right back into what will surely be an awesome MG book.


  1. I laughed when I read the part about you being told your YA book fits better into MG because I had the same thing happen to me. I've been working on the book for almost four years, convinced all that time that it was YA, only to have my agent a few editors tell me it wasn't. But you know, thinking of it as MG has helped me in revising it this time around. May we both have wonderful MG grade books when we're done! :-)

  2. Isn't it funny, Anna? We think we have it figured out and *poof* it's something different! I'll see you on the MG shelf!

  3. It has been WAY too long since I visited your blog. How are things going in the writing world? Any new news?? I'm still blogging (set to private- let me know if you want "in") but not writing, we have 6 kids living here right now! I miss it still.

  4. Oh Dawnelle, it has been too long! I tried to pop in on your blog a few times but saw that it was private. I would love to catch up and definitely get "in" on things :) You have had a lot going on! You'll get back to writing, I know it.

  5. Good luck with the revisions Mary Ann. I understand that ledge feeling all too well! I'm amazed at the depth of modern middle grade novels that allude to history, literature, society's ills ... I'm looking forward to your novel adding to our rich collection of stories.

  6. Best wishes with your revisions, Mary Ann. I know you can do it!


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