Mar 12, 2012

When it's time to recycle your writing

Tomorrow is the release day of PRETTY CROOKED by the awesome Elisa Ludwig. I interviewed her on my blog last September; since then, she's added a book trailer you'll want to check out here.

You'll notice I'm a tad late in posting my usual Monday info. I was at a state championship competitive  hockey tournament all weekend and had hoped to actually still be there today. Alas, my son's team was defeated in the crossovers (with help from some very questionable refing) so we came home at midnight last night with our heads hung low. This is our eleventh year of being a hockey family; my son has played since he was four. Needless to say, every year games get more tense, the stakes get a bit higher as the ever elusive goal of a hockey scholarship nears.

Last year's championship game - the Boy is #8
I say elusive because there are only 900 Division 1 hockey scholarships in the nation. 900. Sounds like a lot until you consider there are tens of thousands of kids just like my son who can play pretty well. One of those Division 1 schools is the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Number of scholarships they've offered to their home-state kids for hockey? Not many. Competition is fierce, folks, and there's always somebody willing to go play in the juniors or throw money at expensive camps Outside or that simply has more talent.

Chances are, the Boy won't make the cut.

You may be asking how this all relates to writing...although I'm guessing the numbers above are creating the metaphor in your mind. In case it's not, here's how: there are only so many publishing houses out there. And hundreds of thousands of writers.  Just looking at the numbers can throw you into despair.

But wait. We're all multi-talented writers, right? Like the Boy - who has a talent for test-taking and, when he isn't being a bonehead, is a pretty smart cookie - we can look at the market for weaknesses niches that don't have as much competition.

If  the paranormal romance genre is awfully crowded and agents are rejecting your vampire/ghost/werewolf/talking-spider story right and left, what other genre can you try? Maybe your MS is centered around a mystery or has elements of a thriller. Could you strengthen the mystery/thriller aspects of the plot and change the characters around a bit?

Or you have a fantasy with an MC who discovers she's half-fey and has powers to rule/change/destroy the world. Unfortunately, it turns out that about half the other querying writers out there have the same premise. Your plot is so centered around this idea, you're totally bummed. But your MC is this mind-blowing, a** kicking heroine you can't bear to consign to the drawer. How about using elements of her character in another plot?

Know this: nothing you've written so far is wasted. It may never be published but it ISN'T a waste. Step back from your creation and look at it like it's a house you want to sell. You've got to make it marketable, right? So try removing your emotions  - because the MS isn't your baby, it's your business -  and view it with fresh eyes.

The Boy probably won't get a Division 1 hockey scholarship. But chances are pretty good that his brains will attract what his brawn will not. An academic scholarship at a Division II school is a real possibility. Sure, it's not as prestigious as Div I but an education is an education. That's our ultimate goal.

What's your ultimate goal? And are you committed enough to reaching it to get creative with your approach?


Daisy Carter said...

Excellent post! Anything that ties in hockey gets my approval ;). I especially love this: "the MS isn't your baby, it's your business."

Well said, and a much needed reminder for all of us!

Crystal said...

Good luck to your son!

It's so true that you can't look at your writing like it's your baby if you expect to learn and improve your craft... It's a business. Period. I started learning this pretty quickly while working in freelance writing, where I constantly had to change my words to fit someone else's vision. As a result, I have become far less precious about my fiction writing.

Carrie Butler said...

Darn those Zebras!

Suzi said...

I understand the hockey thing. My little guy is in his 3rd year. And we came home from a tournament after winning the 6th place game. He's young enough not to be disappointed yet. He wants to win of course, but winning isn't everything at his age. Plus he got several goals and assists, so that helps. It must be tough to see them down after that happens though.

Everything I've written (except for one), has been contemporary. So I'm going to keep trudging along, trying to find those unique ideas, and waiting for that day when contemporary becomes the next big thing. Then I'll be ready.

And hopefully my quality of writing will be much improved by then.

Jolene Perry said...

I LOVE your no BS policy here.

I don't think NEARLY enough people really look at the business of writing.

Of course it would be awesome if we were all appreciated for the "uniqueness of our art" but the books that get published are the books the presses think will sell. Hands down.

I've recycled MANY a project, and will probably recycle many more . . .

Emily R. King said...

Well said! I'm revamping my MS with a new perspective. Here's hoping it's more marketable!

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

meradeth said...

This is so true! I think many people get completely wrapped up in the world they've created that it's hard to take a step back and figure out how to make it work in the publishing world (guilty of this myself!).

Good luck to your son!

Mary said...

Great post!

My son just finished up his first hockey season last night. The officiating in the last game was horrible, so I understand your feelings.

Hope your son has a great season next year and good luck with the scholarship- you never know!

momgotshocked said...

melodie? addie?

Is this you? Funny, cause I am (was) a hockey mom too: my daughter played all through high school, then in college (NESCAC), though she dropped out after her sophomore year. (Decided she missed the checking from her coed days, and joined men's club.)

momgotshocked (amy!)

Sarah Pearson said...

Good luck to your boy whatever path his life takes.

I'm still at the 'don't know what genre I prefer' stage so I've been focusing on the 'less crowded' ideas I've had. I'm a bit gutted though because I've just had an awesome new idea for a dystopian story which is one genre I've stayed away from. It's going to have to stand up to a lot of scrutiny before I dip my toe in that water :-)

elizabeth seckman said...

Once again, you are right on target.
There are tons of writers and too few readers. But when you do something for the love of it, not the cash, then it's all right to write for fun (blog) or a smaller audience (small press or self pub).
Just like your hockey player, he may never be division 1, but he can still love the game and even if he plays on Saturdays for the fun of's a joy he should cherish and hold on to.