Saturday, November 08, 2008

When A Myth Meets A Genre

I often tell newbie writers that, for their first manuscript, they should write the book of their heart.

By that, I mean the story they are dying to tell.

The reason I say this is that writing your first book all the way to *The End* can be hard to do. Many writers end up on the shoals of the dreaded sagging middle.

But, if you write a story that means something to you, you are more likely to battle past the problems and see the project through to completion.

Over the years prior to 2003, I started a dozen novels without ever finishing more than fifty or sixty pages of any one--if I even got that far. I sold lots of short stories, but could not manage a longer-length project.

It was not until I decided to write about one of my passions--Greek mythology--that I was able to write (and finish) a 102K-word novel. I started it in late 2002 and finished it in 2003.

I've always loved Greek myths. When I was a teenager, instead of telling my younger brothers fairy tales at bedtime, I told them myths.

Unfortunately, I had ZERO understanding of genre when I wrote that manuscript. Therefore, I wrote a fantasy/mystery/
humorous/romance based on Greek mythology. [grin]

I sent a chapter of the finished manuscript to the one editor whom I knew would just love it. She sent me back a very nice personalized letter, suggesting I send her other material but turning my query down.

I was flabbergasted. I sent it to a dozen agents and was repeatedly told while they loved the voice, they couldn't figure out where to market the manuscript. I sent it to more editors, who asked to see my next work AFTER I took a look at the kind of books they were publishing.

At that point, I decided maybe it might be a good idea to study the book industry and individual markets. I learned a lot over the next year and subsequently wrote an erotic romance that got me an agent and a publishing contract in 2006.

My agent asked to see what else I had written. I sent her that first f/m/h/r. Predictably, she said she couldn't figure out what to do with it.

Over the last couple of years, I've periodically taken that first manuscript out and polished it some more--just because I can now see all my newbie errors.

Last week, out of the blue, my agent called and asked me to send the proposal for it to her. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I sent it without questions, merely saying I would really like for that manuscript to find a good home.

I don't expect anything to come of it, but it did remind me to tell you to write the book of your heart.

3 comments:

GentleLavender said...

Hi,

I really enjoyed reading your article about following your heart and passion when it comes to writing your first novel, esp. your words, "But, if you write a story that means something to you, you are more likely to battle past the problems and see the project through to completion."

Just like you, I too wrote the story that i was dying to tell the world, got slips after slips from agents who preferred me to write somethingelse and once I understood there was a pattern to their reasoning, I followed that to improvise on my script. Now i am working hard on this and hoping for the best.

I hope your novel comes through and your agent gives you that call you are waiting for. Good luck, Maya.

Warm wishes,
Swapna

Kristi said...

I hope your proposal generates some interest. As a reader, that kind of eclectic appeals to me. I like a straight romance, or a straight mystery on occaision, or a good historical. But one that can cross boundaries and make you think--those are the memorable stories, the ones that stand out and that you recommend to all your friends.

Hopefully for your novel, I'm not the only buyer out there like that!

GentleLavender said...

Thanks for the encouraging words!

Warm wishes,
Swapna