Middle Grade Weremonkeys & Embracing Scary
From time to time, clients have emailed me new ideas they are clearly nervous about, usually with a subject line something like “Here goes nothing” or “Don’t say I didn’t warn you” and then inside they give me a great windup of “So this is the weirdest idea ever, basically, but….”
Members of my client list, do not take it upon yourselves to prove this untrue, but—I LOVE THAT.
If you’re a bit scared of a book, I usually think it means you’re on the brink of something big. A breakthrough, the book you should’ve written two false starts ago, the story that is going to take off when it hits editors’ desks. The book that makes me go, “Oh, I guess I like horror/vampires/boy action-adventure/whatever I thought I didn’t, now.”
But in part, I think I’m so stoked to get “you might hate this” emails because like anyone else who is immersed in books for a living, I crave novelty. Jadedness can come up on you so easily. If anything, it’s harder for you if at first glance your book seems to be another been-there-done-that dystopovampilove story (or, if paranormal’s not your thing, book about the bullied girl, or the contemporary romance with a movie star hero in hiding, or the women’s fiction about a cheating husband and the wife moving on)–my natural inclination, in these hibernation-inducing days of winter, is to channel Bad Willow and go straight to “Bored now.”
Don’t get me wrong, I still have to be able to describe it, shelve it in a bookstore, tell an editor what to compare it to. But here is what 2011 is not about for me: Chasing trends. Trying to jump in on something while the market-check’s kiting, cashing in on as much as I can get before everyone wakes up to realize middle grade weremonkeys or whatever actually weren’t the wave of the future. Nuh-uh. I want something that will endure, a book we’ll be toasting to in three, five, fifteen years. And those are very rarely the books that seemed easy.
So dance with the scary idea. See where it takes you. Even if it isn’t the one that Does The Trick (whatever the trick is for you), I bet it’ll make you a more interesting writer. The same is true for me—I know I’ve got something good when I have to breathe deep and ask, “Am I agent enough for this book?” New challenges keep you fresh, and that’s good for us all.
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