A few years ago, as I was trying my hardest (and failing miserably) at getting my next book deal, I ended up starting and stopping several projects, feeling frustrated and defeated, and meeting rejection at every corner. And so, I ended up taking a break, stopping myself from chasing trends, from trying to predict what editors wanted. While one editor told me that YA was more “sophisticated” than what I was currently serving up, pointing to books that, to me, seemed far more geared to adults than teens, I’d hear from some librarian friends that YA was having an identity crisis.
What was it really? (And, I'm genuinely curious here, is it, because a recent SLJ article suggests this too; your thoughts and opinions are welcome.) And, if an identity crisis, who was – or is – reading YA? Adults? Teens? Book bloggers? Industry folk? All of the above?
But, I digress. During this murky time, I took a pause to focus on the story that I really wanted to tell. What was my intention in telling my next story? Why was I doing this? What was the point? It took me a while to navigate the answers to those questions. During that time, I read a lot, spent time with friends, worked out, went for long walks, took on other work, and I wrote too. I journaled, did creative writing prompts, wrote a few short stories, did a couple of writing challenges. It was all good, all part of the process.
And, all the while, I kept reminding myself to be kinder to myself – to stop beating myself up, to give myself the time I needed – pretty pathetic that I even had to, that we (or I) measured my self-worth by what I was producing and what others might think of my work.
Anyway, it was only then, after about a year off from “serious” writing, that an idea stuck. I knew exactly the book I wanted to write. My intention was set, and I was no longer thinking about trends or editors or audience at all.
So motivated, I was able to write the novel fairly quickly. Later, as I was trying to sell it, I had an editor tell me to take the book in another direction. I said no, something I’d never had the guts to do with respect to business, but I felt that their vision would mean taking a hard left from mine.
Would I ever sell my work? I hoped I would, but I wasn’t willing to compromise my vision to suit the perceived needs of a group of people – people who can’t guarantee sales or awards or future deals either – in which case, I may as well do what I want.
Happily, I ended up finding an editor who shared my vision, which was really lovely, but not at all the point. The point is that there are plenty of people to tell you to do your writing “x” way for “y” audience, following “z” trend. But, there are no guarantees. There is only your craft. When in doubt, focus on what the stories only you can write, then bring your vision, your truth, your creativity to fruition, regardless of what’s popular, and regardless of what that process looks like or how long that process takes.