On a Yahoo group I’m a member of, someone asked about advice on the ending of their book and said they were thinking of moving away from one particular direction because in the current political climate, no one will want to read a book like that. I thought it was a good reminder to me that writing and getting published are two different parts of the same goal, and at the writing stage, they should be treated as such.
Sure, when you’re writing with the goal of getting published, you should be keeping up with what’s going on in publishing, reading the books on the bestseller list, and reading the award winners. You should know what’s selling and what’s not. BUT, and this is a big but, you should not let it change what you’re writing.
Publishing is a slow industry. The time between a book being bought and getting placed on shelves is at least a year in most cases, often more. There’s the editing, typesetting, more editing, book cover design, marketing, pre-selling, etc. etc. And that’s after the book has been sold to a publishing house. For an unpublished writer, the first step is finding an agent, and that can take months and months. Often times, a writer doesn’t find an agent with his or her first book. And even if they did, agents are busy, and their turnaround time can be months. Then, once an agent contract has been signed, there are often revisions before the book goes out to editors, and when it does go out to editors, it can be a while before the book finds its home.
Sure, there are the exceptions. Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight went from creation to a publishing house sale in six months, I read. But that’s rare. Most books take longer. I’ve read lots of stories about books that took years to get on shelves.
The point of my advice to this Yahoo group member was that, by the time her book comes out, the political climate could be different, so that shouldn’t be the main consideration for the ending. (Not to mention that fact that, in any political climate, there are differing opinions, and if people on one side wouldn’t be interested in the book, the people on the other probably would.)
But it’s also about writing what your passion is. When we sit down to write a novel, we will be working with that novel for years, and it should be a story we are passionate about, with characters that we love spending time with. The ending of the story, should come out of these, out of the decisions the characters are making, not out of some external factor that might not even be a consideration years down the line.
I haven’t interviewed Stephenie Meyer, but I’d be willing to bet that when she sat down to write Twilight, she wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to write a vampire story, because they’re going to be huge in a few years.’ No, she had an image of a girl and boy in a clearing in a woods, and she went on from there. She had a passion for those characters and the story they tell, and it shows in the book, and that passion is part of the reason for Twilight‘s phenomenal success.
There are no guarantees in this business. So, I think it’s important to enjoy the journey as much as — if not more than — the final goal of getting published. Write your passion, and everything else will follow.
What’s most important for you when you’re writing?