Monday, June 4, 2012

Never Surrender

This week is the launch of Elana Johnson's sequel, SURRENDER. Elana's a good friend of mine, so I hope you'll stick around for her guest post (with giveaway!) tomorrow.

Meanwhile, today I'm going to blog about a time I didn't give up. SURRENDER is full of themes of when to surrender and when to stand up for what you believe in, so it's definitely an appropriate blog theme to celebrate Elana's launch. And--if you also blog about never surrendering, you can be entered in a giveaway on Elana's website and get extra points for a giveaway currently going on at Literary Rambles!

Never Surrender

I think I've blogged rather a lot about my query experience, and how many rejections I've gotten over the years. I definitely don't want to beat a dead horse, so instead, I thought I'd tell you about a time I actually did give up.

I was working on the book I wrote before ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. It was a fantasy (just like every other novel I'd written). I was tired of rejections, and I was tired of being close, but not close enough. I looked very carefully at what was selling and how YA was being marketed, and I wrote a book that I thought would hit all the right trends. I had a love triangle, a friendship-sidekick story, a funny character, a tragic character, a school-like setting, a formula for magic that slid into every Hogwarts copycat story there is.

And not only did I make this book fit all the standard cliches, I sent it out to nearly a dozen crique partners and readers. I took every. Single. Suggestion. Someone didn't like the character? I changed her. Someone didn't like a plot twist? Changed. I cut mercilessly, rewrote everything, and did my best to please every single person.

The problem? 

I gave up the story I was trying to tell.

Whenever you do something where you're not being true to yourself, you've surrendered. And I was so desperate at that time to get published that I wrote the story I thought everyone else would like...and lost myself in the process.

That book remains the only book of the ten novels I wrote before publication that I regret. The only thing I learned from my book is that, when it comes to writing (and life): never surrender.

Don't give up your voice. Don't give up what you want to write.

The next thing I wrote after this failure of a book was ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I had learned my lesson: trying to please other people and write a story for a market didn't work. So I wrote the story I wanted to tell, and it was the story I also thought would never sell. 

And that's exactly the reason why it did.


Come back tomorrow to see a guest post by Elana on how to prepare for a book launch (and to enter into a giveaway for fabulous second novels, including one by yours truly!). Meanwhile, make sure to read this interview with Elana from Literary Rambles, and check out her novels! And if you have an experience where YOU didn't surrender (or, like me, you did), blog about it for another giveaway from Elana!

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Misty said...

Congrat on being true to yourself. It is a hard lesson but one that must be learnt :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this Beth. I often think of giving up writing just because it's so hard with working and family to accomplish much. But you're inspiring me to remember to Never Surrender!

Can't wait to hear what Elana says tomorrow and thanks for the shout out about my contest.

Emily the Little Fish said...

Every time I have tried to write something for someone else, without making it something I love, I end up failing miserably. I have to find some way to get out of it, because I just can't complete it.

I think the more passionate you are about a project, the more you shine without trying, the more other people want to be a part of that shine. It may not always translate into results, but it always translates into something warm.

Bleuette said...

That's so inspiring! Especially since I'm trying to write a book of my own that doesn't quite fit the YA mainstream. But trends never last and I've always noticed that the best books are the ones that didn't copy successful books but rather just told something new and a story they honestly loved and wanted to share. Because if you don't love your story how can you expect others to?

Elana Johnson said...

And I'm so glad you didn't give up, because then we wouldn't have your AWESOMENESS to bask in. Thanks, girl!