Throw out 50 Thoughts #23 – It’ll never sell

1070845410_28ee7a7f69_zA few years ago, I wrote a novel. It resides on my hard drive. It’s drivel.

I took classes, learned a lot, but not enough. My second novel also resides on my hard drive.

I took more classes, read more books and wrote a third novel. I even let people read this one. They liked it. I thought maybe I’d try to publish this one. So, I trolled agent websites to understand what the market was looking for.

Everywhere I went, I heard the same thing. You’ve got to have a hook. You need your elevator speech, your concept, your logline. You need to explain your novel in one pithy sentence or an agent won’t take it. I realized that my book would never sell. It wasn’t unique enough. So I rewrote it…and rewrote it again…and again.

This is how I’m wired. I throw myself at challenges until I’m drinking Jack Daniels while crying in the bathtub. My husband first encountered the phenomenon when I was in business school. The phrase “net present value of electric cranberry dryers” still raises my blood pressure. Luckily I don’t hear it much.

The phrase “You gotta have a hook” elicits much the same reaction. I worked my novel until I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore, yet was still contemplating clean-sheeting the whole thing once again. I’d do it in a month, just like NaNoWriMo. To prepare, I went back to the original version–the one I let people read.

I got to a passage that gave me pause.


“I thought I knew what I wanted, but now, I’m not so sure.”

Leslie shrugged. “It’s not so hard, you know.”

Jess sighed. Even breathing seemed difficult at the moment. “What isn’t?”

“Knowing what you want.”

“Please, Leslie, tell me how, Because I can’t hear the sound of my own voice anymore.”

“Well that’s easy enough—stop listening to everyone else.”


This was the novel that I wrote for myself, not the market, and it’s a better book.

We all have endeavors that the market doesn’t value. Does it really matter? If I focused on what people wanted, I’d write a Medieval political thriller about meth-dealing Zombies who are into BDSM. (Maybe my next book – steal my idea and I’ll sue)  I wrote the story that I needed to tell, not because I wanted to be published, but because doing so made me happy.

This book may also live on my hard drive. It will have good company. Maybe I’ll find the hook, or maybe it will find me. There are some things in life we do for money, like cash flow analysis or determining the ROI on an electric cranberry dryer. There are some things we do for ourselves.

Off to work on that new novel. I’m thinking it needs a sociopath detective vampire artiste.


Photograph, “Shad Lures” by Carl Vizzone © 2007 Creative Commons/Flikr



12 comments on “Throw out 50 Thoughts #23 – It’ll never sell

  1. mgb says:

    Good to have your blog back…missed your voice!

    • Had a bout of writer’s laryngitis. It’s good to be back.

      • MGB says:

        Listen to them/listen to yourself…for what it’s worth, I don’t think it has to be one or the other….you don’t necessarily write because you HAVE to write as your one way of speaking in this world or because you NEED to be published and validated in print to know you are a sentient being. You have something to say, something worthwhile. and have found a medium that you enjoy and that allows you to express your wonderful, funny, insightful self. so you want to explore how well you can do that. and you’d like some folks to hear that, and hopefully be moved by that, one way or another. seems reasonable to me…people will always have opinions and once you put your art out there, people will interpret it as it speaks (or doesn’t speak) to them. OK (and healthy) to hear that, and also to take just as much of that feedback as makes sense to you, and not more. Clear your throat, my friend. Many of us will listen to what you have to say…

      • *mwah* your next coffee is one me, lovely friend.

  2. Naomi says:

    Great post, every writer needs to remember to stop listening to everyone and just write – Especially when writing a first draft. Have fun writing ‘a sociopath detective vampire artiste’ 😉

  3. My writing buddy who just fulfilled a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster asked me (when I was whining to her one day) why I was writing. “Is it because you NEED to be published, or is it because you love to write?” She started out writing because she loved to write. The rest is gravy.

  4. boltoncarley says:

    i have the same problem. a bunch of books sitting on jump drives. but i love your voice. i love the way you look at life. and i’d rather read you any day over a zombie jail outbreak. stupid crap. 🙂

  5. As always, Jeannine, you got me at nearly every line!

    Laughing off my chair with recognition at “I throw myself at challenges until I’m drinking Jack Daniels while crying in the bathtub” and with your unique sense of humor at ” The phrase “net present value of electric cranberry dryers” still raises my blood pressure. Luckily I don’t hear it much.”

    And sighing with complete agreement at ” I wrote the story that I needed to tell” This of course is the heart of Women Writing for (a) Change – as you already know (!) – and I love hearing women understand that fundamental truth: we write the story ONLY we can tell, the one we NEED to tell . . . Hooks and elevators aside (what a dangerous world to navigate – just contemplating these two words together makes me cringe), there are several someones ‘out there’ who need to hear just what you are writing. Might not make you rich or famous, but sure connects you with a lot of authentic souls.

    Thank you.

  6. Mary Sue says:

    Jeannine,.hang in there. I’m just happy to have seen your message. Mary Sue

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