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