Staying True to Yourself (and the Audience You Someday Hope to Have)
Despite all those maybes (and there were plenty more), I noticed something. Not all of me was excited. While the hyperactive happy puppy part of my brain was gamboling about imagining a fan-run wiki and people dressing up like my characters for Halloween, the cranky leash-holding part of my brain was saying, “Heel, pup, because something ain’t right.” It didn’t feel safe.
So I did two things. First, I did more research on the publishing company and their books and authors. I asked around. I asked friends to ask friends to ask friends. The results were mixed. In the name of realizing a publication dream, I might have gone for it.
But the second thing I did was sit quietly and think about what I wanted. (Fine, we’ll call it what it was: brooding.) Did I want this particular book to be my debut novel? Did this book represent my best work? Would it put me on the path to writing more of the same, or would it allow me to grow and experiment? This was an old manuscript—I wasn’t even writing in that genre anymore. And what about self-promotion—how much time and energy would that take away from my new WIP?
We all know what happened in the end. Obviously, because um, I haven’t published a book. Maybe I never will. But it was important to me to follow my intuition, improve my craft, and wait. At the SCBWI Summer Conference in August, agent Steven Malk talked about slowing down and having a plan, really evaluating where you want your writing career to go.
|Steven Malk addressing kidlit lovers at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2013. I'm off to the far left--sitting next to one of my writer crushes, Sonya Sones! Thank you, Lee Wind, for permission to use the photograph.|
Where do I want my career to go? I want my first book to be the best possible work I can show my audience. If I don’t give them my best, I won’t have an audience. That book I was talking about? That wasn’t my best. So I’ll slow down, keep learning, keep writing, and hope that someday I write a debut book I’m proud to share with the world—maybe not a book worthy of tattoos and Halloween costumes, but a first book that makes the audience want to read my second one.