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Friday, July 19, 2013

Breaking Points

In the Winter of 2010, I almost gave up on my book, The Seven Tales of Trinket and shelved it.

It's not something I talk about much.

I don't quite understand breaking points--the whole straw that breaks the camel's back kind of thing.  I don't know why it seems easy to deal with something one day, then the next, it is completely undealwithable.  (Yes, I just invented a word.)

But that happens in writing sometimes.  You go along and you go along and you go along and then, for some reason, you just can't go along anymore.

Trinket was being queried. I was a methodical querier, but not a fast one.  I'd been sending out about one query a week since October.  In the mean time, I was working on other things.  One of these other things was a YA.

I know. Seriously.

It was a funny little YA about a teenage girl who worked at a renaissance faire and fell for a boy who actually WAS from the 16th century.  I had such fun writing that book, and it gave me the freedom to not worry about Trinket.  But, as Trinket was not getting the nibbles I had hoped for, I started thinking that maybe, if nobody wanted it (even though it was my heart and soul between those pages), I would "trunk" it.  Then maybe I'd polish up the YA and we would see.

I was at the breaking point.


Because when you get to the breaking point, you have to be REALLY honest with yourself.  It's a big decision, to toss something aside.  It's big.

So, I was brutally honest with myself and reread my query.  Did it sound like a query should sound?  Yes.  Did it describe my book, really give the feeling for it?  meh.

I had work to do.

So I rewrote the query, following none of the rules, but describing my book much more truthfully.  And I gave her one more chance, all the while polishing up my little YA. One more chance.

The gist of this story is that Trinket was not shelved.  And agent requested it from the new query and then it became a book (eventually).

Yay!  Confetti and all that!

But I think the important thing here is that sometimes, although the breaking point is a scary place, it forces you to confront your writing in a very honest way. A way that you wouldn't really otherwise, (because it is hard!!) unless you had somehow stumbled into a breaking point.

I am there now, at the breaking point.

I am struggling with a story that I believe in so much.  So very much.  But I am close to the point of, "maybe I ought to just shelve it," because I have not been able to make it work in the right way.  Not yet.  And I've been at it a while.

But I know I need to give it that honest eyeball before I decide.


Okay, as for the YA, it has not been "shelved" necessarily, just put in a stated of suspended animation.  Only two friends have seen it, and neither is an agent or an editor.  But right now, I don't feel like I am a YA author.  I have to find a way back to that voice before I can give it what it needs. That is what the honest eyeball says.

Maybe I ought to make an Honest Eyeball--kind of like a Magic 8 Ball....hmmmm.  What do you think?


Jess said...

I would buy your honest eyeball :)

Honestly, thank you for this post! I haven't gotten to the breaking point with any of my manuscripts in an emotional or hard way(usually I'm already excited about my next project so I just let the other one go without a tough back-and-forth), but I was thiiiiiiis close a few months ago with the one that I'm working on now.

Also, I didn't realize that you had to query for Trinket, being an established PB author, and I'm baffled that it wasn't picked up right away! Love that book :)

Julie Dao said...

I think when the breaking point happens, we should pre-trunk the book that we're struggling with. And by that, I mean put it on the shelf for a certain amount of time (for me it's usually a month) and work on something completely different and fresh and new. I've hit the breaking point so many times, but I always find that that saying is true: absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I find myself missing my cranky little story that just wouldn't get along with me. And my honest eyeball gets sharper with time away, too. Here's hoping you'll be able to pass this breaking point soon *hugs*

Vonna said...

Your YA sounds charming and fun. I understand your need to set it aside for a while, but I hope you bring it out to play again soon. It sounds like a book I'd love to read.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm so glad Trinket got a new query and found her special place in the world. I appreciate you sharing that you came close to not believing, I go there a lot and need to remember I have a chance if I don't give up.
I love that ren faire story and hope it finds its special place someday, too. You are a storyteller so I know many of your stories will make their way into the world when the time is right.

Roxy said...

What a wonderful post! Breaking points are hard, but I find they help me take a much-needed reality check. Thanks for sharing your experience. It inspires me during the querying process.

Kelly Polark said...

I think shelving it for a while lets you get a whole new perspective or at least another try later.
I love your YA premise with the renaissance faire!!