3 S.R. Johannes: What makes a Winner?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What makes a Winner?

Thanks for sharing your stories!

They were hilarious....

The winner of their very own Glass Slipper is


Congrads email me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com and I will get you in touch with Kay!

What makes a Winner?

I was on a kidlitchat the other night and something someone said really struck a chord with me.

The topic was - "what makes a book a winner?"

People were saying voice, plot, hook, characters, setting etc.

Then someone chimed in with, "You have a winner, when you get an offer."

If we were in a room, the room would have gone silent. At least 10 seconds went by where not one comment came through the chat. As if tweetdeck had crashed....again!

Now, my initial reaction was "you got that right!" I mean, if an agent doesn't offer representation or if an editor doesn't buy a book - than obviously the book is not a winner, right? That's how most of us feel right? Am I alone?

But then, surprisingly, an editor chimed in first and said, "So if an editor doesn't buy your book, then you don't think your books a winner anymore?"

I don't know why but that comment made me sit up in bed. (yes I am a lazy chatter! I lay down and chat while watching tv.)

I thought about it more. All night in fact.

I started thinking about a book I put down a year ago. A book close to my heart. A book I love. A book that I really thought was a winner.

I put that book aside to focus on my tween angel story because I felt it was more marketable.

Now that the book is off my plate, I've been contemplating what book to focus on next. I went through my idea document and picked a couple. Started a couple. And for some reason, during this time, I didn't really think about the book I love. That book was somehow and for some reason - still on the back burner. Why was I not focusing on Grace? After all, I had several agent offers of rep on Grace. Grace was developed - flaws and all. Grace had evolved so much. Grace got me my agent.

Had I given up on it? Had I given up on a winner?

This morning, as I was doing the dishes, I started to cry. (yes I am emotional that way. And it wasn't over the crusted overnight dishes.) Over the crusted spaghetti and old oatmeal, 'it hit me.

Over the last year, I've lost my way a little.

You see once you get an agent, you no longer write for yourself. And I can imagine that only gets harder and harder as you move through the process. Get an editor, deal with marketing, sell to stores. Now your agent needs to love the book as much as you. You are a team. Their reputation is on the line as well as your career. When an agent takes you on - they are stamping their name on you professionally. I don't care what anyone says, your agent must like your work

Somewhere along the way, I started writing for my agent, for editors, for submission, for everyone else's revision ideas.

Until this morning. This morning I made a decision. I'm going back to my book and see where it leads me. IT may need some work, but it may not. Who knows.

But I'll never know if I don't try.

And now, I can breathe again.

I'm back to writing for me again.

Where I love to be. Where I need to be. Where my agent wants me to be.

And where my heart is.

So what do yo think? Do you ever find yourself writing for someone else? And why?


Anonymous said...

Good for you. Everything I've read says writing for yourself is the right choice. And since we're told not to try to anticipate the market, that seems prudent.

The fact that so many well-respected authors took years to get published proves that it isn't necessary for you to get an offer to have a winner. Sure, they eventually got an offer, but only because they kept at it long after many people told them they didn't have a winner. And look at The Shack. That guy never got an offer until after he proved to the world he had a winner by selling it himself.

Natalie Aguirre said...

This is a great post and probably something that many struggle with, especially like you say, when they get an agent. What happens if the book doesn't sell? I have a book I've been writing for 7 years. I'm not sure I'll even get an agent for it. At least now. But in my heart it'll always be a winner. Some kids, critique partners, and teachers liked it and that may have to be enough.

I think this goes to how we measure our success. I don't want to measure my success anymore by the things I can't control, like getting published. I want to measure it in ways I can control--work hard, study the craft of writing, and improve as a writer.

Good luck with your book

DL Hammons said...

Awwwww....don't cry! I hate it when women cry. Gets me every time!

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I've not had to face the same pressures you have in the writing/publishing process yet...so I write exclusively for me. I hope/wish that will remain that way...but reading this post makes me think otherwise.

I'm so glad that you've returned to what makes you happy. Isn't that where the joy of writing is?

Stina said...

OMG! I'm so glad I read your post today, Shelli. I'm not agented, but this is exactly what I needed to read. I just received a crit on my first two chapter. But it wasn't the kind of crit where you can turn about and make your ms better. It was the kind that made me think I was a crappy writer . . . despite whatever everyone else had told me. I was ready to give up on writing because of it.

You make me realize I don't have to rewrite my novel because she hated my voice. I never wrote the novel for her in the first place. Okay, my confidence is completely shot, but I'm going to finish my edits for me. And only me. :) Thanks!

Stephanie Perkins said...

It warms my heart to hear you say this. YES. Write for *you* first. Those are the only stories that matter.

Good luck. :)

M Pax said...

I'm still at the starting line - no agent, no publisher. So, I can only write for me. That may change at some point, but I hope to always have 'me' in the ms.

Kelly H-Y said...

GOOD FOR YOU!!!! This post excited me and really struck a chord! Thank you!

Catherine Denton said...

Chills. This post sent shivers all through me. I wanted to cry right along with you. I've been guilty of writing for the market, or my best friend, or some other reason instead of my heart. You've re-inspired me. Thank you.

Now I've got that song, I Believe, by R. Kelly (2008) going through my head.

Winged Writer

Gail said...

I love your honesty and openness. That's why you have so many followers- we can all relate to what you talk about. I'm not agented yet, but I hope I'll always remember the essence of this post:-)

Ann Marie Wraight said...

"Where my heart is."

You said it girl!

Nothing else REALLY matters.

Stasia said...

THANK YOU for this post. My agent just sold my first novel and I'm having a really hard time settling down to write. Can't pick the project. Should I stick with this format or head in an entirely new direction? My head is whirling. But, I think you make a great point. Maybe I should check in with my heart.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I think that is a very wise decision. I still write for me because I've only been writing for a little over a year. I hope I don't lose that.

Josie said...

That's so ironic, I was just talking about that the other day too! Lately I have been writing toward what agents and editors say they want in hopes of making my book one that stands out. But it didn't really feel like MY book anymore. It felt all wrong. So I went back to my own style and what was the most true to the story and characters and that will just have to be good enough.

Great post!

Marissa Burt said...

Good for you, Shelli! So glad to hear you are enjoying the process - and here's hoping you fall in love with Grace all over again.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - that's some powerful stuff. Over oatmeal crust no less.

Good luck with it - although with your heart in it, I'm sure you won't need luck! :)

Jackee said...

What a beautiful thought. And I agree completely. I can see where the worries over who is or isn't going to love it would suck the life (and fun!) out of our writing. Good luck on writing back to where the story takes you!

And congrats to the winner!

storyqueen said...

Part of the reason that I keep my job (aside for the reason that I need to eat and all) is that the money I make at work allows me to write whatever I want....writing is the most fun part of my life some days...and because I have to jump through so many hoops in my worklife, I just don't do it so much in my writinglife.

Good luck on your quest to refind your writing heart.


Janet Johnson said...

Love the blog! Isn't it easy to forget why we started writing in the first place? Every critique of my baby, every time I read about all the things I SHOULD be doing, and bit by bit I forget.

Thank you (sincerely!) for the reminder.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Oh, Shelli, what a great post! I've been feeling that way, like I kept rewriting to make other people like my book until I completely lost sight of what I was trying to write in the first place! But you can't be all things to all people and changing to meet other people's expectations can just leave you lost. It's just hard to sort out which voices you should be listening to...

Elana Johnson said...

Holy crap, Shelli. I have chills right now. You've just described what I've been doing. I've been writing for someone else. No wonder it's not working out.

But at the same time, you're right. We have to write something that will sell -- especially when we have an agent.

It's a rock and a hard place.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Wow, this is a terrific post, Shelli! And certainly this topic is on my mind right now as I recently got feedback on the contracted manuscript I turned in a month ago to my editor. And it turns out that even though it's a fantastic story, exciting, beautifully written, etc. it is *not* what Scholastic was expecting or hoping or needing from me. So I have to rewrite the entire book, practically from scratch. (Long, complicated story) but Ouch! A year's worth of work gone.

It's back to the drawing board as I try to come up with an entire new plot.

And yet I wrote a winner of a book. Just not the right book for right now. It's an interesting, mind-boggling place to be in.

Mame said...

This post is Die Hard awesome.