Saturday, January 8, 2011

Old Stories...New Starts

I'm presently pitching agents (as in lots of agents) with a work that, to put it kindly, old.
As in, I first came up with the idea for this story somewhere around 1990.
(Those of you who weren't born yet then can stop reading this now. :-)

Yet it's become brand-new in my hands again, through a process I can only call miraculous. And so I'm doing what I feel called to do, and pitching the heck out of the thing.
My inspiration?

Not so very long ago, I read a tale of persistence about a writer who worked on a book for years. Apparently many years. She wrote, and submitted, and got rejected, and revised, and sent to contests, and had critques, and submitted, and got more rejections...and so on and so forth. During this time period, many, many people told her to give up the dream entirely. She clearly wasn't making it, so why keep banging her head against the wall? Others told her she didn't have to give up on the dream of writing, just try on a more "realistic" one; she needed to put away the book with so many miles on it, and write something else entirely.

But this advice, she ignored. She kept working on this book of her heart. The story she needed to tell. The book only she could write.

And eventually, it did sell. I wish I could remember if it sold for some fabulous sum of money, or got her fame and fortune, or put her on Oprah, or any of the rest. But it doesn't matter that I don't remember that, because the kind, or degree, of success truly wasn't the point of this particular story. This particular story was about whom you listen to in your creative ventures. What advice you take, which you ignore. What you keep on with, despite all the rejections and the "realistic" suggestions that could make you successful...but not bring the fullness of your heart to the printed page. And deep inside, you realize that the fullness of your heart on the printed page is the only thing that makes it worth being a writer at all.

I have a book right now that is that story for me. Unlike this woman in the account I've read, I've wavered from my story's path. I've taken some of that well-meaning advice. I've tried writing other things. I've written whole books' worth of other things. I've even had some success with those other a point.

But this is the book that's written from my blood on the page.
This is the book that only I can write.
This is the story that only I can tell in this particular way.
This is the story I had to write. And that I want to keep working on getting it out there...until it's sold at last.

So in a way, since I've lived with these characters for twenty-plus years in their various incarnations and modulations...this work is old.
Yet it's sprung to new life again, as has my Muse, and I have to believe there's a reason for that.
And I'm not letting go of it until it blesses me.

Janny - Note new blog address!


  1. They say, "Write your passion"--sounds like that's what you're doing, Janny!

    I'm curious: did you rewrite or majorly edit this oldie, or did you simply blow off the dust and send it on its way? I ask because I am working on (re-writing, actually) an oldie of mine. In my case, I'm grateful I didn't get published way back when, as I've learned so much I'd be hugely embarrassed to have anyone read it now (thus the re-writing). Did you acquire writing skills you needed in the twenty-year interim and thus make the story better, or was it more a matter of learning to not get sidetracked?

  2. Steph-

    The answer is, actually, all of the above. :-)
    I did acquire more skills, better storytelling, craft, etc. But mainly what I did this time around was twofold: I took a section of the book that seemed not to "work" as well as it should have and totally cut and rewrote it. (This was a major section, five chapters' worth.) Second, I "upped the emo" considerably. I've always had my stories turn out the best when I ratchet up the emotional content, and over various incarnations of this work, I'd attempted to "make it" one thing or the other, in the process gutting a lot of the real raw emotion. The product ended up being a good story, but distancing in places...exactly the OPPOSITE of what I wanted in a romantic suspense! :-)

    That's kind of how I got excited about this book again, in a nutshell. Truthfully, the only things that are still the same in this bookas they were twenty years ago are the main characters...the story itself has changed entirely, and even the characters have become more "real."

    Hope that sort of answers the question...

  3. Thanks for the encouragement. I've had the same story rattling in my brain for the last five years. And like you, it has a grip on me. It's the one I know the Lord has given me to tell and the one He has given to develop me as a writer. So many, many thanks for your entry today. Just what I needed to hear.

  4. Keep going if that's the story the Lord has given to you. I did, and that book I wrote within a week or two about 12 years ago just got published (I picked it up again in late 2008 and started working on it, believing it could be the beginning of a series). Don't let anyone else tell you to quit, stop or otherwise give up. Keep at it, and the Lord will reward your faithfulness!