I have been writing since 2010 and have penned six book-length manuscripts and several short stories. Among all those, one always stood out to me as the breakout book. I'm not saying the others aren't good — I certainly like them — but one particular novel has a high concept, a timely topic, and has been written, rewritten, and edited so much it's pretty much print-ready.
Since I landed my agent and finaled in the Golden Heart with this young adult novel in 2015, I have never wavered in my belief that it would sell to a traditional publisher.
But it didn't.
I don't fault the story. I don't fault myself. I don't fault my amazing agent. I don't fault the publishers.
Am I little annoyed? I'd be lying if I said no, because they just turned down a really good novel. But they all had good reasons for passing, and my book just wasn't one they wanted to publish.
Still, what do you do when the plan you had for your novel doesn't work out? What if your dream for your story doesn't come true?
You can let your dream die, or you can make your dream change.
- Some writers want a traditional book deal, but they don't get an offer.
- Some writers want to self-publish, but that route proves too frustrating.
- Some want to write in a particular genre, but the interest and sales aren't there.
- Some want to pen six novels a year, but can only squeeze out a single book.
When we knock on the door of our dream, and it doesn't open, we can keep beating that door ... or we can knock on another door.
How do you know if it's time to change your dream?
Getting the dream would cost more than you're willing to pay.
Let's say to write those six novels, you'd have to give up homeschooling your child or acting in your local theater or running your other side business. Some writers would say you have to prioritize the writing! But not necessarily. You have to choose your priorities and decide what's most important to you. Maybe you'd love to write more novels, but you don't want to give up being Ophelia in Hamlet. So don't.
There's a cost to pursuing a dream, because personal dream fulfillment actually requires a lot of hours, elbow grease, and compromise. You may not want to sacrifice those things, at least to the point required to carry out your original plan.
For my book, there was one publisher interested who might have offered a contract if I was willing to change the tone and theme of the book. It would have been awesome to sign with this company! But I wasn't willing to do what they required for me to sell to them. In the end, that was simply a cost I wasn't willing to pay.
You can easily imagine and feel calm about taking another path.
Most paths have obstacles and brambles, but when you're ready to change direction, a new path doesn't seem quite so daunting. You might have some challenges, but you can imagine yourself plucking your way along toward a new destination.
For some authors, that calm only happens once they've beat back as many vines as humanly — or even superhero-ly — possible, only to discover the way still blocked. Then the other path begins to look pretty darn good, and a peace settles on them to think about another way.
I admit that self-publishing previously scared the pants off me. Not only because I'm not the kind of
control freak savvy entrepreneur who tends to do well with making all the decisions, but I didn't previously have the resources and connections I now have. The idea of putting out the book myself isn't as frightening as before. In fact, it's rather exciting.
While I couldn't have foreseen this path for the book a few years ago, now I'm ready. Are you ready to imagine a different way? Can you see yourself getting it done?
Trusted writer friends tell you it's time.
A friend of mine wrote in a particular genre for years and experienced success in contests and in getting an agent. But her books didn't sell. The critique group she'd been with for more than a decade finally cornered her and suggested her writing voice went well with a different genre. They suggested she give it a try.
Were her other genre books bad? No, they were great! But it was time to move on. Since my friend trusted her critique partners, she sat down to pen a novel in the new genre. Months later, she'd finaled in contests, gotten an agent, and had signed a book deal.
Sometimes your close friends and fellow writers can see a situation better than you. You're tangled up in the trees, and they've got a view of the forest. If they see a better path for you, it might be worth listening.
By the time my novel submissions had reached the end of the line, I had the support of friends and family telling me to move on. They confirmed my decision and then encouraged me set a new goal — one they knew I could accomplish and they would support.
But what about persistence? Determination? Perseverance? Those are absolutely necessary in this business, and continuing to pound the door might well get you what you want. That certainly happens for some writers!
For others, you get a bruised fist, or at least a bruised heart. And you may decide your time and effort are better spent rethinking your dream and pursuing that path instead. If that latter one is you, it's okay to change directions. In fact, it's probably time.
Have you ever changed dreams in your writing career? Are you currently considering a different path?
Julie Glover writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® and is now up for preorder! When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.