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I'm writing this post mainly because I think it would have meant a lot to me to read something like this when I was starting out, or just about any time since then. Because I, and most other published authors I know, hesitate to talk about the negative parts of this process, even though I don't know anyone who hasn't run into problems along the way. I hope that this will help at least one person reading it keep striving toward their dreams.

In the last two months, I have learned three very important things about writing for publication:

1. By far the most important thing is to keep writing.

2. Writing something you feel strongly about is much more important than analyzing the market.

3. The right track is not always obvious.

And since anyone can just say those things, let me demonstrate:

1. It could very easily look as if I sold one book, spent a couple years writing another one, and sold that one to much more fanfare. But that's not actually how it worked. I wrote four other novels between GIVE UP THE GHOST and THE WAY WE FALL.

The first, my then-agent loved and sent on sub. A year and a half later, it had gotten nothing but rejections. For now it's shelved.

The second, my then-agent did not like at all. I'm not sure what's going to happen with it.

The third, my then-agent was unenthusiastic about. I am still hoping to send this out into the world some day, but I didn't think it was the right book to try to pitch as a follow-up to GHOST, as where GHOST is a contemporary paranormal YA with a first person girl POV, this book is a historical/traditional fantasy maybe-MG with a third person boy POV. (This book was written while I was still hoping the first book, which was paranormal, would sell as a trilogy, after which I could branch out more easily.)

The fourth, no one except me has seen, because I've only written one very rough draft. I might have gone out with this as a potential follow-up, but it's set in Japan and I felt I needed to visit to do the story and setting justice, and there was no way I was going to be able to afford that until 2011.

Seeing one book not sell and two others fail to interest my agent, it would have been very easy for me to feel that maybe I'd only had one publishable book in me. But I've never been able to not write. It's something I just have to do. And I figured as long as I was writing, I might as well keep trying to get those books to readers. Things weren't working out with my then-agent, clearly, so I needed to find new representation as well as editor interest. None of the books I had were going to work. So instead of despairing, I sat down and started writing a novel that had been gradually developing in the back of my mind, which I titled THE WAY WE FALL.

2. I did not write THE WAY WE FALL to fit with any particular trend. In fact, I considered that it might not be marketable enough. I started writing it before the dystopian trend took off. I had other ideas I liked that I thought might be more commercial, but TWWF was the one that was calling by far the loudest, the one I had the most clear sense of how it should be written, and so that was the one I went with.

I was in the middle of it when everyone started talking about how hot dystopian YA was becoming, and suddenly there were several new post-apocalyptic sales listed in Publishers Marketplace each week. But that didn't make me happy. Quite the opposite--I started to panic a bit that I might seem to be chasing the trend, and that agents and publishers would feel the market for anything dystopian-ish was saturated by the time my book was ready to go out there. (TWWF isn't technically dystopian--I called it a survival story when I queried, and I think that's the most accurate label--but I knew it would be viewed as part of that sub-genre.)

At either of those points, I could have decided to write a different book--one I thought would have more commercial appeal, one I didn't think would have as much competition from books already bought. But TWWF was still the book I felt I needed to write. So I finished it, and submitted it. And it just so happened that a lot of people wanted it, because it sort of matched the trend, but sort of didn't, so it both fit in and stood out at the same time.

There was no way I could have predicted that would happen. It was luck, pure and simple. But luck wouldn't have done me any good if I didn't have a book I loved ready to be caught up in it.

3. I've sometimes seen authors say they knew the book they were writing was going to be The One, that it was bigger and better than what they'd written before, and so it couldn't help getting editors' interest. But my experience couldn't have been more different. In fact, there were many times while writing TWWF that I got worried because I wasn't feeling confident, and I remembered all the times I'd seen authors talk about that knowing, and I wondered if that meant no one was going to think this book was anything special.

To be honest, I have never felt more insecure about my writing than in the last year. I'd written a book that seemed commercial but couldn't sell, and then I'd written a book I loved that my agent hated. Suddenly I felt as if I couldn't trust myself to know whether what I was writing was great or decent or crap.

So I couldn't help second-guessing myself all the way through writing and revising TWWF. The biggest example: at least once a day I asked myself if I really had to write it in journal format, because I was worried that would make it a harder sell, and that maybe I wouldn't be able pull it off well enough. But every time I tried to imagine writing it in straight first person or third person, it felt wrong. So I kept going. I figured even if I couldn't trust myself to know whether it was working or not, there was no point in trying to write in a way that would make me unhappy.

When I started querying agents with TWWF, I didn't expect to necessarily find new representation, let alone see it published. I was already planning the book I'd write next, in case this one didn't work out.

Six weeks later, I had both a new agent and a three-book deal.

Which just proves that you won't necessarily know. The book you have the most doubts about could be the one that ends up doing the best out of everything you've written.

After all that, this is what I firmly believe: In the end, whatever's happened before, the best you can do is keep writing, write stories you love as well as you can, and see what comes out of it. And that's what I'm going to keep doing, because my journey as a writer is far from finished.

I wish all of you the best of luck on your own journeys, wherever you hope they will take you!


( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 12th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
Wow, Megan. This post couldn't have come at a better time. I had an agent for two plus years, we had two "almost sales" and after some soul-searching, we recently decided to part. We personally got along great, but our working relationship kinda stalled out. So now I'm on the lookout for an agent for my latest novel and I'm excited and hopeful that a new collaboration will be the magic publishing dust I need. It was comforting to read that you had some major ups and downs on your journey too––and it confirmed that sometimes the road to publication isn't a superhighway, but a dirt road with lots of potholes. :) Thanks for sharing!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you found it helpful--good luck with your agent search! :)
Jul. 12th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you SO much for posting this! A timely read for me. :-)
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! :) I figure a lot of us go through these ups and downs.
Jul. 12th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Megan. I'm so happy for you and your amazing deal!!!

This post confirms something I've believed a long time. So much of this business is right place, right time. There is so much we can't control. But the one thing we can control is the writing - to just keep doing it to the best of our abilities, writing stories *we* find interesting, hoping someone else might too.

I can't wait to read your book! :)

Jul. 12th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
So true, and I think we stay much saner as writers if we focus just on doing our job as well as we can, and try to remember that the publishing success of that writing depends on many factors other than just how "good" any particular story is.
Jul. 12th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
Hi Megan,

Thanks so much for opening up to us and sharing. It's inspring! Knowing other authors (even published) are slopping through some serious crap is wonderful. ;-)

This is weird. I was researching an author just last week, which led me to your previous agents website. I looked at the client list and noticed you were missing. WTH! I was shocked!!! And worried!!!

And it was only days later you posted about your three book deal and agent. Nice!!! Very cool comeback!

Just like you say, success only comes to those who keep writing and keep submitting.

Congrats to you!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
The crap definitely does not stop once you're published. ;) If anything, it just gets more intense!

Glad this was inspiring! I am looking forward to the day you will get to post awesome book news of your own!
Jul. 12th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your story, Megan.
Jul. 12th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, Megan, thanks for sharing. It does sometimes look like people just walk in and find an agent who loves them and sell the book(s) that they've loved writing, and things just work out well. But sometimes the book that is screaming for you to write doesn't get the love you wanted for it, and it's easy to feel like giving up. I'm glad you didn't, and I'm glad that things are moving forward! I'm also looking forward to reading your new books!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I don't think I know any authors who had it completely easy! :) Not giving up is definitely the biggest factor in succeeding!
Jul. 12th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
This is a great post. In fact, I was going to share it on Twitter but now I see that it's locked. Success stories like this make our little writerly hearts swell, I think, because everyone has insecurities like this.
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
They definitely do, and I would have liked to share it outside my LJ friends because of that. But I've gotten in "trouble" over sharing things publicly online before, so I'm playing it safe. I hope somewhere down the road I'll feel comfortable unlocking this for everyone who needs a boost!
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Gosh, Megan, I had no idea you were going through all of this. Like everyone else, I appreciate your sharing the process and I will use the inspiration you've given us here.

Congratulations again!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and I'm happy to have inspired! :)
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Megan, thank you for sharing this! I was already super excited for you about your new book deal, but now I'm even more thrilled. You SO deserve it after all the ups and downs - your story is really inspirational.
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
Your story is pretty inspirational, too! Just goes to show that it can take a while to find that right story, and to write that story right. :)
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post, Megan! Your story is inspiring.
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share.
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting. I, too, have a then-agent and a now-agent, for similar reasons. Yay for persistence. :)
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
Persistence is definitely the key! :) And sometimes I think having a long-lasting partnership with one's first agent is about as likely to happen as having a happy marriage to one's first boyfriend--works out for a few, but hard to know exactly what you need when you've never had a relationship before.
(no subject) - raecarson - Jul. 12th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 12th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
I really, really love this entry - and I'm so happy for you!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jul. 12th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this Megan. I am so thrilled for you. I can't think of anyone who deserves this success more. Give up the Ghost was wonderful, and I still remember your alien/tree story, though it's been years since I've read it. Hope you don't give up on the boy POV fantasy, because I think that sounded really intriguing.
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
I am definitely not giving up on the fantasy (my new agent is much more enthusiastic about it)! And I am keeping my fingers crossed that you will have good writing news to share sometime soon!
Jul. 12th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, what a story. Thank you so much for sharing it. It makes your awesome book deal even more exciting. I'm sorry things didn't work out with your previous agent. Like Brian, I got worried when I saw you weren't on the client list anymore. But I'm glad you found someone else and that things are looking up for you.
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
As I said to another commenter, sometimes I think having a long-lasting partnership with one's first agent is about as likely to happen as having a happy marriage to one's first boyfriend--works out for a few, but hard to know exactly what you need when you've never had a relationship before. (Granted, I know more authors who are still happily with their first agent than people married to their first boyfriend, so I don't mean this analogy to be discouraging to those still looking for that first one!) I'm happy to have found an agent who really is the right fit for me now!
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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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