Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Let Me Tell You a Story

I met Susan when she signed up for a creative writing class I was teaching. She tells me that first class I literally bonked her on the head and asked why she wasn't turning out novels left and right. I vaguely remember smacking her with her writing sample, but mostly I remember what an astonishingly good writer she was.

Fast forward -- eventually we became BFFs because us crazy writer types have to stick together. On kind of a whim, we came up with a mystery series (a halfway meeting point, as I was horror and she was mainstream). The first book was good, good enough to get us an agent -- a New York agent, to boot. I used to love saying "New York agent," because it made me feel "special." Our agent encouraged to get to work on the next in the series and we did.

Fast forward further -- a publishing house shows interest in the series. The editorial board has the manuscript! We fill out their author paperwork, they're coming up with a marketing plan, and then....  No dice. Wasn't quite thematically right for them. But, hey, maybe we'd be willing to retool the second book in the series to make it a first book in the series? Sure, we say, anything you need. We cannibalize Darker by Degree to move all the wonderful prose we can to Director's Cut. We invent a new backstory. A whirlwind of activity follows. After all is said and done? Crickets.We begin work on book three, but our hearts aren't in it.

Fast forward to the now. Since we've decided to go the self-publishing route, we've resurrected the series in its original format. We always loved Maddie Pryce (and she received high praise from publishers), so we're going to let her be who's she supposed to be. Today, we finished restoring Director's Cut to its original glory -- and it's a great book: funny, fast-paced, suspenseful, just really fun. Wow, we are stoked.

But in returning to Darker by Degree, while it's a good book, we realize it's not on the level of Director's Cut. The plot is still great, Maddie is still great,  but it needs retooling in the character development and motivation department. (I also suggest zombies, because zombies are cool, but really not necessary for our purposes. Damn.)

In other words, self-publishing is no excuse to not give your best. We could quickly publish Darker by Degree -- as I said, it's a good book, good enough to be a hair's breadth away from being published by a major mystery publisher -- but it's not as good as we want it. We want to leave readers with a, "Wow!"  And then we want them to promptly buy Director's Cut because they can't wait to see what happens next. So we are hard at work on the revision of Darker by Degree -- and it's going to be great.

Moral of the story: never go with "good enough." Whatever you write, polish that thing until it glows. ( Kind of like a radioactive meteorite, the kind that causes the dead to rise..... Oh, never mind.)


  1. Those are the BEST meteorites. Chip off some fragments and put them in a pepper grinder and they're a delicious accompaniment to meat, fish, or fowl!

  2. On a less lighter note, what a wonderful partnership. There truly, truly is nothing like having someone you can create with. Helping Dana write Ozy and Millie, writing Amber And The Pixies for her, and now helping her with Zoey and Max... it's just beautiful to make something and give it to someone and watch them make it more. Or vice versa.

    And it's hard to find. If you don't mesh, the other person is just going to disappoint you. And if you're the same, you don't need them!

  3. I'm just getting around to reading this "story" of Keri's and I have to tell you all the truth:
    It wasn't just a writing sample...it was a writing sample on a wooden clipboard!!
    Anywho, I do thank her for the compliment and just wanted to assure her that the neurologists are still working on the rest.