Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
You’ve read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, right? But if you’re unpublished, it’s too soon to have a breakout novel.
You need a break-in novel.
As an unpublished novelist, you’re in the position of not just having to write good books. You have to write a BREAK-IN book. It’s going to require a mysterious combination of your writing reaching a certain level, the right agent reading it at the right time, the right editor receiving it on a good day, and some magic fairy dust.
Some writers have several completed books, and wonder which one to start submitting first. It’s easy: the one that has the best chance of breaking you in. The one that presents the fewest obstacles to publication. The one in which your writing shines the brightest. The one in which the genre and subject matter are closest to what seems to be selling right now.
Perhaps you’ve got other projects that are closer to your heart, the ones you really want to see published. But they’re not selling for whatever reason. Don’t fret. Once you’ve broken in, there may be opportunity down the road to get those published, especially if you revise and rewrite with your improved writing skills (because the more you write, and work with editors, the better writer you’ll be).
Let’s say you have one project that you feel is your literary masterpiece, and another that’s a historical romance. Which do you think has a better chance of being your break-in novel? Save the literary masterpiece for later when you’ve earned the luxury of a little more freedom.
I have one client who has two completed novels that are simply amazing. They showcase her awesome talent like nobody’s business, and she loves them more than anything she’s ever written. But publishers have concerns about the subject matter and the time period of the novels. The author might end up getting a couple of other novels published first, the ones she’s not as passionate about. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, What a great problem to have. And you’re right, it is a good problem. But it’s been a bit hard emotionally, because she’s so attached to those two novels. However, I keep telling her, the important thing is breaking in. Once she has an established readership, I think we’ll be able to sell those novels no problem.
Writing the break-in novel is similar to writing the breakout novel. You can still use all the information in Donald Maass’s books. If you’re shooting for commercial success, then you’ll need the best writing possible and the fewest obstacles possible. And don’t forget the fairy dust.