“I liked it but I didn’t fall in love with it.”
Writers have heard this phrase so many times it’s become one of the lexicons of the publishing language. Variations of this phrase have come across in rejections for eons and, intellectually, I know what agents and editors mean when they say this but I hadn’t really understood it myself, in my own writing, until recently.
I’ve now published two books and I love both of them. I have reread them countless times through the editorial process and did not get vomitously sick of them. That is love. I loved the idea of them before they were written. I loved their characters. I loved how they ended. The love has, and always will be, solid.
However, during the last few years while my two published works were put out into the world, I also wrote and completed four other books. Some have gotten the “like but not love” from editors and agents. One I haven’t even sent out to get rejected yet and another one has only been slightly submitted. Out of those four books, there is one that I still, absolutely, unequivocally, love. But it is a YA supernatural and the market is so, so tight and saturated I don’t know if it will ever be published. But I don’t, I can’t, give up on it. I may self-publish it. I may keep trying to sell it as different imprints open up (many of the major publishers are trying digital only imprints and who knows, it may find a home there. Hope springs eternal!). But I know what agents mean now when they say they must love a book to take it on because then you don’t want to – you CAN’T – give up on it because that love is so strong. They need that love to sell that book and face the rejection when it comes in. And when it doesn’t sell, you can’t understand why.
But those other three books sitting on my hard drive? Well, I think I just may be in like with them.
I have had critiquers who have indicated their love for some of them and I appreciate that so much. But while I see the books qualities, I also see their weaknesses. Two of them may have the potential to go from like to love. But they need to change. In some way. But here is the dilemma. Do I spend hours of limited writing time trying to change the like to love? Or do I start fresh, with no baggage, on a fresh shiny idea that has a strong potential for Love? I used to think that if enough revision happened on a 'like' book then the passion would explode. Bam! Love! But I now believe that you can’t manipulate that love. It has to be there from the get go. That excitement and passion must be strong enough to sustain you through the long, hard slog of the writing. And I truly believe that the writer’s interest and passion shines through in the words.
I have also heard that some writers have no clue sometimes what will sell. That the work they are passionate about and are sure will sell doesn’t and that quirky little weird book that they didn’t think had a hope in heck of interesting anybody is the one that succeeds.
I don’t know what’s right but I do know that with all the demands on a writers life that if he/she is not writing something that is bringing him/her some strong measure of satisfaction/excitement/pleasure/interest then there is no point in working on it. It’s okay to shelve it for a while. It’s okay to go back to what you once thought was a love and see if the spark reignites. If it doesn’t, don’t beat a dead manuscript. There is passion to be found in many places, in many stories. Keep looking. And, as a good writer friend told me recently, “Just don’t stop writing.”