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What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist, by Beth Revis

Across The Universe by Beth Revis

As some of you know, I wrote ten novels, over the course of ten years, before I wrote Across The Universe, the book that started my career as an author and changed my life. They were…not good. I had to learn how to write, and then I had to learn how to edit and rewrite. And I’m a slow study.

But by the time I got to my tenth novel – the one before Across The Universe – I figured I’d learned enough. I’d been writing professionally for a decade. I’d joined SCBWI. I’d been to conferences, paid for critiques, did everything right. And by God, I was going to get published.

The first thing I did was study the market. I was well read in the genre. I knew what sold. I needed a love triangle. I needed magic. Not vampires – I decided to write witches. And it’s always good to set the story in school, right? Everything I did with that novel was calculated. I needed a mythical creature – not dragons, that was overdone. A chimera, then. I was clever.

Too clever.

That book was the book I wrote with the intent of doing everything right—and the result was that I did it all wrong. That book had no soul. I made the whole thing in an effort to write to the market, to make the perfect book—the book that would sell millions. I did everything right. And that was the worst possible thing I could have done.

After that, I queried the novel. And it was rejected soundly. So I sat down and decided to write something else. Something different. I didn’t care AT ALL about whether it was right or wrong. I only wanted to write the thing that I cared about writing.

I wrote a sci fi novel. It was weird. I wrote in first person present—a POV/tense structure I’d never written before. That was weird, too. And in the end, I realized that I had zero chance of selling this book. There was no market for a weird sci fi. By all accounts and purposes—by my own careful analysis of the market—I’d done everything wrong.

And that ended up being the best possible thing I could do.

That was the book that sold. That was the story that changed my life.

If I can only say one thing to you, it’s this: make mistakes. Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market. Okay, that’s a lot of things. But it all comes down to this: be true to yourself.


Beth Revis’s author website:

Beth Revis’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    Deadly Little Secret: A Touch NovelGlowThe Night She DisappearedHold Me Closer, Necromancer

Writing Teen Novels

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fantastic post with absolutely great advice. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    January 1, 2013
  2. Across The Universe was the first SF YA I ever read. Loved it and will continue to read more in that genre.

    January 1, 2013
  3. Kasia #

    This is fantastic! I love “Across the universe

    January 1, 2013
  4. Great post and I completely agree. You should always write from a place of passion versus what you think will sell. I will tweet this.

    January 1, 2013
  5. Thank you, Beth!

    January 1, 2013
  6. ~ Alina ~ #

    Thank you, Beth! It’s always great to hear about the trials and triumphs of authors. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay true to yourself, but I agree that if you should write your passions and eventually your stories will sell.

    January 1, 2013
  7. kristenh09 #

    This is a great motivational blog post to kickstart the new year. Thanks Beth.

    January 1, 2013
  8. ewein2412 #

    thanks for this post, Beth – how interesting to hear the backstory!

    January 2, 2013
  9. Nice post, Beth. Having just got out there myself, I had an idea for this one which was a bit rough-around-the-edges, but I’m delighted with the end result!

    January 21, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Embrace Failure: Friday Links, January 4 » Sassymonkey
  2. Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013) | Writing Teen Novels
  3. Writing Tips from YA Authors- Garth Nix and Beth Revis | Swoon Reads

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