What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist, 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.
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: www.bethrevis.com
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