This is not the blog I intended to write this week.
I was going to continue the series of writing lessons learned from video games, but as it turns out, there’s something more important and closer to my heart to discuss this week—so with a deep breath and a pounding pulse, here goes nothing.
I’m going into the query trenches.
I’ve been working on my YA fantasy, THE FIRE BREATHES, for the better part of a decade. The early versions, written by a child, were especially abysmal, but slowly, I aged. I learned. I deleted, rewrote, edited, deleted, and rewrote again. I believe in this story with my entire heart, but having kept it essentially private from all but a few trusted friends, I felt my breath catch when I started looking for beta readers/critique partners.
Deep down, I think I was afraid they would prove that my ambitions were still those of a child who dreamed of dragons, not a capable adult committed to building a career.
Feedback from some of those beta readers came in this week, and instead of crushing my dreams, they brought me to tears—happy tears. Of course my mother thinks I’m talented. But maybe my professors were humoring me. Maybe my mentors, who know me more personally, feel obligated to be kind.
When an agented author says, “This book could get you an agent. You have what it takes.” Well, I didn’t think it would change anything.
But it did.
I thought I was pursuing self-publishing (as opposed to traditional publishing) for secure reasons. Reasons like:
- I work full-time at a job in my field that I adore. That’s 40+ hours a week that I can’t be writing.
- If I somehow sell this book/series, I’ll be under contract for steady, significant output.
- I don’t want my writing to become another job; I want it to remain something I love.
If you’re pursuing self-publishing and your reasons are similar, you have my unwavering support behind you. But upon further reflection, those aren’t really my reasons. My reasons look more like:
- If I query, I’m afraid I won’t find an agent.
- If I find an agent, I’m afraid I won’t get published.
- If I get published, it’s a massive shift in what my future looks like that I can’t predict and can’t control.
I’m the definition of Type A. I love having a plan, and I love having control. The moment I put this manuscript out into the query trenches, it doesn’t just belong to me anymore, and I have no idea what will happen next.
But isn’t that what I always wanted? For this story that means the world-and-a-half to me, to also mean something to someone else?
I don’t want to work myself dead, but I also don’t want to sell myself short. Traditional publishing has been my dream for as long as I can remember. This book, which has gone through so many ugly iterations before now, has reached a point where writers directly involved in the publishing industry are telling me, You have what it takes.
If I query THE FIRE BREATHES and don’t get an agent—if I get an agent, but the book still doesn’t sell—I’m still more than open to self-publishing.
But until I know that the market doesn’t want this story—until I’ve done everything in my power to give it the widest audience possible so that somewhere, the teenager who would love it is able to find it—I can’t bury my dream for fear that it’s too big. I’m done letting fear of the unknown dictate my decisions.
I’m going to query. I’m going to share the book of my heart as widely as I can.
The final line of my most recent read, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, reads: “My name is Tristan Strong, and I have a story to tell.” It’s been echoing in my head.
My name is Laura Genn, and I have a story to tell.
When final edits are done, I’m going to try my absolute hardest to tell it. Wish my dragon book and I the best of luck in 2020.
- The current giveaway is TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY by Kwame Mbalia! Follow me on Twitter and retweet my pinned before 12/13 for the chance to win a heartfelt MG, rich with African mythology, that powerfully evokes the feeling of someone reading you a fairy tale as a child.
- I have yet to determine the next giveaway because I need to finish reading something else before I can give it away. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed if you’d like to be the first to know about the next giveaway.
- As always, thank you for reading! To learn more about THE FIRE BREATHES (or read the prologue,) explore the rest of my website.