Re: Can You Stay True to Your Story If You’re Reading Others’ Stories?

posted 12/4/17

Dear Editor…

In a lit agency’s online submission form, I replied to question about comparable titles by saying I don’t have time to keep up with all the stories that are currently on the shelves. The agent replied: If I want to write middle grade fiction, I must read current middle grade fiction. She said immersing myself in it is the best way to capture the voice and pulse of these stories. I was always taught to write the story that I am comfortable with, my truth, my ideas. Not write what is currently hot now. Am I wrong on this? Should I be reading current MG? I don’t know how to fit in the time—I barely squeeze in the occasional adult novel, magazines, and Publisher’s Weekly. Most importantly, I don’t want to end up writing something that’s already out there. Thoughts?

Thanks,
Time-Crunched

Share

Dear Time-Crunched…

She’s right. Read current middle grade novels. Two reasons: As a businessperson you must know what’s happening in your marketplace. Not so you can chase trends—most of us can’t get books written, bought, revised, and produced that quickly—but so you can position your book as akin to this or that but different in these key, marketable ways when it’s time to submit. That’s what agents, editors, and store buyers do with every book they buy or rep. You’re submitting, so I know this isn’t just your passion, it’s your business. Know your business. On the craft side, reading other MG will deepen your sense of middle grade voice and sensibility, and your writer’s toolbox will expand, improving your versatility as a storyteller. Please don’t be afraid of sabotaging your stories. Writing doesn’t work like that. You’ll mix and match new tools and strategies in ways only you can, flavored by your unique perspectives, interests, and experiences. As for the time crunch, one word: audiobooks.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Creative Process, Publishing Biz, Submissions
posted by: The Editor
under: Creative Process, Publishing Biz, Submissions
Comments to "Re: Can You Stay True to Your Story If You’re Reading Others’ Stories?" | Add a Comment
    1. Sue Ford wrote (on 12/04/17 at 2:26 pm) :

      If you’re not reading what’s out there, how can you know you aren’t writing something that is already out there?

      [Reply]

      Nancy Sondel replied (on 12/04/17 at 5:52 pm) :

      Sue Ford: True! And if you don’t read in your field, how can you know you’re not writing something that has NO PLACE out there?

      [Reply]

    2. Vivian Kirkfield wrote (on 12/04/17 at 3:38 pm) :

      Your advice is always spot on, Deborah! Thank youso much!

      [Reply]

    3. Ellen Press wrote (on 12/04/17 at 5:34 pm) :

      Great advice. Reading audiobooks while driving, but then I might not have time to listen to the latest songs. Haha!

      [Reply]

    4. JC wrote (on 12/05/17 at 8:35 am) :

      A great question and one I know I’ve wondered and been concerned about. Like the original poster, I haven’t known if reading lots of Young Adult novels (in my case) will one day cause me to subconsciously copy something I’ve read elsewhere. At the same time, I can see the merit in being able to see what published YA writers have in common and what they’ve done successfully. When the time comes, I think I will be buying some YA titles in my genre to get a feel for what they’re like.

      [Reply]

FACEBOOK