Thursday, October 4, 2012

Like versus Love

“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.”


  1. Nelsa, I'm a big fan of writing what I can't stop thinking about. Of course, this also means that many times when the revisions are tough, I embark upon a shiny new idea ... so yes, some discernment is called for. I think with six books under your belt, you can decide whether an old one can be reworked, given you are a better writer now.

    I have tagged you on my blog for the Next Big Thing and I hope you will play.

    1. Hi Vijaya!Yes, I wonder when I was starting writing whether I was so picky about my ideas. Now, it seems like everything needs to be perfect before I'm happy. You'd think with age and experience comes more of a relaxed attitude yet I seem to be going the opposite way.

      And thanks for the tag! But I'm so weird about sharing snippets and thoughts about my WIP that I have to reluctantly bow out. Tag me on something next time! ;)

  2. This love/like thing reminds me of adolescence, when we tried to sort out what sort of feeling we had. Here- as you write to this age group you find yourself with a backdoor to the same predicament. Is it love? Is it REAL LOVE?
    For editors/agents, I think it's often a euphemism to saying something is not commercial enough in their opinion. They will take on something they don’t *love* the way we mean the word, if they see $$$ all over it. They love it then.

    1. Hi Mirka! I don't know, I think during adolescence EVERYTHING seemed like love. Maybe now that I've had more years of experience writing comes the ability to see that maybe it's not really love - it's just writing what I 'think' might turn into love and when it doesn't, well, I've got to move on.

      And I hear you on the editor/agent choices being tied to business and not so much emotion. Sad, but it is a reality.

  3. Interesting post! I am currently working on a book that I love, from concept to ending, one that I had a very hard time tearing myself away from to work on contracted books, even though I strongly liked those books, too. I've sold both kinds, but the ones I love I'll never give up one, whereas the tepid likes may sit on my hard drive in first draft form forever.

    1. Hi Nicole! So glad you are in love with the book you're currently writing! Such a great feeling. But I hear you on the like books but it's just not the same, is it? :)