New Year, New ReBoot

I think change is good. Reinvention is good. Especially when you don’t have any other choice.

So I’m looking at my writing and thinking, “I’ve done that.” I’m proud of what I’ve done (most of it), but I did that. I don’t want to be an imitation of what I used to be. It’s been ten years since I’ve published, people have forgotten what I used to be. I’m a new author again.

So I’ve been thinking about where I want to go next, aside from the half dozen books I already have started. Thinking about trying something new, maybe inspired by the stories I’ve loved, like Pushing Daisies. Except I just watched a series I swear was modeled on Pushing Daisies and all I could think was “This is just like Pushing Daisies except not as a good.” So I think trying to write magic realism would be a bad idea for me, a kind of “This is just like Water for Chocolate except bad.” And anyway, I already tried that in Bet Me and my editor made me tone down the magic realism so I’m probably lousy at it.

Plus there’s the whole imposter syndrome I’m already dealing with, the “I must really suck at this” working on me while I try to figure out what’s wrong with Nita. I like that book. There are parts of it I adore, parts that make me think I’m a genius. And there aren’t any parts that make me think I’m awful. And yet many people in NYC said, “Nope.” Well, two agents said, “This needs work” and an editor said, “Nope.” It’s quelling, that’s what it is.

So I’m thinking once I get Nita out the door which must be soon because my god I can’t stand this any more, I need to start thinking outside the box. Assuming I have a box. Why would I want a box? Just so I have something to think outside of? A jar in Tennessee I can knock over? Forget the box. I don’t need no stinkin’ box.

I’ll think of something.

45 thoughts on “New Year, New ReBoot

  1. A well-published friend had a novella turned down by NYC which then she self-published and it made the short list for a major award. NYC doesn’t know everything.


    1. What Caryn said! I also know authors who self-published and had traditional publishers Buy those books. Larry Correia, for instance, and Lois Bujold.

          1. Lois says she is “semi-retired,” which she means no book signings, cons, or ceremonies she can avoid, and now she writes what she feels like instead of to contract. All seven of the Penric and Desdemona novellas are self-published… and Baen is now publishing two trilogies of those self-published novellas. Considering that the only fantasy of Lois’s that Baen previously published was The Spirit Ring, that’s fairly impressive.

    2. This. I had plenty of books turned down that I know damned well were good, simply because traditional publishing didn’t see them as saleable. Saleable isn’t the same thing as good. And just because they toned down your magical realism, that doesn’t mean you didn’t write it well. It just means it didn’t fit into their little “this is how Jenny Crusie writes” box. Screw it. Only you know how Jenny Crusie writes now.

  2. Yes: I think you really need to go for pleasing (and enjoying) yourself; and find a way to let it be easy. Which may well be doing some self-publishing, where you could experiment.

    (I’m also talking to myself.)

    I was listening to an interview with Nina Stibbe this evening, who wrote for years without finding a publisher, and then got launched when letters she wrote to her sister aged 19 attracted a publisher. Long story, but she said that after this initial breakthrough, what worked was going back to her old stuff and rewriting it in her own voice. Not that this is your problem – you have a great voice – but she’d been writing in ways she thought would work for other people, when what actually worked was being true to herself.

  3. I hate to break this to you, but lots of people actually remember you even if you haven’t published in 10 years. (Really, that long? Time flies.)

  4. Can you self publish it? Why should NYC publishers be the final word when you love what you’ve written?

    If you feel you need an editor for a last pass before you self publish, there must be freelancers, right?

    Several authors I read now no longer publish traditionally, or at least stuff publish some of their stuff.

    You can do it! Maybe you know authors who are already doing this and can get advice?

  5. I’ve just been watching the netflix documentary about making “Dirty Dancing”. They had a hell of a time finding a studio, everyone kept telling them that the script wouldn’t appeal and no one would pay to see a girly dance movie like that, they couldn’t leave in the part about the abortion, they were told they should just cut their losses and burn the film… and the rest is history.

    And it’s not a given that you’re bad at magical realism – could be more that your editor wasn’t seeing a way to sell it.

    1. I’ve heard that about the abortion bit, which is the entire plot of the movie! Can you imagine that story without???

  6. I am fascinated by the whole issue of reinvention at the moment, having had to do it myself. My publishers loved my children’s fantasy novels but the last series didn’t sell well, and they asked me to try something else. ‘We like the way you write animals,’ they said. ‘How about something told from the point of view of an animal?’

    It sent me into a total funk. I’m a failure! No one loves me! I can’t do this! But a friend pointed out that it was a matter of refocusing rather than reinvention, and the skill set was the same. Which helped a bit. And after a bit of (a lot of) messing around I managed to find something I did want to write about, and a voice I wanted to write it in, and what came out of it was the chicken who wants to be a detective, which my publishers adore, and which is coming out this August.

    So personally I have complete faith that you will find your way through this to something that both you and your publishers will love.

  7. I think your plan to get Nita out the door is right on. Both you and she will benefit from the closure as well as from the new adventure of Being Out There. That said, I’m not as keen on advising you to self-publish as others are because you have a very successful career going. You can find a publisher. You’ve done it before. You know your Nita story is great.

    I like Liam’s zen habits post. You might suspect that the publishing world has changed in the last decade. You might have to find different people and modes of selling your story than you did before, especially in the days when your editor applauded your stories. It’s time to find out and do it 2020 style. I’m sure you’ll do it.

  8. I think I’ve done nothing but start over my entire life. I have no advice.

    It looks like my job is on the chopping block for the next school year, so here we go again. I kind of like having a regular paycheck, and the creative energy to write my own stuff, but maybe that’s not going to be an option after June. I don’t know.

    Maybe I rent out the house, throw the dogs in the car and head for warmer climes. I just don’t know.

    I hope that wherever I end up I’m reading Nick and Nita. I hope you find a road that makes you happy, Jenny. The Cherries/Arghers will happily read whatever you write, as will many other people, I suspect.

  9. Totally off the subject, apparently today is Dress Up Your Pet Day.

    I don’t think a couple of cats who had to be convinced that it was Grown Up to wear collars with tags and bells could be patient about anything more elaborate . . . .

  10. Imagine your a lady who has been kidnapped by, say, Satan. He’s taken away most of your light, all books and reading material, all music and even all your knitting. No paper but an eight packet of color pencils, Unsharpened. And he says you’ll be there forever. What do you do next?

  11. I am not sure what to say to you. I love your work and I can’t wait for Nick and Nita. Or Any other book you choose to finish.
    I hope you will continue to choose writing, but if you choose to start an Etsy store for your art/crochet projects instead that’s ok.
    Whatever you choose to do you are a wonderful human.
    One of my other favorite writers, Sarah Addison Allen hasn’t put out a book in several years. She’s been coping with life losses. I hope she writes more. Her magical realism captures me. Sugar Queen and Garden Spells are two of my read over and over books.
    Self publish. Or Random House publish. Your readers don’t care. We just want you.

    1. Susan, do you follow SSA on Facebook? I think things are going better for her because she’s started posting her Sunday stories again. I was thrilled when I saw that.

  12. I wonder if Nita needs a friend or a gang of friends to pull the basement girls out to play. You could just noodle around writing a short story about Nita after all the whoop-ti-do of this book, where she’s hanging out with Button and a hellcat at the firing range after work.

    Or sitting around with the hotels at the diner critiquing the idea of Just Bed? and Breakfast? What kind of hospitality do you get without a concierge desk, right?

    Sometimes I read a book that has a brief couple of paragraphs that depict the momentary delight of a characters or a group, and I just want more of that. But instead I get plot up the wazoo. Go for some delight, I say.

  13. I have often wondered (as a former acquisitions editor) what it must feel like to be one of the many editors that rejected Harry Potter. Like, do they lie awake at night thinking about what could have been? Have they shoved the memory so far down that they never think of it? Does it come up at parties — “this is Sarah, she rejected Harry Potter”? Can they laugh about it or is it the kind of burning shame that they’ll be thinking about on their death bed?

    The worst part, I think, would be the knowledge that they were right –or at least made the decision to reject based on perfectly respectable standards. Seriously, those first pages — what kind of POV is that? Sort of omniscient? And middle grade for boys is a lousy market. Middle-grade fantasy? Ugh. Not a chance.

    The same could and absolutely should be said for Fifty Shades of Gray. What a horrible book. No offense to anyone who enjoyed it, but how many times does that heroine bite her lip in the first chapter? So painful to read. Which is not to say that Nita is either Harry Potter or Fifty Shades, but to say that gatekeepers screw up. And you trusting those gatekeepers more than you trust yourself is… well, if I was your therapist, something I would definitely want to discuss. I’d put it on the schedule with a big circle around it, “self-doubt, roots in?”

    Also speaking as a former acquisitions editor, I would never have published my first book. Plenty of reasons to reject it, starting with its conspicuous lack of plot. Also, the romantic hero declines to do what’s necessary to save the heroine. Also the heroine bites her lip too much. 🙂 I self-published it because I knew there were 20 people or so who would buy it. I figured it might sell 100 copies, and I’d count that as success. That was… 1442 ratings on Amazon ago. (4.5 average — it’s surprising how unbothered readers are about the missing plot.)

    IMO, self-publishing isn’t a thing to be ashamed of, it’s a fantastic opportunity to break the rules and write the stories that I want to write, not the stories that follow the rules and appeal to the mass market. And sure, sometimes it sucks. My most recent book has probably sold less than 100 copies, which makes me sad. But now I get to write something else, and I get to write whatever amuses & entertains me, not what I think will please the gatekeepers. And the $300 or so that I’ve made on that book is a) not the end of what I will earn, just the beginning and b) $300 more than I would have made if I’d sat on it forever waiting for someone else to tell me it was good enough. Sure, it would be much nicer if someone wanted to give me a six-figure advance and a million dollar marketing budget, but freedom has its advantages, too.

    1. I have zero problems with self-publishing. Well, Mollie will do the work, so she’ll have the problems. I just have to get this sucker finished.

      I remember after Bet Me came out, I was an industry gathering and somebody from a publishing house that shall remain nameless said that she wished they had had a chance to look at it, and they had, the editor who rejected it was standing right beside her, looking stricken. I kept my mouth shut and she grabbed me later and said, “Never tell anybody I rejected that book.” One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten (g).

  14. When you talk about what you’re reading, it’s never magic realism and seldom fantasy — Bujold and Pratchett are all I recall. It’s seldom romance either, it’s usually mysteries. If you really were a new writer, my advice would be write what you love to read.

    1. That’s really good advice, except what I love to read is romance. Most of the mysteries I read have a pretty strong romance component. I’m just completely out of sync with modern romance, I think. Also, I’m terrible at writing mysteries.

      1. I was wondering whether it could be a generational thing; that much younger editors probably have different tastes (I know much of what’s published as romance doesn’t engage me at all; same with films). But of course there’s still an enormous potential readership, it’s just that our generation’s probably no longer the gatekeepers.

        1. Oh, I think it is.
          Dating and mating in general shifts in each generation, and of course according to the social norms where you’re living.
          Although the characters in One of Us Is Lying were all high school kids, and I thought they were great, so maybe not.

          1. That said, there are still plenty of us readers who are out of sync with modern dating, and wish to remain that way. I’d rather read your take on romance.

      2. I was recommending Bet Me to our intern last week, and then heard myself saying “I love the rest of her books but there’s a lot of murder, it might not be your thing.” And she said “Just as long as it’s not the girl who gets murdered.”

        So you know, you might not be that out of sync.

        I’d really like to see a book with a heroine over 50, myself.

          1. The ones in Fast Women, Welcome to Temptation, Tell Me Lies, and Agnes & the Hitman. I wouldn’t think of them as murder books but a friend i lent all my favorite Crusies to was like, uh, these are really angry. And once you start counting, there are actually an awful lot of corpses.

          2. A lot of anger, too. I have some of the angriest heroines in romantic comedy, she said proudly.

  15. I’m rebooting my writing career, too. After getting my rights back from my publisher, I tweaked the book, expanded a few scenes, and added a new one from my hero’s POV. I have a new cover that actually depicts the book’s genre (my cover artist did an amazing job!). I self-published the book this week! I also overhauled my website, got new author photo, a new bio, and a new author tag line… K.M. Fawcett – Romance for the rebel heart

    I’m very excited for this new year and my relaunched career! 🙂

      1. Thank you for asking about a link, Jenny. I write science fiction romance, so wasn’t sure if that would appeal to Argh peeps. But if anyone is interested in taking a look, the first chapter of CAPTIVE is free on my website.

        A rookie cop and an alpha gladiator band together to escape their alien captors in a chilling race for survival and soon discover freedom isn’t all they desire.

        If anyone is interested in seeing the HUGE difference in cover art (the publisher’s vs. my cover artist) click the link and then click blog. They look like two different genres!

          1. Yup. And cereal boxes.

            Science fiction romance is one of my favorite genres. Straight romance isn’t … except that I adore Jenny’s romances. Exceptions, I loves them.

  16. I have a whole trilogy (well, two complete and one started) that I can’t seem to sell to publishers (big or small), although the (admittedly small number of) beta readers have liked it, so I’m going to self-pub it, starting in June.

    What Deborah said above is so true — whether something is good is not necessarily the same question as whether it’s marketable by a big publisher. Then the question becomes whether you want to try to make it marketable or try to publish it without a big (or small) publisher. Or move on. That’s always an option too, although I hope not for Nita.

  17. Do you mean rebranding yourself?

    Because I don’t think it’s the writing that’s off, necessarily…just the expectation of how a “Jennifer Crusie” would need to be packaged and sold and who would be the audience for it.

    I almost wonder if Nita was submitted not under your name, if it would do better because of the industry association of “what a Jennifer Crusie is” and the disconnect between what you used to do and what you’re doing now.

    It reminds me of the time I was in college (a million years ago) and stored vodka in a plastic water bottle. At the time, I was not one to waste booze…but when I came in from a run and took a giant swig from the wrong bottle, I sure did spit it out quick…not because I wouldn’t have liked it in the right moment, but just because I had a viseral reaction to getting something so unexpected that looked like it was going to be something else.

    I get that at first blush, it looks like you’re losing a lot of good brand juice if you leave off Jennifer Crusie…but if the label isn’t right for the product, you could be losing people because of that.

    Yet, if some “new unknown” author submitted it…possibly under women’s fiction or fantasy or some different label, well then it might be just the stuff they were looking for.

    Obviously, disregard this thought for self-publishing, where your loyal readers need to find you. But it almost sounds to me like it might just be that you need to go “Don Draper” and “Change the conversation” for the professionals.

Comments are closed.