Every writer has experienced the moment when a previously unheard of, unknown character has appeared from the creative ether fully formed, fully voiced. These moments usually occur in those quiet in between times when our brains are uncluttered and open to the voices of characters, both known and new. (For me it is in the shower.) Sometimes the voice may be a gentle whisper introducing itself, other times it is loud and nagging: “Write my story! Write my story!” We ignore them at our own peril. Angie introduced herself to me loudly and insistently.
I put aside my WIP, and set to taking dictation from the seventeen year old who seemed to believe her story was unique, needed to be told, and was the true path to finding an agent. Yes, I believed this was the one. This was the story that would put me on the Young Adult map. Novel, original, Angie’s story would certainly lead to the success I longed for. And it was going to be so much fun to write.
Fast forward about 25,000 words. I’m perusing the YA section of a local bookstore and my eyes light on an attractive book cover that seems to be rather evocative of Angie’s story. My hands are shaking as I take it off the shelf and read the inside flap. Stomach flops. I flip to the first page. Yes, this book has eerie similarities to Angie, though there is plenty that is different, I tell myself. Ten minutes later I see another book with a similar theme. Gulp. This bookstore visit is no longer any fun and I turn and leave.
Shaken, but undaunted, I continue to plod away on Angie. Day job and life keep me from writing at the pace I’d like, but forward progress is made.
Fast forward another 20,000 words. I follow the blogs and tweets of several agents who represent children/YA writers. I open the blog of one especially prestigious agent to read that if she sees one more manuscript with the XXXXXXX theme (Angie’s story!) she will go crazy. She, and every other agent in the world, receives at least five such manuscripts daily. Oh dear. Oh dear. I had no idea. Truly, though I read plenty of YA, I had never read anything like my book. How and when and why had this happened?
This was in 2012. Two years later I’m more than aware of the glut of these books on the market. However, though my concept is similar to these other books, my premise is unique. And Angie’s voice is very much her own. Final rewrites were shelved for several months while I focused on other writing tasks, such as edits for my alter ego’s book that was released in April and writing the prequel to that novel, as well as general life things that came up. But recently I finished the final polish and sent Angie out on submissions. I did not, however, send her to agents. I chose instead to send her to a few carefully chosen small publishers. A few months before I finished rewriting Angie I started a new WIP that I’m very excited about and I decided to save those agents for this new project. Or the project after that, which is truly the novel of my heart—the one I’ve longed to write for years.
I’m fine now with whatever happens or does not happen with Angie, because even if she never sees the light of day at least I learned more about the writing craft as I wrote the novel. Every word we write helps us become better writers. It’s never a waste. What I learned from writing Angie is informing my current WIP and will inform everything I write in the future.
And by the way, my alter ego just signed a contract with my romance publisher for that prequel! Yay! Oh, and just like everything we write, that one was a learning process, too. ;-)