One Writer’s Journey

June 14, 2018

Apples and Oranges: Comparing Your Work with Others

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:41 am
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Study what is already in print.  Learn from the best.  A lot of what we do as writers involves reading what others have published and comparing our work to theirs.  Its a great way to see what’s already in the marketplace and also to learn new techniques.  But it can also be discouraging.

Last week a friend commented on a post that she is taking a writing class.  Everyone in the class took 15 minutes to write a piece in line with that day’s free writing assignment.  In this case, everyone included the teachers.  When it came time to share, one of the teachers read her poem aloud.  The rhythm, rhyme and meter were perfect and she wrote it in 15 minutes.  My friend was super discouraged.

“Wait a minute.  This was the teacher that made the assignment?”

“Yes.”

“I bet she didn’t do it in 15 minutes.  Even if she sat down and wrote it than and there, she’d been thinking about it.  She knew about the assignment ahead of time.”

Part of the problem with studying what is already on the market is that we end up comparing our unpublished work with someone else’s published work.  My weaknesses in the world of adult fiction include Suzanne Brockmann for her action scenes and complex plots and Sarah Addison Allen for her settings and details in magical realism.  But reading their work and getting discouraged is ridiculous.

They are multipublished in adult fiction.  I am not.

This is a published piece.  Mine is not.

Their piece has been edited and rewritten with the aid of a highly talented editor.  If I’m comparing my work-in-progress to their published work, I am once again comparing something new and raw to something published and polished.

Yes, you need to read the best work out there.  But realize what it is and what it represents in terms of experience, effort, and team work.  Learn from it but don’t let it hold you down.

–SueBE

 

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March 10, 2017

Query Letters: Comparing Your Book to Another Title

One of the things that you need to do in your query letter is show the agent that you know something about the market.  Many writers do this by comparing their work to a book that is already in print.

As with everything, there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this.  Do not state that your book will be the next Harry Potter/Nancy Drew/Little House on the Prairie.  While everyone wants to be wildly successful, you don’t want the agent to just roll his eyes and then delete your query or send you the dreaded “good luck in finding representation elsewhere.”

The book that you chose to compare to your own should also be current.  That’s part of the problem with Nancy Drew and Little House.  Yes, I loved them.  Yes, I read them all.  But they were published then and this is now.  You want to show the agent that you’ve read something recent and that you know the market.  

These comparisons wouldn’t tell your target agent anything about your book.  They would just tell her something not altogether positive about you.

Instead, make a comparison, using a contemporary title, that hints at your book.  “My book has the same fantasy meets the Wild West feel as Rebel of the Sands.”  “Like Ronan in the Raven Boys, Jed is abrasive but compelling.”  This doesn’t say that my book will be an international seller like Rebel of the Sands.  I’m not claiming to have the same series potential as The Raven Boys.  But I am telling the agent something about the feel of the book.  In doing so, I’m also making her aware that fans of the popular book may also like mine.

Comparing your book to a successful, current title isn’t an easy task to do well but it is something that will tell the agent about both you and the manuscript.  Just make sure that it sends the message you intend.

–SueBE

 

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