STATUS: Exciting news today. Just heard word that Ally Carter’s I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU has hit the #7 spot on the Barnes & Noble YA Hardcover Bestseller list and managed to grab the #27 spot on the entire Barnes & Noble Children’s Hardcover Bestseller list. This after being out on shelves for only 6 weeks!
What song is playing on the iPod right now? HOLD ME NOW by The Thompson Twins
I’ve been reading a lot of fulls lately and it occurred to me that there are a lot of strong writers out there—writers with enough talent to break into publishing but the current manuscripts I’m reviewing probably won’t be the ones to open the door.
I think writers assume that good writing is enough. Well, it’s not. You have to couple good writing with an original storyline—something that will stand out as fresh and original. A story never told in this way before (even if elements are similar to what is already out on the market).
And lately, I’ve been seeing great writing but the story is too familiar, and I pass (with a warm letter complimenting the talent and then an outline of why I decided not to offer representation.) I even called one of the writers because I wanted to explain to her in detail why I was passing so she wouldn’t make the same mistake for her next novel (because I want to see that next novel).
Let me give you an example.
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading three full paranormal novels featuring Vampires. All three were really well-written. Had interesting characters that were developed. And even had interesting twists to the Vampire plot to make it unique.
Sounds good, right? So what happened?
The scenes the writers chose to create (in order to unveil the plot) were almost identical in each novel. I literally could have taken scenes out of one novel and plopped it into another and it wouldn’t have impacted the story much. (Obviously the characters were different but I’m not kidding when I say the scenes mirrored each other).
These three writers did not know each other either. They weren’t sharing a critique group or anything like that. This was coincidental.
So, let me list some of the repetitive scenes I saw:
1. The backstory of how the vampire was made in the first place.
2. Opening scene where the two main protagonists (usually male and female) are enemies but somehow must break through the barrier to work together. This usually involves a violent, confrontational scene to jumpstart the narrative. This scene usually happens in a dark place.
3. The main protagonists are being chased or must travel in order to accomplish what must be done. This is usually done in a car and there are motel/hotel scenes.
4. A vampire sleeping scene (the how, what, where, when etc.)
5. Obligatory scene with main protagonist vampire and an elder of the race
The list could go on but this should give you an idea.
And the real culprit is a lack of world building. Writers aren’t choosing scenes that will build an original story and world—which is so necessary in the crowded Vampire market. How is your Vampire world different? Unique? What intriguing rules must they abide by? What are some mind-blowing scenes that could really tell an original story?
And let me reiterate, these writers all had talent. No question.
Which is why I tell writers to read as much as you can of what’s already out there—because you don’t have the advantage of seeing the hundreds of partials and fulls like we do.
You probably thought your novel was original. But your awesome writing might not be enough.