About a year and a half ago, I went to a conference where I had a manuscript consult with an agent. A couple months before the conference, we were asked to send in our query and the first 10 pages of our manuscript for the agent to look over ahead of time, then we’d have 15 minutes to chat at the conference about our work. The manuscript I sent her was my baby project, the project of my heart, the book I’d always wanted to write. This consult was with a pretty well-known agent who was the head of a decently sized agency, so to say I was terrified would be a HUGE understatement.
I walked in, shook her hand, and took a seat across from her, fully prepared for her to tear apart my work. I wasn’t new to this game. I knew that even the best books got torn apart by agents and editors. That’s the nature of the industry.
But that’s not what happened. First, she smiled. Some of my nerves left. Then she took a deep breath and said something sort of like this:
“So I really, REALLY hate to do this because this is very well-written and you are a talented writer, but this idea is just really overdone and saturated in the market right now. I’m representing a very similar book right now, as is another agent at my agency, and I have another agent friend who just snatched one up as well. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I figured you should know. I made some notes, and I’d be happy to go over them with you now. Or, if you’re working on something else, I’d love to talk to you about it and then I can email these notes to you for you to look at later.”
My heart sank. My BABY project was OVERDONE? Unsellable? Unwanted? But I pushed down my heartbrokenness and instead told her about a new project I’d started that I was only one chapter into. Her eyes lit up and she asked me to tell her more, so I proceeded to tell her everything I knew about this new book. Her response?
“YOUR writing with THAT story idea? I would LOVE to see that. How soon can you write it and send it to me?”
I left that consult feeling really strange. Hadn’t I been complimented? I mean, she did tell me I was talented, right? But she also told me my book wasn’t sellable. And maybe she was just being nice. But, then again, she wanted to see this new book ASAP. Or did she?
After the conference, I decided to put away my heart book and write this new project for this agent. And guess what happened?
I didn’t write anything at all for six months. Why? Because I was trying to write something that I didn’t really want to write. I was trying to write for someone else (which was totally dumb in this instance because this agent could have just been being nice when she said she wanted to see it, and even if I had sent it to her, odds were really slim she’d actually represent me. But that’s a completely different subject).
I learned a very important lesson from this experience and I want to share it with other writers:
WRITE FOR YOU.
Don’t write for an agent. Don’t write for the market. Don’t write for your spouse, your kid, your mom. Don’t even write for your audience. Write for YOU. Because if you do, a few different things might happen:
- Your book loses heart, emotion, quality.
- Writing becomes a chore.
- You stop writing completely.
- You get burned out.
- The market changes.
- That agent rejects you anyway.
- Your audience doesn’t want what you thought it wanted.
- Worst of all, you lose your love of the craft.
None of these help you–not one bit.
So if you really want to write, don’t worry about anybody else. Write what makes YOU happy. That will always be enough.Don't worry about anybody else. Write what makes YOU happy. That will always be enough. Click To Tweet