RTW: How Far Would You Go?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: How far would you go to get published?

“We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business–to really build a career from it–we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?”

Hmm… Honestly, I’d consider doing anyone of those things, and I have done a few of them (genre-jumping, agent requested revisions). BUT, before you start to wonder if I’ve sold my soul, let me say that I only made changes I truly believed in, changes I could fully get behind.While I do enjoy the privilege of making the final call when it comes to my work, I don’t believe I’m the end-all-be-all expert on writing. I believe there are publishing professionals (many, probably) who know much more and much better than I do, and I am not above listening to them, considering their advice, and applying it to my work–as long as their advice inspires me.

Sure, I made agent-suggested revisions when I was querying (who isn’t dying for a revise-and-resubmit at that stage of the game?), but I also declined to make such changes when I wasn’t feeling them, when I wasn’t certain they were the direction I wanted to take my story. Stressing about revisions is normal, but when I started losing sleep and making myself sick over the thought of taking my story to a place that made me incredibly unhappy, I respectfully refused to revise. I think I’d do the same with major revision request from an editor, should the situation ever arise: I’m willing to rework and alter and improve if the ideas resonate with me. If not, then I believe I’d pass on the opportunity.

So, I’m willing go FAR to get published. I will seek out sound advice. I will consider any and all advice that comes my way. I will work hard to make changes that excite me, changes that make sense, changes that I envision taking my work to the next level.

But I won’t do anything that doesn’t feel 100% right.

What about you — How far would YOU go to get published?

Oh! And have you heard about the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest I’m hosting with Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller? It’s a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements published in 2011. The Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest will span four days, beginning Tuesday, December 27th and culminating Friday, December 30th. Click on the banner below to find out more and to sign up!


34 thoughts on “RTW: How Far Would You Go?

  1. Christa says:

    Hmmm….this is a good question. It should apply to lots of things in our lives that we are passionate about. For me, I’d be up for most things if it didn’t call into question my integrity. As a writer and as a person.
    I met Eve Ensler and asked her why she accepted money from Playboy to produce the Vagina Monologues. She said, “I’ll spend their money way better than they do.” I like this very much.

  2. Marquita Hockaday says:

    I am so with you! I’d change things based on how I feel about it. I’ve done some agent requested revisions before b/c they were GREAT suggestions and I agreed with them. And I also tried out different genres b/c I wanted to. But just like you, if it ever feels wrong and I’m only doing it b/c someone asked me to, I wouldn’t do it.

    Good post!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Marquita. It’s fun to entertain different revisions ideas and new genres, but if they don’t resonate, I’m not going to go there. It’s just not worth it to me!

  3. Colin says:

    I think making changes when recommended by a trusted source (agent or editor who loves your work and cares about your career) is far easier to consider than switches genres, or writing what’s “in,” just to get published, and not because that’s where your heart is.

    • katyupperman says:

      Totally agree, Colin. The only way I’d “write to a trend” is if it was one that had interested me all along. I have to be inspired, otherwise, no thank you!

  4. Kirsten Lopresti says:

    Good questions. I suppose it would depend on the specifics of the situation. I’m pretty flexible with revisions. I wouldn’t jump on the trend train, though. It goes by pretty fast and it’s hard to catch.

    • katyupperman says:

      Great point, Kirsten. It seems a lot of people who wrote to the vampire or dystopian trends, for example, are having a really hard to finding representation or selling their work now. Another reason to only do what truly inspires you–there are NO guarantees!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Francesca! I think that’s the only way to approach revising: if you don’t truly believe you can pull it off in a way that improves the story, it might be best to entertain other avenues.

  5. Rida says:

    I totally agree with you, although sometimes I see books that are completely overdone and wonder if the author refused to listen to their editor. That could always happen. But when you feel in your gut that something is going to wreck your story… that’s legit. I’d stick with that feeling.

    • katyupperman says:

      I know what you mean about books that read as “overdone.” I can’t help but wonder about the author/editor relationship when I read one of those. Eek. But you’re right: It’s usually best to follow a gut feeling. Thanks, Rida!

  6. Carrie says:

    Yes changes do have to feel right. I did find in revising a story recently that some changes that were suggested in a manuscript critique didn’t feel right at the time but really started to ring true when I was looking to improve the story.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes, I agree. Sometimes a suggested change doesn’t sit well at first, but the more it stews, the better it sounds. That’s USUALLY how it plays out for me. I’m initially resistant to most change, but as I let new ideas brew, they often start to make more an more sense. 🙂

  7. Ellen Goodlett (@egoodlett) says:

    I agree, and I think that there’s always a way to make needed revisions into a balance between what the ed/agent wants and what you envision. It might take a while to find that balance, but I think it’s usually possible!

    • katyupperman says:

      I think it’s possible too, especially if you’re working with CPs, agents, and/or editors whose opinions you respect and trust. They have your best interest in mind, after all!

  8. Rebecca B says:

    I’m with the far but only so long as I still love it camp. All the revisions/changes suggested to me so far on my journey have been enhancements. If I were asked to do something that really changed the essence of my story or of who I want to be as a writer–I think I’d try to find another solution.

    • katyupperman says:

      I like your use of the word “enhancements,” Rebecca. I think that’s a good way to look at any revision advice: Does it ENHANCE what you’ve already got, or at least what you’re shooting for? If so, then go for it!

  9. Jillian says:

    I definitely agree with going far while still remaining true to yourself and your story. It’s great to hear how you found that balance when dealing with agents, since I haven’t reached that stage of the process yet.

    • katyupperman says:

      I think the balance comes from listening to your gut. Who knows if I made all the right decisions along the way? But, I like where I am now, so I’m going with it. 🙂

  10. Tracey Neithercott says:

    I agree. I think any writer would be silly not to seriously consider advice from an agent or editor. They’ve done it before and they’re experts for a reason. That said, I agree that there’s a line you need to draw. When suggested changes would turn your story into not-your-story, I think it’s okay to pass.

  11. Angelica R. Jackson says:

    I think you put it very well–I should have just read your answer first and copied and pasted it (with proper credit, of course 😉
    I’m not totally married to all my words, but I’ve worked hard enough on them that I will fight for the ones that I truly believe make in the story.

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Angelica! I’m not married to my words either, but there are some aspects of my work I’m willing to fight for. That said, agents and editors are experts in their fields, and I’d be silly not to seriously consider their advice and revision notes.

  12. commutinggirl says:

    Very nice answer! Thanks for sharing your experience as well. I do think there are a lot of revisions which can be done before “selling your soul”. That would only come if you cannot stand by what you have written and get that creeping guilty feeling that it´s just not you…After all revisions (small and big) is what makes the story grow from great to amazing. I am wondering, how did writers do in the past? off to research 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      “…revisions (small and big) is what makes the story grow from great to amazing.” Totally agree! I think the perspective of trusted writing friends (and agents and editors) is invaluable. They’re often able to point out what we’re too close to see ourselves.

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