Why "The Book of Your Heart" is a Big, Fat Lie

We all know that getting rejected sucks in general, but I've seen a lot of authors despairing over getting rejected with the "book of their heart." And that, my friends, sucks even more. However, I firmly believe that the whole concept behind the "book of your heart" is just an illusion.

Fun fact: Beth Revis, the NYT bestselling author of the amazing Across the Universe
trilogy, wrote ten novels before her debut. And the story she considered the "book of her heart"
was one of those ten unpublished ones. Also, I highly recommend her Paper Hearts books for writers.

Because I've been there, guys. I wrote a story that was perfect in my eyes, a story that I felt I could never top. A story that, if it got rejected, would be my last and only chance.

The book in question is NEUROPATH -- a YA sci-fi novel that took me about two years to write and polish. It wasn't my first novel, but I could tell there was something better about it, some kind of secret sauce that topped everything else I'd ever written. One of my critique partners tore through it in the space of a couple of days. Several people reassured me that this was the one -- I'd be getting so many full requests my head would swim.

And I did get some requests, but all have turned into rejections (so far). Most of them were along the lines of, "You're a good writer, but this isn't for me."

I was flummoxed. How could the book of my heart fail?

The answer, of course, came with time. As it turned out, NEUROPATH contained several fundamental flaws -- most notably, Saggy Middle Syndrome. There were large portions where the characters didn't really have a goal or a purpose. I did improve this aspect in revisions, thanks to some recommendations from my wonderful CPs, but I'm still pretty sure that's what held the story back.

For a while this past summer, I despaired. The book of my heart wasn't actually that great, and revising it would require several major changes that I honestly was just too drained to implement. The new story I was working on couldn't compare to the magic of NEUROPATH. I'd never write another book as good as that again.

Herein lay my mistake. It's a common piece of wisdom among writers that you shouldn't compare your unfinished work to someone else's published work, but I discovered that you also shouldn't compare your first draft to your polished draft. My current project, ARDEN HAYES' GUIDE TO SAVING LIVES, is much sleeker than it was in the summer, and is now in revisions with CPs. These days, it's the new book of my heart. I will always love NEUROPATH, but ARDEN'S GUIDE is simply tighter and better-paced, and (fingers crossed) I'm pretty sure it doesn't suffer from Saggy Middle Syndrome.

I see a lot of writers spending years and years and years revising the "book of their heart," desperately hoping to save it. But sometimes, you need to let go and move on to something else. I believe that the "book of your heart" is not, in fact, a fluke that you'll never be able to top -- it's a sign that you're becoming a better writer. Of course it's better than anything you've ever written before -- that's what progress means! And in the years to come, you'll write even better books than that.

Don't let the "book of your heart" stop you from moving on.

Don't want to miss out on more posts like this? Subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates delivered directly to your inbox! (Also, if you do, I will love you forever. Just sayin')

No comments:

Post a Comment