Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Say YES and Write

By Stacy S. Jensen

Recently, I've seen several writers question if it's worth writing a story, when there may be a similar title already published or in the process of being published. 

I always vote for write first and think later. Why? Well, publishing is a subjective business. Plus, we get told NO by agents, editors, and our fellow writers enough. We should at least tell ourselves yes and write.

My reality right now —come in close— everything I write may never get published. I don't have an agent. I don't have a manuscript under contract. I write, revise, repeat, and squeeze submit into that process. 

By the time, my toddler graduates from high school, I may have a glorified baby book in the form of picture books detailing the antics of bears training to be park rangers and a boy who locks his mother out of the house. 

I write a lot of vomit drafts. I work to turn drafts into polished manuscripts with the hopes of publication one day. 

A lot of this process is out of my control. So I focus on what I can control, my story — how I birth it, nurture it, and change it. I can't control a hot-new trend of zombie tooth fairy books, an agent's unspoken wish (or hate) list, or the five books already in the publishing pipeline with a similar storyline. 

I wrote about my no rules writing method in 2012. I still do this. 

While I'm guilty of mentioning rules, from time to time during critiques, I cling to advice that just tells me to write. Here are a few examples: 

•I whip out Romelle Broas' interview with debut author Sherri Dusky Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site when I need a reminder. Ringer sent a rhyming, bedtime picture book, unagented, and unsolicited to a major publishing house. She became a New York Times bestseller. 

•Rob Sanders, author of Cowboy Christmas, wrote about his first book — a cowboy book with three adult main characters, set at Christmas. 

•Deborah Underwood, author of The Quiet Book during ReviMo: "If I'd been trying to write only what I thought would be publishable, I might never have developed those ideas." She also offers a great tip at Julie Hedlund's blog: "Write to please yourself, not the market." 

•In Darshana's interview with Salina Yoon, author and illustrator of Penguin and Pinecone, Yoon gave this advice to beginning authors and illustrators: "Make it your goal to CREATE, write, and grow, . . . and not to publish. Keep your eye on the ball … and that ball is to write or illustrate, … and publishing will follow!" 

I believe there's no reason to kill a story based on this subjective business of market trends, agent preferences, and rules. Maybe there are no new stories, but it's fun trying to write one. 

Let others tell you no, but say yes to yourself and write. 

(This post originally appeared on Meg Miller's blog for the Petite ReviMo Challenge, where picture book writers revise their manuscripts, on March 11, 2014.)

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.


  1. Well said, Stacy! If someone disagrees with you, just tell them to read about the writing struggles of Dr. Suess, J.K. Rowlings and Jon Scieszka, to name a few.

    1. Yes. They did have their struggles and thankfully, their writing rose to the top.

  2. Love, love, love. I often want to ask writers why they are writing- doesn't it first and foremost need to be from the heart? If it's not enjoyable, it's really not worth doing. It's too hard. I'd start painting houses or something instead.

    1. I'm working on a revision right now that is not enjoyable, but one day it will be right and that will be worth it.

  3. This is really a remarkable topic close to my heart thanks. Keep up the good working!


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