Archive for 'expectations'

Different, but Good
by Annette McCleave on May 12th, 2009

Like Jessa, I’m still pretty new to the agent/editor working relationship. This time last year, I had neither. I was still in the thick of the query process, having recently finaled in the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

I think the most significant discoveries I’ve made since signing with my agent and then subsequently with NAL have been 1) the cheerleader effect, 2) real deadlines, and 3) new expectations.

1. The Cheerleader Effect
For years and years, I wrote just for myself. Yes, I had critique partners and chapter-mates who encouraged me and educated me, but like most writers 99% of my writing time was spent alone and that meant the only person cheering me on was myself. I don’t say that to generate pity; I actually believe this is a critical skill for a writer—developing the unshakable need to succeed. Without it, I’m not sure you can finish a book, let alone make it out of the trenches and into the publishing world.

But when I got a very enthusiastic response from my soon-to-be-agent last spring, my world flipped upside down. Suddenly, someone else besides me thought I had talent. Not those few nice paragraphs that I had received from agents before, but a WOOHOO, I WANT TO SIGN YOU excitement. A few months later, I got another enthusiastic response from my new editor. Wow. The world sure looks different from this point of view. Very pretty, very sparkly.

The high didn’t last, of course. My usual raft of self-doubt has returned, but at least now it’s tempered by little whispers of ‘yeah, but your agent really likes it’ and ‘yeah, but your editor thought your book was worth buying’.

2. Real Deadlines
After I signed my contracts, I had new deadlines to meet—some short, some long, none of them moveable. I actually didn’t have any problem with this part until I hit number 3.

3. New Expectations
My agent is very interested in my work. So interested, in fact, that she wants to know how things are going and wants to read the chapters of my new book when they’re polished. Of course she does. She’s wonderful. Problem is, she now represents an expectation I didn’t have to meet before. I used to be able to write whatever the heck I wanted—in fact, before starting a new manuscript, I frequently gave myself permission to write crap, so that I didn’t have my internal editor sitting on my shoulder saying: not good enough, do it again. But now I had my agent, sitting quietly in the background, waiting for my manuscript.

I also had my editor, who loved my first book, waiting with eagerness to read the second. Plus, the second book now had to satisfy any readers (no matter how few they might be) of my first book. Worst of all, I wanted to write a better book than the one I wrote the first time. I wanted to develop as a writer.

Dear me. Expectations. Lots and lots of expectations—where before there were none.

It took me a long time to leap the hurdle of those expectations and settle into my writing routine. I began my second book at least fifty times, never satisfied that it was right. But eventually, I was able to stop obsessing and move on. All I had to do was let my characters speak through my keyboard and let their lives take over mine; all I had to do was fall in love with my new hero (sigh) and cheer on my new heroine. All I had to do was remember why I write.

My overall conclusion? Being a writer with an agent and an editor is different, but good.

That’s about as philosophical as I get. :smile:

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has let someone else’s expectations tie them in knots. Am I? Reassure me. Tell me your story.

Great Expectations
by Annette McCleave on February 3rd, 2009

I believe each reader opens the cover of a book armed with different expectations. Those expectations can be based on all sorts of things, including past experiences, likes & dislikes, and even what kind of day they’ve had. But I also believe most readers have general demands of their literary investments—they want to lose themselves in the story from page one, they want a riveting story that makes it tough to put the book down, and they want to close the book satisfied.

At least, that’s what I want when I read. :grin:

When I write, I try to keep the reader in mind. Not so much in the first draft—which is mostly about capturing the story and getting it down on paper—but definitely as I revise. The story in my head is full of wonderful details that make it come alive, but I sometimes forget to drop some of those details onto the written page. So, as I revise, I layer more of those details in.

One of the ways I try to factor in the reader experience is to read the story like an unbiased reader. Obviously, this is impossible to do when you’re the author. But to gain a bit of objectivity, I take step back and let the manuscript sit for a while. Wander off, read or write something else, take a break. For a couple of weeks, if I can manage it.


When I return to the manuscript to tackle the next draft, I see things I’ve missed: descriptions that didn’t quite capture the mood, clues that weren’t dropped, emotions that were lost in translation to the page.

Whether I’m successful in giving the reader what she wants is up to the reader herself—you’ll have a chance to judge in September—but my ultimate goal is to write a story that entertains.

Certain genres of novels come with inherent expectations: romance novels need a happily ever after, mysteries need to be solved, fantasy novels need the bad guy to get his ass kicked. In addition to those, when I plop myself down with a book, I bring along my individual wants: a hero/heroine who isn’t TSTL, a plot that I can follow without getting lost, and some humor.

What expectations do you have when you bend back the cover?