The “Innocent Days”

Working as a ghostwriter, I rarely get a chance to develop my own stories, but sometimes I have a nice break between gigs, or I get ahead on a ghostwriting project, and I can take a look at a novel I’ve put on the shelf. This happened recently, and it’s scary, because I’m afraid that after having put the book away for a while, I’ll have outgrown it. I’m afraid I’ll take one look at it and be disgusted.

That has happened many times, but this time I took a look at the book and said, damn this is good. I really liked it. If someone else had written it, I’d join her twitter feed, facebook page, and mailing list immediately. That’s how much I liked it. Sure it needed some edits, but that’s normal. I don’t mind blowing my own horn, because this so rarely happens.

Writers, if you happen to be tolerant enough to keep a novel for years and work on it periodically, and actually not get sick of it, this is an ideal situation, because, for me, my own belief in myself as a writer goes up. My confidence in the project, after years of attention to it, goes up, which is crucially important, because this particular novel has been rejected by so many publishing agents, I’m running out of people to send it to.

They always say they like it but don’t think they can sell it. I know the reason for that. It’s because I hadn’t been ghostwriting full time when I wrote it, and I hadn’t done any research into what sells. I just wrote what was in my heart. I wasn’t thinking about it being “commercial” back then. Now, I know too much about what sells to not think about that, when I’m writing. I don’t have to write toward what’s commercial. I can consciously not do that, if I want to, but I can’t unknow the things that I know.

The experience I’ve had submitting work to publishing agents, the knowledge I’ve gained from attending conferences, the understanding I have of the publishing and self-publishing fields comes into play all the time, especially when working with ghostwriting clients, because they usually want to find a commercial publisher. So, even though I don’t involve myself in the publishing process, I feel duty bound to advise them as to what ideas are commercial, and which will be brilliant but hard to sell.

So I guess I’m saying there’s really something to that “innocent” work. Not all of it is good, of course. But writers, go back and see if you’ve got something good on the shelf, from way back when, before you knew better.

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