Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Theme: The Higher Power of Luck(y) (Lisa Graff)

This month we're talking about luck, and in general I like to think that I'm a pretty darn lucky person. I get to do what I love, and I get paid for it. Win-win! But for the purposes of this post, I wanted to write about a time when, career-wise, I was feeling not so lucky. So here's one:

A few years ago, after I had successfully published three middle-grade novels and was feeling pretty good about myself as a writer, I came up with what I was POSITIVE was going to be my next big idea. I spent months researching the project. I had an entire folder full of notes. And I wrote up the first fifty pages, and sent them to my agent.

He did not like them.

I was, as you can imagine, pretty down in the dumps about that. I LOVED my idea, and I thought it was going to make for an incredible novel. But I trusted my agent quite a bit (still do!), so I went back and read what I'd given him.

I didn't like it either.

There were some good ideas in there, but it wasn't a story. For various reasons, it lacked the spark of the books I'd worked on in the past. And while I was certain (and my agent assured me), that all the things that weren't working in it were fixable, it was a long, long way from being a novel-ready idea. And so, with a bit of huffing and puffing, I moved on to something else.

I went on to write two novels which I am extremely proud of, and then a third (A TANGLE OF KNOTS, which comes out in Spring 2013), with a subplot lifted from that long-ago discarded novel. And I couldn't be happier with those books. The point is, sometimes the very best thing to do is to stick with a project until you can pound it into shape . . . and sometimes you just need to let it go. It's hard to know which way to go most of the time, but I feel very lucky that I have smart people in my life who will tell me the truth, and let me know when they think what I write simply stinks (but who say it much more kindly than that, of course).


  1. You made your own luck, Lisa! You were smart enough to choose good people to work with, and also to know when to cut your losses. Congratulations on finding a new home for at least the subplot of that project!

  2. Thanks for the great insight - it's a wonderful post. Congratulations on your upcoming novel!

  3. I betcha that initial idea may very well become a published book, too...(Sometimes, ideas just need lots of time to germinate.)

  4. Thanks, guys! And Holly, I totally agree about germination. Sometimes an idea needs to sit for a looooong time before it's ready to turn into something.