I've had the pleasure of knowing Margo Dill for several years through WOW's (Women On Writing) blog, The Muffin., where she regularly contributes. I also follow her over at The Literary Ladies, where she teams up with a group of talented writers sharing their hearts through their posts. Margo's latest book, Caught Between Two Curses, is recently released and an ideal read for young readers (and, ahem us "older" readers too).
I'm delighted to host her today as she shares her publishing conundrum: how much do you compromise your story to have it published? Thanks, Margo!
Writing the Story In ME VS Wanting to Eat
By Margo L. Dill
I’ve never been at the point where my writing solely had to provide food for my family. But writers are known to be dramatic, so just bear with me as I share with the choices I made with my newly released young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, March 2014).
I wrote this novel to explore several topics: teenage sex, peer pressure, friendship, high school cliques, baseball, the Cubs Curse, family relationships, destiny and fate. Once I wrote the story, I had it critiqued several times by two critique groups, and I took part in a slush pile read at a writing conference, too. I learned a lot! The novel was revised multiple times, and then it was finally ready for an agent or big New York editor.
Here’s the part where I had to decide: Do I want to tell the story in me or make money? Caught Between Two Curses is the story of 17-year-old Julie Nigelson whose long-time boyfriend wants to have sex, but she’s not ready. It’s also the story of how Julie must break the two curses on her family and save her uncle from death before his 35th birthday. It’s also the story of Julie trying to find love and negotiate through family relationships, including with an estranged and illiterate grandmother. Is there baseball in it? Yes! Is it a baseball story? No.
But I couldn’t seem to get agents and editors to understand this. One told me, “Your plot makes no sense. How can curses be connected? What does this have to do with the Cubs? Does anybody know about the Cubs? Do girls read about baseball?” Ummmm. . .well, clearly you are not the one for this book.
Another agent told me that I needed to 1. Not kill Julie’s parents before the book starts (which they are actually killed by the curse) 2. Not have Julie question her feelings toward her best male friend (Isn’t this realistic and pretty common?) 3. I can’t even remember all the other plot changes this girl told me to make; but in the end she said if I did them, she would consider taking a look at my book. Ummmm. . .okay, so I want to eat, but I don’t want to write your novel.
So, what did I do? I started another, completely different novel—actually two more—and kept going to conferences and revising chapter one of Caught Between Two Curses, making it shine. Then I met a publisher who did understand my book and wanted to publish it! Yes, I get to eat now.
What did I learn? A career in writing takes hard work, improving my craft, revising my manuscript, evaluating feedback. But once I’m sure of my project, then I’m not changing it for anybody. I will keep working to find the right person to publish it, so that I can be proud of the story I WANT TO TELL—the story in me.
Has anyone tried to change your story? How does your career/salary affect your writing choices?
To check out Caught Between Two Curses, visit Amazon.com where it’s available as a print or e-book OR Indiebound.org and Barnes and Noble, where it’s a print copy.
Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals’ fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. Find out more: http://margodill.com/blog/