It’s so hard being “almost there” with a story. You love your work, you’re getting positive rejections, so what does it take to sell? For me, it was all about making the story bigger. And, I know, you’re saying you’ve heard it before. So did I. But I didn’t know what it meant. I had to push my writing to a level I had never gone to before, but I found three things were the key:
The “No Way” Factor
My characters had to take bigger chances, have more to risk and lose. It’s easy to say, but a hard thing for a writer to do. It’s a vulnerable, risky place to be. I knew my story was big enough to sell when instead of ending my writing sessions thinking, “I hope that’s good enough to impress an editor,” I ended them thinking, “No. I did not just write that. I did not just make my character defend herself with a toilet brush and a can of Purple Prairie Clover air freshener.”
The “Brainstorm” Factor
The first thing you think of might be good, but chances are the twentieth thing will be even better. When I was trying to think of a hidden hideout for my biker witch characters, the first idea that popped into my head was an abandoned biker bar. Kind of neat, right? Instead of going with it, I sat down and brainstormed twenty ideas. The first five or so come easy. The rest really make you stretch and think. One of those twenty ideas became a fun, quirky hideout for my witches – an abandoned riverboat that they’d enchanted years earlier (while drunk on dandelion wine). Now they not only need a safe place, but they need to catch the Choking spells, Lose Your Keys spells, not to mention the Frozen Underwear spells ready to attack from around corners and behind the old jukebox.
The “Surprise” Factor
Follow your story in new directions, because if you’re enjoying the surprise, chances are your readers will too. When I sat down to write my book, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, "This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?" Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I had fun with it. In fact, I suspect Pirate the dog is my editor’s favorite character. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Pirate helped talk my editor into buying The Accidental Demon Slayer.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is – make your writing an adventure. Don’t be afraid to step out, take risks and push your story to the next level.
Angie Fox is the author of The Accidental Demon Slayer, coming from Dorchester this summer. Visit her at www.angiefox.com.