Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 9, 2014

Right to Write What You Write

erikaphoto-45Hi. Jersey Farm Scribe here on:

You’re Right to Write What You Write

I have important information. It’s big guys. I mean, hold on to your seats B-I-G. Ready? Okay. Here goes:

Getting published is hard.

Phew! Wait, what? You knew that?

Truth is, getting published is hard no matter what you write. I’m always surprised when I hear someone say, they REALLY write (fill in the blank), but they know they’ll never get their first book deal with that, so for now, they write (fill in the blank) so they can get an agent.

In my opinion, this simply won’t work. First of all, the relationship you’ll have with your agent must be based on openness, trust and honesty. This feels misleading to me; as if they’re presenting themselves as someone they don’t really want to be.

But even more than that, a pre-published author has a hard row to hoe. A pre-published author not writing the work that’s truly in their heart?? They will have twice as hard a time, no matter how “marketable” their genre or topic is.

I write picture books and chapter books; quite possibly two of the hardest first sells. But that’s what I write. It’s not even a decision that I made. It’s simply the type of stories that I have right now. I could force the stories to be something that they’re not, but then I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward, not fair to me, my manuscripts or the agent. We all know our stories have a heartbeat, a LIFE of their own. The best writers allow the stories to flow through them, instead of forcing them into the box they think they SHOULD fit in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to look around, see how your book falls into the current market. If YA or middle grade is saturated in vampire and witch novels, you need to know that if you’re writing one. But NOT because it should stop you from writing the vampire story you’ve been telling yourself for years. That story needs to be told.

Instead, use your market research as a way to learn what makes your manuscript different. Why is yours an important addition to a child’s already established collection of vampire tales?

Often times, we have stories inside of us because we feel there is something missing in the books already out there. The piles of somewhat similar novels we’ve read have only enhanced this craving inside of us, a longing to feel the thrill of a story with just the right amount of ____________ and that really touches on the _________, in a way that no other book does!

What goes in those blanks? You tell me.

THAT is what’s important about YOUR book. No matter how saturated the market is in your theme or genre, what matters is filling in those blanks.

Sure, agents have “not-interested” lists. And they’re important. Search for them. Read them. Respect them. Plan your submissions around them. But do NOT plan your manuscripts around them.

If you write slice-of-life picture books and notice that some agents are not interested in them, be happy that you learned they’re not the right agent for you. Part of finding the right agent, is learning who it’s not. You want someone who is going to see your story and say THIS is it! THIS is what I’ve been looking for!

And they’re out there.

Don’t try to mold your story into what you think an agent is looking for. Most agents say nothing trumps writing, trends are always changing, and ultimately, Marketability and Greatness are somewhat interchangeable. What agents really look for, is greatness. Use your knowledge of the market to find the greatness in your own story, what makes it different, what drives the need to write it, to give it life?

Your story is important. It has something special to give the world. And writing what is truly inside of you is what will make you successful. The best thing you can do as a writer, is to write. And to trust that it will find it’s own unique place in the market.

You’re right to write what you write, because you’re bringing the story inside of you into the world.

And the manuscripts that live inside you are worth it!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Indeed, that’s what I did when I published my two books on my blog home page 🙂

  2. Excellent points you made, Erika—as usual 🙂 It’s very right for people to realize how difficult it is for most authors to get published. Finding the right agent or publishing house is as difficult as finding your true soul mate! You shouldn’t mold or change yourself to please your life partner (well, as far as your character and WHO you are). We all know where that leads, right? Writing is the same and you explained it SO well 😀 Thank you!

    • Thanks so much! I always appreciate your comments. And I LOVE your correlation to finding your soul mate and not changing for them. What a GREAT way to look at it!!

      • Glad you liked that, Erika 🙂

      • Donna,

        You always leave great comments. Thanks!


      • Kathy, I know you appreciate it 😀 And, you know, I believe it’s the quality of an article that inspires the quality of the comments 😉

      • Donna,

        I think you’ve visited Ireland and kissed the blarney stone, but I love it. See you in a few weeks.


      • Kathy, I have to tell you, I always thought “kissing the Blarney Stone” was a superstition for good luck, but the way you used it, I was thinking “Why on earth does she think I’m so lucky, and what did I say to make her say that?” So, of course, I looked it up for clarification 😀 It turns out I’m pretty sure that was quite the compliment, unless, of course, that’s just a nice way of saying I’m a blabbermouth (which is somewhat true! lol) 😀

        As always, REALLY looking forward to Craft Day this year, AND I just purchased another copy of Darlene’s Wheels of Change for her to sign when I see her. I’m giving it to my daughter-in-law for her classroom because I sincerely believe it belongs in every classroom 😀 SO glad I won it here and read it!

    • Donna,

      Haha! I was always under the impression that people who kissed the Blarney Stone could tell a could tale – not necessarily true, but good. And you really can. Love your comments.

      I was so glad you won Darlene’s book, especially since I knew you would be a big champion for Wheels of Change and use your writing skills to write a great review.


      • Thanks, Kathy 🙂 I’m thrilled I won it, too. It’s been on the tip of my tongue in book conversation since I read it!

        And when I looked up Blarney Stone, it generally means you have the “gift of gab,” or are very eloquent and flattering. Now I know what YOU meant! lol

  3. Great post, Erika! I really liked how you pointed out to plan submissions not manuscripts around the agent’s preference lists. I think you’ve really hit your stride with these writing related posts! Kathy’s rich blog is further enhanced by your guest posts.

    • Mieke,

      You are so right about Erika enhancing Writing and Illustrating. Are you going to the NJSCBWI Craft Day?


    • Ooh, thanks so much Mieke, it means a lot to me (more than you know!!) to hear you say that. It’s such an honor to be a part of the site and I enjoy it SO very much. These posts are my own little therapy sometimes! Reminding myself of things I need to do and keeping my own writing honest.

  4. Echoing Kathy – another great post! I know my writing is better for everything you share.

    • Wendy,

      That is such a nice thing to say. I completely trust Erika and her writing. She is a great addition.


    • Awwww, (Wendy, you just ROCK!) thank you both so much! It’s such an immense pleasure and honor to be associated with such an amazing site that helps so many people.

  5. Even though my response is late…it echoes all the previous ones. Thanks for keeping the craft of writing “real” and truthful with your insight and words of wisdom. Putting those into practice is half the battle toward success. When you’re passionate about what you write, and do it to the best of your ability, it WILL find a home. Thanks Erika and Kathy!

    • Darlene,

      Thanks for the comment. See you in a few weeks.


    • Thanks so much for stopping by Darlene! I am SO excited that your book has found IT’s home. And a wonderful book it is!

  6. Thanks, Erica. ALl very true!!

    • Carol,

      Thanks for leaving Erika a comment. When are you going to write an article for me?


    • Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by, it’s been a while and it’s great to hear from you! I’m so glad you found the piece meaningful.

  7. Erika- you are so right!! It’s hard anyway, why make it harder by forcing yourself to write what isn’t natural.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: