Good news: I'm the concept queen. I have a spreadsheet full of high concept plots, three that I've turned into manuscripts. I can also write a mean query. As a result, I've had a phenomenal response to my queries. It's not 100% by any means, but about half the agents I query request my projects. Hooray! I'm so grateful for the opportunity.
Bad news: About half the agents I query reject my submissions. The feedback is varied, but it often points to pacing and intensity with high praise for my concepts and writing. No one has offered me to revise and resubmit, but most encourage me to submit my next project. And several have said, "I'm sure this will find representation."
My latest manuscript, which deals with a relevant topic, got an extra enthusiastic response from agents, but rejections are starting to trickle in again. I fear this one isn't going to stick either. I know my writing has improved, but I think the middle loses some momentum, and I'm not sure if everyone is sticking around for the surprise ending.
I'm reading all the books. I'm writing all the time. But I feel like I'm throwing away clever ideas with my not-there-yet writing. Should I wait to use another high concept until I've perfected the art? Should I revise this one? Am I being held to a higher standard because the concepts require flawless execution? Are my ideas bigger than my talent?
Help! I'm open to honesty and eager to improve.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to the day you add middle grade and young adult books to your list.
Ira Glass did a wonderful talk on creativity and taste and how long it takes your skill to catch up with your taste.
It sounds to me like your writing chops haven't quite caught up to your imagination yet: you've got some terrific ideas but the execution isn't there.
And it IS the writing. Concepts are great, but they're not the book. The writing is the book.
So, how to fix this?
Well, don't stop writing. That's the one sure road to make sure you never improve.
Second, get to a class, a GOOD one. One that makes you weep with despair at the end cause you're sure you're the worst writer there.
If you can't get to a class, save your money and buy a manuscript critique at any one of the many places agents offer those up: charity auctions are the big ones, but there are other places too.
You don't say how long you've been writing or what kind of feedback you're getting before you've queried. A good crit group can be invaluable, and if you don't have one, that's another resource.
If you can't do either of those things, pick a book in your category that you LOVE. Pick one with a good concept. Then read it with your writer's eye engaged. Read it analytically. See how the author keeps the tension going.
One tactic to do this is to write the novel out yourself. Transcribe it to paper. By actually writing the words, they get into your head in a much more visceral way.
Find a good beta reader who can help you figure out why the novel isn't working because you're right: your novels aren't working. And if neither of you can figure out why it's not working, think about whether your novel is doing anything fresh and new. I see a lot of good concepts with good writing, but everything sounds like something I watched on TV twenty years ago.
I'm sure the writers who read this blog will have some good suggestions as well. Pay attention to what they say cause they're the ones actually in the trenches with you.
I'm just siting here, sipping a mai-tai, waiting for ya'll to send me something good to read.