I'm so happy to hand the reigns for the YA Buccaneers blog over to fellow Disney-Hyperion pub mate, Rahul Kanakia!
Rahul's debut, ENTER TITLE HERE, came out last Tuesday, 8/2, and I'm thrilled he's stopping by! Even more so, that he's opening up and sharing insight into some of the more difficult sides of publishing that you may not always see or hear about...but believe me and Rahul, they do exist.
A little more about Rahul:
Rahul Kanakia is the author of a contemporary YA novel called ENTER TITLE HERE (that's its actual name, guys) that' came out on August 2nd, 2016, from Disney-Hyperion. It's been described (by his agent, so you know this is a thoroughly impartial assessment) as GOSSIP GIRL meets HOUSE OF CARDS.
Rahul's short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Nature, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show. He holds an MFA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University. He also holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University. He used to work for the World Bank, in their South Asia Environment division.
You can find Rahul around the web at:
Or email him at: Rahul.Kanakia@gmail.com
And more about ENTER TITLE HERE:
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.
What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.
But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.
Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
You can buy a copy of ENTER TITLE HERE via the following retail outlets:
And now for Rahul's takeover:
So I wrote a book. It's called Enter Title Here, and it's a contemporary YA novel that's about a ruthless high school valedictorian, Reshma Kapoor, who engages in all kinds of schemes and machinations in order to get into Stanford. But the book is also kind of about the development of a young writer. The book you're reading is a manuscript Reshma herself is writing: she thinks if she can sell a YA novel then she'll finally have the sort of perfect hook that no admissions committee could ever overlook.
As such the book includes lots of meta stuff, both about the publishing industry and about how to write and structure a novel. Some of this stuff is the real business, actually, including the way the industry can sometimes seem really excited about you, and the next minute turn very cold.
When I'm interviewed by sites like this one, I'm usually asked either process questions or business questions. It's either, "How did you write your book?" or "How did you sell your book?"
Really though, I think both of these questions are not the most interesting. Writing a book is simple. You start with the first word and continue until you have eighty thousand. Selling the book is also simple, you query agents until you find one, and then they sell the book for you.
What's difficult, I find, is managing your own sense of despair.
That, to me, is the main skill that a writer needs. Not the ability to resist discouragement or to avoid feeling hopeless. Those things will come for you inevitably, and there's no way to stop them. What I'm talking about is ways to stop the despair from throttling your writing career and forcing you to quit. And I think the best way to do that is for you to know what lies ahead, so that when the despair descends upon you, you're not caught completely off guard.
1. Positive feedback is going to be rare – I collected form rejections for years, four or five at least, before I started getting anything like positive feedback. For years—possibly for your entire life—it is going to feel like nobody cares about what you have to say. And that is completely normal.
2. Positive feedback, when you do get it, is mostly meaningless – The thing about positive feedback is that there's often an implicit "for a beginner" attached to the end of it. So an agent or editor or instructor might tell you it's a very well-crafted and gripping story, but if they're not actually buying the story, what they're usually saying is, "This is better than most of the crap we see." It can be a very weird experience for writers to get all this positive feedback and still find that they're unable to sell their stories. The answer here is that the feedback isn't really as positive as you think it is. And that is completely normal.
3. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong – When you're starting out as a writer, you hear all these horror stories: books going out of print; people losing editors; getting dropped by their publishers. And you think these things are exceptions. They're like getting hit by a bus. Unfortunate, but rare. But that is not true. They are not exceptions. They are the rule. If you stay in the game for long enough, you will suffer almost every misfortune that a writer can suffer. You will lose editors. You will fight with your agent. You will be dropped by your publisher. And you'll feel like a complete failure. But you shouldn't, because all those things are completely normal.
4. You don't always become a better writer – When you're starting out, every story tends to be better than the one you wrote before it. But after a few years, this stops being true. You'll write something great and it'll sell, and maybe years will pass before you write something better. My debut novel, Enter Title Here, was the fourth that I wrote. In the years since completing it, I've written six other novels. None of them have yet sold. That's because most of them weren't very good. You don't always improve in the ways you think you will. And you'll wonder if maybe you've lost your touch. But you haven't. This progression is completely normal.
5. You're going to feel envy – Okay, some writers are inhumanly good-natured, and they don't feel envy. But most people aren't like that. As you make more and more writer friends, you'll also hear about their successes. You are never going to be the most successful. You will have an acquaintance, someone you hate, who becomes a much bigger success than you are. And you will feel terrible. But don't worry about it, because that person probably also has an acquaintance, someone they hate, who's even bigger than they are! Envy is completely normal.
6. You will stop writing for awhile – There will come a day when you can't take any more. Maybe it's after your book gets rejected by a hundred agents. Or maybe it's after the book comes out, and then flops and goes out of print. But when that day comes, you simply won't want to write. The thing inside that's been driving you? It's completely gone. And you will realize, "I was in this game because I had something to prove…but I just don't feel that way anymore." And you will go months without writing. This is the most dangerous point in your career, because you will at some point realize, "I'm not a writer anymore." But this too is completely normal.
7. You will have to rediscover the part of you that wants to tell stories – This is a tough thing. For me, writing has always, since I was eighteen, been wrapped up in ego and the desire to get published. The desire to tell stories was a smaller part of it. In the early days, perhaps a miniscule part. But the writing world will slowly strip away the ego as you realize that, well, you're probably not that good of a writer, and nobody wants to hear your stories anyway. And the endpoint of this process is that you will be all alone, wondering, "What's the point?" And the only answer you will be able to find is, "I have stories I want to tell." And you'll feel silly, because of course everybody has stories, so why should anyone care about yours. But you'll look past that worry. And you'll listen to the story inside you. And you'll begin to write.