The Blank Slate of You

Writers sometimes complain about the terrors of the blank page, but we all know how delicious a project can be before it has actually begun. There in its fetal beginning, the new book is pure potential, not yet tangled up in a slow opening, a confusing middle, or a flat ending. To an editor, I have just learned, new writers are this way also. At the recent PNWC, I listened to several editors describe the delight of working with new authors. After all, what is more exciting for an editor than discovering the next . . . whomever? Editing stories and working with writers is satisfying, but to be there at the beginning of something big is a reward in and of itself. And until that first book actually hits the shelves, any first time novelist could be that next big thing.

Secondly, just as your unwritten novel doesn’t yet need to trim 100 pages, so too the first-time novelist doesn’t have a track record working against him or her. The editor is free to pitch the writer’s potential to her sales team, as opposed to reassuring them that the last book, which didn’t quite sell through, had been an anomaly.

So take heart, new writers. The editors are looking for you. I admit it would not have occurred to me until this past weekend that this was the case, but of course it makes all the sense in the world. Editors are not that different than writers—or anyone else for that matter. They take comfort in what works, but are thrilled by what is new. So dare to be you, because if you’re still unpublished, to some editor out there you are pure potential.

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