Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comparing Your Work to Others

Am I the only one who has a problem with this? Sometimes it feels like it. I've seen this brought up a lot lately, that writers compare their work to others in an effort to give an agent an idea of the tone of book or style. I can see the merit in it, but my problem is that I have nothing to compare mine to.

It's not so mind blowingly original that it's never been done before, I'm sure, it's just that... I can't find anything. Yes, some might go 'Well, that's good. It means the market's not flooded with that sort of thing.' But the catch might also be that there is a REASON the market's not flooded with it. What if it's not marketable? I've got a stack of rejections that support that suspicion.

The closest thing I can find in regards to tone is "Eyes of the Dragon" by Stephen King, but there's no WAY I'm comparing myself to King in a query. That sounds so pompous. But it's in that same omnicient storyteller tone that he used for that one, which is the only similarity. As far as storyline...I got nothing.

I mean, if I wanted to sound crazy, I could go, "It's The Butterfly Effect meets Dune meets Underworld only the vampires and werewolves are ugly and on the same side against gods, elves, satyrs, and fairies, and they duke it out in Potterverse College in Atlantis with scarier creatures and no wands." How's that for comparison? Kind of makes you go "WTF?" doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

Yeah. I'm not really a fan of the comparing your writing idea. My "comparing" problem now is reading all of these brilliant samples on NB's forums. It makes me think, "Crap. That amazing book is getting form rej's. I'm definately screwed, because that's a hundred times better than the drivel I wrote.
BTW The Eyes of the Dragon is one of my faves, crazy that it's not mentioned as much as some of the others, huh?

Erin Kuhns said...

I have not come to a point yet where I am querying anyone, but I DO know that I'm always worrying that I'm not nearly as good as everyone else out there. Like "aspiring_x" said, I see the GREAT writing out there and think, man, THEY got rejected?!

But I'm trying hard not to get caught up in all of that and to keep in the forefront of my mind, the piece of advice/wisdom that we each have our own voice--one that no one has heard before. I think that's an important thing to remember in this writing life...

Mia Hayson said...

Being, equally, in no position to compare my work to others because it's just so unfinished, I can't say I even thought of the issue until you raised it. I'm now worrying about what book I would compare my half finished MS to? Oh dear... :(

Actually, I didn't WTF at all at that description - call me crazy, but I got quite excited. Now THAT is a book I would read!

Nick said...

Don't compare yourself then. Personally I detest comparing my works. Sure, you can draw similarities between my WIP and the likes of McDermid or Rankin, but all of the comparisons are tenuous -- not-particularly-family-friendly cops investigating a rather unpleasant crime, all done moderately realistically. My work should be capable of standing on its own. If I have to make those tenuous connections in other to catch interest, it means my story is crap. And of course as you say above, you also run the risk of coming across as a bit of a prick. I could compare myself to Rankin or McDermid, but they're such geniuses in my genre, many agents would probably think I'm being a self-important arse.

It's hard not to get caught up in all of it. Let your work speak for itself, and just keep trudging. Writing, to me, is a lot like...wait I'm saving this comparison. It'll make a good blog post for today.

Tiffany Neal said...

I'm right there with ya. Same problem here 100%. I am not planning on putting a comparison in there. Whether I'm shooting myself in the foot or not...

gunsitta (on the topic of yesterday :))

Shannon O'Donnell said...

LOL! I kind of like your WTF comparison. :-)

I wouldn't worry about not having something to mention as a comparison. It isn't mandatory, and you're right - it can sound arrogant.

Shelley Sly said...

Christi, I totally know what you mean.

First off, I'm not the type to compare my book to others, and I've written two queries so far. I thought I read somewhere in the blog world that if an agent can make the comparison by him/herself, even better. Rather than shoving a comparison down their throats, make them say, "Oh! That reminds me of..."

And second, I can't find anything to compare my books to. Like you said, not that I think they're oh so original, but because I just haven't read anything like them yet.

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