The Next Big Thing

30 Nov

I was reading a description on an agent’s website the other day on what they were looking for in a submittal. They mentioned epic novels and something about large scale ideas – I’m paraphrasing obviously.  I understood that they meant “The Next Big Thing,” but I was a little foggy on the specifics of that.

Lord of the Rings is an incredible story with a complete and utterly fantastic other world, strange and amazing creatures and a solid Good vs. seriously Evil storyline. Then there are all the incredible subplots. It has translated into several amazing and hugely profitable movies. Got it. That would be epic and large scale and it certainly was “The Next Big Thing” each and every time one of the films came out.

Twilight is a young adult paranormal romance about a high school girl, vampires and werewolves. It is set in Washington and takes place right now. Nothing epic there. Nothing to say it would be “The Next Big Thing” and become worldwide phenomena.

I’ve been pondering the agent’s description ever since I read it. I’m not great at pondering. I start on one track, end up on another and then my head hurts. I’ve gone around and around in circles about this one. And I’ve settled on the simple and basic premise that we’ve all heard over and over and over again.

As authors, we simply need to write the best story we can.

The one thing that every best-seller has in common is a good story that caught the reader’s attention and drew them in.

It’s impossible to predict what will become “The Next Big Thing.” It seems to be a combination of luck and good storytelling. And a sort of stubborn belief on the part of the author. Kathryn Stockett of “The Help” received 60 rejections before she found an agent. A story about African-American maids and a white woman who wanted to write a book about them? I wouldn’t classify that as epic or necessarily a grandiose story plot. But Ms. Stockett certainly had the determination and the courage to continue going after what she wanted. And what a nice payoff.

So, I’ve been thinking about that agent’s website. It would be nice to be “The Next Big Thing,” wouldn’t it? To see all of our hard work and devotion make it to the big screen. To actually get paid for what we love to do. That would be great.

But who really knows what it will be?

When I read this agency’s preferences for submittals I was both intimidated as well as struck by the slight snootiness of it. But at the same time there is a sort of positiveness to it that I enjoyed. There is always a “Next Big Thing” just around the corner.

I’ve sort of adopted that idea, that positive attitude, into my own plan for writing. The Next Big Things for me are: 1. Reworking my outline for my current WIP and 2. Finding an agent for the book I’ve finished. I have no idea how long it will take me. I’m hoping to have the outline done this week. The agent . . . well, she might be just around that corner.

What are your Next Big Things?


Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Idaho


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20 responses to “The Next Big Thing

  1. Carley Ash

    November 30, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    Great blog, Meredith.

    I find it ironic that workshop instructors are constantly hammering the concept of FRESH writing into our heads. But it seems like contest, publishers, agents (at least in the genre writing) want the same old formulaic approach. I’m told readers expect that formula when they buy the book and if they don’t get it, they become upset.

    They want FRESH and THE NEXT BIG THING, but there’s so much pressure to produce the same old thing.

    • Meredith Conner

      November 30, 2011 at 8:01 AM

      I agree. There seems to be a mythical fine line between new and a story that contains the old. It’s an interesting challenge.

  2. Janis McCurry

    November 30, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    I think the danger of “the next best thing” is that it is subjective. What if an agent or editor passes just because of the market…as the 60+ did with Stockett?

    It smacks of “If I represent an author who writes ‘the next big thing,’ publishers will come to me, I won’t have to pound the pavement as much, larger return for one book than if I had to shop out just good stories.”

    I’m not saying the agents and editors are getting lazy; they work very hard for their percentage. Rather, I think they are trying to lessen the incredible odds against getting a work sold.

    It’s too bad. That’s why I’m looking for a champion who loves my work, whether it’s the next big thing or not.

    I think this is a great discussion thread. Thanks, Meredith.

  3. Meredith Conner

    November 30, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    I’m with you Janis. I understand the agents dilemma to a certain extent, this is how they make their livelihood, yet I think agents and editors underestimate the reading population. I look at my shelves and I find new authors all the time. Some of them have been NY Times best-sellers for years, but I just picked up one of their books. I think this is true for lots of readers – we are always looking for a good story. Whether it’s the next big thing or a book that we found on the back shelf in a crowded book store.

  4. Liz Fredericks

    November 30, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    I’m going with ‘stubborn belief on the part of the author’ but add ‘a support system’ cuz it’s very difficult to maintain a belief in your creative work without some level of validation. I think that’s a big part of contests etc, but I’m backing away from romance contests as my judges either love or hate what I do. I’ll keep plugging away beginning next week. 😉

  5. Meredith Conner

    November 30, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I think that is the one common denominator that all authors – regardless of their level of success – share – a sort of stubbornness/determination/dream. Your’s is definitely going to take you places Liz!

  6. Meredith Conner

    November 30, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Ah – I didn’t mean to type the “your’s”, I did mean “yours.” Darn finger.

  7. Susan Russo Anderson

    November 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    “As authors, we simply need to write the best story we can.” It can’t be said too often. Thanks so much for the great post, Meredith.

    • Meredith Conner

      December 1, 2011 at 8:48 AM

      It’s a daily mantra in and of its own. Thanks for commenting Susan.

  8. Johanna Harness

    November 30, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    “High concept” is the phrase I always hear. It can be equally difficult to pin down, but it might give you more to ponder. 🙂

    • Meredith Conner

      December 1, 2011 at 8:47 AM

      That’s the phrase Johanna. I think it was a deliberate omission on the part of my brain 🙂

  9. Marsha R. West

    November 30, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Great subject, Mererdith. There’s no one right answer other than “any and all,” “both/and,” and “whatever.” It’s all subjective. You may wrtie the best book ever, but if you aren’t lucky enough to find the agent/editor who connects with it, it’s not going anywhere. At least that the way it used to be. Fortunately, we have other options today, and lots of authors are taking those options. I think if I were an editor or agent, I’d be a little worried about my job.

    Liz, I heard it said by some pubbed authors it’s good when contest judges feel strongly one way or the other about your writing. It almost doesn’t matter which way, but those split decisions means you reached them emotionally. That’s what’s important. Hang in there.

    I love you guys’ blog.

    • Meredith Conner

      December 1, 2011 at 8:52 AM

      It’s always nice to have options, isn’t it? It is such a crazy combination of things, plus that all important luck factor! Thanks for writing in and the lovely compliment on our blog Marsha!

  10. Mary Vine

    November 30, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Keep writing, because you never know if what you can produce might be the next best thing. How’s that?

    • Meredith Conner

      December 1, 2011 at 8:53 AM

      Sounds good to me Mary.

  11. ramblingsfromtheleft

    November 30, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    Meredith, today found me tied in knots, personal upheaval and here I am after the day is almost gone. Yes, yes … who knows whether we will have the luck of “the next best” or the “turning of a tide?” I think your plan makes pefect sense. Do you own thing, believe in yourself and when the right person reads your query … you might become the next great thing! Oh yeah, about that headache trying to second guess what they are looking for … it’s often a full blown migrane which needs a quiet, dark room and lots of warm liquids. Loved this, as it comes at a time when I am on the brink of submitting my first full novel. I wish us both the “the next best” whatever the heck that turns out to be 🙂

    • Meredith Conner

      December 1, 2011 at 8:56 AM

      best of luck with your novel Florence!!!! So happy for you! Keep us posted!!!!

  12. Lynn Mapp

    November 30, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    Hey reamblingsfromtheleft, take a deep breath and hang in there. I’m excited for you. Yeah! You did it! You completed a novel and you are about to submit. Way to go, gir

  13. Lynn Mapp

    November 30, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Hey Meredith, the next big thing… I know The Help went through many revisions, but I’m betting none of those agents saw this novel as the next big thing. I wonder how it went for the author of The Hunger Games? How many passes did it get until someone realized it was the next big thing?

  14. Meredith Conner

    December 1, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    I’m always fascinated by those stories of how many rejections “X famous author” went through before they hit the NY Times best-selling list. I’d love to know what went through Nora Roberts head when she got her first rejection 🙂


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