One Book To Rule Them All

14 Sep

by Susan Dennard


One book to rule them in all, and in the greatness bind them!

So, I got this idea from Molly O’Neill’s blog, and it’s such a COOL thing to think about, I wanted to share it here. That is:

If you could only ever publish one book (or one more), what would that book be about?

She calls it the One Book To Rule Them All (it’s a LORD OF THE RINGS reference, btw), and I knew instantly what mine would be. Which in turn, made me stop and consider why that one book isn’t the book I’ve already written or plan to write next.

The answer is pretty straightforward: I’m a coward. I fear I can’t do the concept or the genre justice. I fear that I do not have the skills needed to execute what I would want to be my crowning story.

And no, I won’t tell you what that idea is–what my One Book To Rule Them All is about. Suffice it to say it would be middle grade and so deliciously magical (though with no actual magic or fantasy in it) and brimming with atmosphere you would think about it long after you close its covers.

Well…that’s my dream about it anyway. Clearly, I don’t consider myself up to the task of actually producing that. YET.

What about you? Do you have an idea for that One Book To Rule Them All? Or do you even have an idea like that in mind? If so, what keeps you from writing it now–or have you written it?


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


38 Responses to “One Book To Rule Them All”

  1. Laura Ann Dunks September 14, 2011 at 4:07 AM #

    Butterfly with Broken Wings!

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:54 AM #

      Yay! That’s awesome that it IS the book you’re writing. 😀 How’s it coming, btw?

  2. authorguy September 14, 2011 at 5:53 AM #

    When I started my series I didn’t know it was going to be a series. The book grew as i told it and spilled over into a second book, and then a third. I foresaw long ago that the other books in the series would be books I wasn’t yet able to write, especially the last one.I practice for it by writing other books.

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:54 AM #

      Ahh, but the question implies you CAN’T practice. 🙂 If you could only write one more book, what would it be?

  3. Meredith September 14, 2011 at 6:33 AM #

    Oh yeah, I can relate to this. I definitely have that one book in the back of my mind I feel like should be my ONE book (a YA contemporary), but I haven’t written it. And I don’t know if I ever will. Part of it is fear, part of it … well, no, I guess all of it is fear, actually. Fear for a number of different reasons. Maybe someday.

    • Andi September 14, 2011 at 7:30 AM #

      Only one more … and no practice – I like this question. Hmm, well, I suppose it would be the one I’m working on right now then, which is a YA Urban Fantasy. This one has proven an extremely difficult concept to write and has taken me years and I’m still not done. I am a perfectionist so the one book thing would probably work well for me, as I’d likely happily chip away at it for decades and then start it again, and again … and again. If and if/when it were ever to be published, ideally in this scenario, it would be perfect of course.

      • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:15 AM #

        Wow! That’s AWESOME that you’re working on your One Book. I’m kinda jealous…

        Though, I’m NOT jealous of you’re crazy perfectionism. As author Holly Lisle says, “Safe never starts, perfect never finishes”. 😉

        • Andi September 14, 2011 at 10:57 AM #

          I fight the perfectionism, every day. I’m determined not to let it hold me back. BUT, as far as the One Book -I only say the one I’m currently writing because, 1) I do love it, enough. 2) The perfectionist in me could easily block out any other story from coming through if I were never able to finish my current one, which is not to say that it is the best I think I could do, ever, but, that it’s what I’ve got now. Yes, I know, lame!

          • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM #

            Um, no worries, Andi–I am totally the same. I don’t let any CPs read my work until at LEAST the third or fourth draft. I put my own work through such a tight ringer because I love to do it and, well, I don’t want to give people crap to read!

            Not lame at all. 😀

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

      Yeah, someday…I know I should seize the day NOW and all that, but…I’m way too scared! I suppose I could always TRY, and then if it doesn’t work out, I can try again later… :-/

  4. Arianna Sterling September 14, 2011 at 8:03 AM #

    Mine would be the novel I’m revising at the moment (using the method you posted as guidance, by the way). It was the first novel that I ever became ridiculously excited about–I actually forced myself to finish the WIP I was writing at the time by saying, “Hey, you can’t write a single word of this Weeping thing until you finish Breathtaken” and that resulted in 5 or so chapters being written in about 3 days, where it usually would have taken about a month.

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:15 AM #

      Oh man am I impressed! 5 chapters in 3 days!? Holy crow, Arianna! Well, that’s one amazing motivator, and good luck with WEEPING! From all the hints you’ve dropped about it, it sounds amazing!

  5. savannahjfoley September 14, 2011 at 8:23 AM #

    I read the intro to this post when I woke up at 4AM this morning, and instantly I knew… Nameless. It might be time to tackle another round of revisions…

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM #

      I got chills when I read this, Sav. Do it! NAMELESS is the One Book and you’re SO close. ❤

  6. Ari September 14, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    There’s this one book that I can’t get out of my mind, but I worry that I can’t do it justice either. A book that breathes on its own.
    Something epic, fantastical, with elements of romance, daring, action, adventure…
    Guess I can dream 😉
    P.S. Looking forward to reading your One Book in the future Sooz!

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

      Aww, thanks, Ari! 😀

      But yeah, it’s that fear that I can’t do it justice that holds me back… That fear that when I try, it’ll be OBVIOUS I’m only trying–maybe even trying too hard, you know?

      One day…

  7. Meagan Spooner September 14, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    Oh man, Sooz, that is EXACTLY how I feel about it. Fear keeps me from writing all sorts of things. I almost didn’t write THE IRON WOOD because I didn’t think I was good enough! While I’m not sure specifically what my One Book would be (certainly not anything I’ve written or am writing now) I know I’ve turned away from projects because I’ve felt I wasn’t good enough yet to write them.

    On the one hand, I think sometimes you do have to just push past your fears and just do it, to keep the fear from being crippling. But also on the other, I think it’s good to be able to look at your abilities and skills objectively as a writer and say “I need more practice before I can do that idea justice.” Particularly as long as you have other ideas you’re willing to tackle first!

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:19 AM #

      You’re so right, Meg. Sometimes we just have to push past our fears, and I can tell you that I’ve been doing a LOT of that lately writing the sequel to SS&D. Man, that book has scared me…and still does!

      But you’re also spot on that it’s also good to objectively realize our skills aren’t where they need to be yet to create what we want. The key, I suppose, is in realizing that you ARE ready and then hurdling that fear…

  8. Taryn September 14, 2011 at 8:42 AM #

    I wrote the first draft of my One Book in 2008. I didn’t know it was my One Book then. It sucked. But then I had an idea to change genres, and I was too scared to rewrite it, but finally in April 2011, I tried. And now I have to revise, but that’s scary too. *shudders*

    Thanks for the guilt trip, Susan! 🙂

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:19 AM #

      Hahaha–I am NOT trying to guilt trip you, Taryn. 😉 And I think it’s so amazingly wonderful that you’re revising your One Book. ROCK ON!!!

  9. Yahong September 14, 2011 at 9:10 AM #

    MIDDLE-GRADE FTW! So glad to see the genre getting some more love. 🙂 My One Book would have to be one readers would think about long, long after. One that makes a difference, you know?

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:20 AM #

      Yay for MG! That has become my latest passion… I still adore YA, but for now, my primary reading diet is MG. I have a feeling that this reading level is gonna boom even more in the coming years…

  10. Rowenna September 14, 2011 at 9:49 AM #

    Great question! I have to admit, I’m not sure…if I had to write one more book, one book that I felt could represent “me” in book form forevermore, I think I could take one of two tracks–write the 1780s-set histfic about a broken marriage that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while, or rewrite (really rewrite) the 1940s-set histfic I left on the backburner for a while. I think part of the problem is, I have to get into writing a project before I know if it’s really the gem I thought it was in my head. So…maybe I need to experiment more and find The One. 🙂

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 10:22 AM #

      Aha! But if you experiment, then you might end up wasting your One… 😉

      I totally know what you mean, though, about having to write it to find out if it’s the gem. But I think that’s part of the fear–I don’t think I can make that gem I’m envisioning yet because my craft just isn’t honed enough yet…

  11. Heather September 14, 2011 at 11:23 AM #

    My One Book is a YA fantasy Beauty and the Beast retelling that doesn’t sound that exciting when I describe it to people but I have firm faith that it’s going to be mindblowingly epic. I’ve been trying to write it for about five years and have at least seven unfinished drafts floating around my harddrive. I’ve written other novels in between attempts without that much trouble, but this one just keeps coming back bigger and more difficult. One day you will be defeated, Book, one day!

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:12 PM #

      Mindblowingly epic sounds PRETTY fantastic, if you ask me. 😀 And seven unfinished drafts…your One Book is starting to sound like my book, SCREECHERS. Though that’s not my One Book, it IS a book I adore and have had some tough times with… One day, these pages shall bow to us!!

  12. Katelyn L September 14, 2011 at 12:09 PM #

    Oh, I definitely know what my One Book is. I tried starting it once, about two years ago, but never got that far. I know, without a doubt, that I can’t write that novel yet, but the idea is still there, waiting for when I’m ready. In the meantime, I’ll finish SHATTERHEART and get started on another idea that’s been hounding me. I’ll tackle my One Book when the time is right.

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM #

      Well, since SHATTERHEART is fantastic, then I’m glad your finishing that. 😉 And it’s so interesting to hear how many of us know instantly what our One Book is–and know we can’t do it yet!! (YET being the key word!)

  13. Jessica Silva (@leijessica) September 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM #

    I think I’m writing my One Book right now, but it’s a hard process! I hope I have enough motivation to finish 🙂

    • Susan September 14, 2011 at 5:14 PM #

      Heck yeah! You’ve totally got this, Jess!! And WOOT for writing the One Book now!! (I’m kinda jealous…)

  14. Vanessa Shields September 14, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

    on love and writing…something like that. two topics that never stop filling my brain…and sopping out words…
    i’m very much enjoying writing my first YA novel though…it’s about a closet writer and her first love…hmmm…i see a similarity….

    • Susan September 17, 2011 at 9:21 AM #

      I see the similarity too, Vanessa. 😉 And it’s cool to know you’re writing your One Book! Good luck with it! ❤

  15. milhouse2011 September 14, 2011 at 11:31 PM #

    I guess my book would be a political thriller using a high school as an allegory. It’s been in my head since I was 17.
    As for actually writing it, that’s another story.

    • Susan September 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM #

      Haha, I totally relate to that! My idea has been in my head for a long time too–I know the characters intimately, and yet…writing the darn thing is another animal entirely!

  16. annafantastica September 15, 2011 at 6:21 PM #

    It’s a toss up.

    Door number one: The book I’m working on now. I absolutely love it and feel really passionate about the story, but the more I wrote and outlined, the more I realized it would be a series that requires some SERIOUS planning to be something (hopefully) magnificent. I’m mostly working on developing the plot now, because every time I sit down to write more, I feel like something is missing.

    Door number two: A thriller, sort-of-zombie book that I absolutely must write someday. But, I feel like I need more experience in novel writing before I pursue it. I have the entire plot in my head, but it intimidates me, because it could be great or just dreadful, if not done correctly. It’s set in the not too far future, and for someone who usually writes futuristic/alternate world novels, something more modern is scary!

    • Susan September 17, 2011 at 9:27 AM #

      Well, for a toss up, it’s good to know at least one option is the one you’re writing now!! I can totally relate to that “missing something” feeling. That happened (still is happening?) with my WIP SCREECHERS. The darn thing has been written and rewritten so many times now, and even though I’m pretty satisfied, there’s still something…something I can’t quite put my finger on that the story needs.

      And eeeeee to zombie thrillers! Having written a zombie book myself, I am always excited to hear about other people’s!! 😀

  17. Dida Shepard September 23, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

    Oh this is an interesting question (yes I know I’m late to the party) I have a couple books I *hope* will be that One Book, but at this point in time I don’t know if I’m ready to write any of them, but the how will I know if I never try I suppose right?

  18. Michelle October 30, 2011 at 12:33 AM #

    If it were only ONE, I guess I would go skipping through all the practice stories and head straight to the core of my life, pull out the insides, like gutting a pumpkin, and build , “A walk through Israel.” A true story, about Love and War.

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