Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Tale of THE MAZE RUNNER


This book has had quite the journey, and there's so many little lessons wrapped up in its tale, that it needs to be told. I think I'll do it in the form of a timeline.




Fall 2005: I did some serious thinking about my author career. The JIMMY FINCHER SAGA was complete, the fourth book having come out in August that year. Those 4 books had been with a small regional publisher, and had done very well, relatively speaking (20,000 or so sold).

But I'd known from the very beginning that I wanted more, much more.

My publisher at the time wanted another book, and I was dinking around with some ideas. But I made a very important decision. I would no longer settle for small regional sales. I'd either make it nationally, or I'd never have another book come out.


Nov 2005: I went to bed, and somehow this idea popped in my head about a bunch of teenagers living inside an unsolvable Maze full of hideous creatures, in the future, in a dark, dystopian world. It would be an experiment, to study their minds. Terrible things would be done to them. Awful things. Completely hopeless. Until the victims turn everything on its head. I thought of it as LORD OF THE FLIES meets ENDER'S GAME meets HOLES.

And then the "twist" popped in my head, and all hope of getting any sleep that night was gone.

I got up, went downstairs, and jotted notes for a couple of hours on the basic story.


Dec 2005 - Mar 2006: I wrote the book. It ended up at 68,000 words. I felt like it should be longer, have more depth, a lot more character development. But the STORY was so cool, and I was so in love with it, I lost patience. I started submitting to agents. Looking back, it was a mistake. The book wasn't ready.


Feb 2006: I drove Stacy Whitman of Mirrorstone Books to the airport after a writer's conference. She really loved the concept of the book, and told me to send it to her.


April 2006: Everyone rejected me, except for my former agent, Jenny Rappaport. She thought it needed some work, kind of said "maybe." She was changing agencies, and told me she'd get back to me. Meanwhile, Stacy also said it needed a lot of work, and promised an editorial letter when she could get to it.


May-June 2006: I once again showed impatience and abandoned MAZE (thinking I'd wait and see what happened with Jenny and Mirrorstone) and started writing a book that would end up being called THE WORLD SIFTER (another story for another time).


July 24, 2006: Jenny called me and offered representation. She still thought the book needed work, but decided to send it out to a handful of publishers to see their reactions. If it got rejected across the board, we'd do some major rewrites. (In hindsight, this seemed like a terrible mistake. If the book needed rewrites, it needed rewrites. But Jenny and I were both young and new in this business.)


Aug-Nov 2006: We received some very nice rejections, which made me realize this book had a lot of potential. The editor from Harper Collins said she had a hard time letting it go, but in the end the committee just couldn't commit to it. Another editor said I was an excellent worldbuilder, but the writing and the characters weren't strong enough. Out of 5 submissions, we received 5 personalized rejections, all of which basically said it just wasn't quite there.


Nov 2006: Having met Lisa and Chris from Shadow Mountain, who'd had a ton of national success with FABLEHAVEN and LEVEN THUMPS, I decided to submit to them. They rejected it, but liked my writing and potential enough that we eventually ended up partnering on THE 13TH REALITY series. In fact, my contract specifically said they had no rights to MAZE since they'd rejected it.


Dec 2006-Dec 2007: I completely put MAZE in the closet, too excited about 13TH REALITY and with too much work to do. I knew it needed to be rewritten, but didn't feel like I had the time or energy to do it.


Jan 2008: Stacy Whitman wrote me a very detailed editorial letter on MAZE. Yes, it was a very long time after I'd submitted it to her, but I certainly don't blame her. She has plenty to do without devoting serious time to a book that's not that great.

But man, this letter was brilliant. She nailed everything that was wrong with it. I decided that despite everything going on with 13TH REALITY, I could at least devote enough time to rewrite the first 50 pages of MAZE. Stacy agreed that Mirrorstone would make a decision based just on that and a synopsis. And so THE MAZE RUNNER officially became a proposal, not a full manuscript.


Feb 2008: I spent a full week working on those first 50 pages. You can find out some of the things I learned from that by reading a prior post I did: CLICK HERE. (I never did a Part 2, by the way. I couldn't think of anything else to say about it.)

Not only had Stacy given me some great advice, I'd grown a lot as a writer in the last couple of years. The rewritten 50 pages were about 1,328 times better than the original. In my humble opinion.

By the way, along about here, I decided to part ways with Jenny. Please don't read anything into that - I just felt it was time for me to move on. Sometimes business relationships work out, sometimes they don't.


Mar 2008: Stacy told me that she loved the rewrite, and would send it to committee with her full endorsement. I'll just say here that they ended up rejecting me, right before I got the eventual deal. Stacy was disappointed, and so was I, but they have a very limited number of titles. A lot of people there liked it, but in the end not enough. You can read Stacy's reaction to my deal on her blog: CLICK HERE. I owe her a LOT!


April 2008: My good friend, Sara Zarr, author of the 2007 National Book Award finalist STORY OF A GIRL, kept telling me how awesome her agent is (Michael Bourret). I believed her, and took advantage of her recommendation. I emailed him the proposal for MAZE. (You can read Sara's reaction to my deal: CLICK HERE.)


May 2008: Michael liked MAZE enough to sign me. We spent 2 weeks going back and forth, making changes to the proposal. I realized he's very good at what he does, and once again MAZE became better. The biggest thing he did was push me to come up with ALL the backstory, even if no one ever sees it. I can't tell you how valuable that was.

Once we were both satisfied, Michael submitted MAZE as a proposal (50 pages, synopsis) to 10 publishers.


June 19, 2008: Michael calls me while I'm at lunch with my mom and family. He asks me how I'm doing. I say fine. He says he bets I'm about to be a lot better. I say hit me. He tells me that Krista Marino from Delacorte has made an offer. Later I google Delacorte and realize they're an imprint of Random House (I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know that). It hits me then just how big a deal that offer was.


June 24, 2008: Unfortunately, I can't say much more. Some agents are open about their deals with the public, some are not. Michael has asked me not to give any details. But suffice it to say that on this day, the deal became official, and it was much better than the original offer.


So there you have it. THE MAZE RUNNER, after being kicked around the block a few times, finally has a home. I owe enormous thanks to Stacy, Sara, Michael, and Krista. All of them believed in me and made this happen.

It's scheduled for a Fall 2009 release, which means I have until September 15th to (re)write the rest of the book. That's 2 months from yesterday.

Folks, I have a LOT of work to do.

46 comments:

J.N. Future Author said...

Ah! *save, reread*...*go back, reread*

Im SO excited for this book! i can only IMAGINE how fun that would be to write!!!! thats one of the best ideas iv heard in a while! it would be so fun to write about a maze world! i mean, if it has monsters in the maze, SO MUCH COULD HAPPEN!

Wow, now im excited for it, and im not even writing it! seriously, let your imagination soar!

Crystal Liechty said...

I'm trying to think of something snarky and funny to say but I can't. There are times when no jokes are possible and I must just tip my hat at you and say, "Well done."

Kimberly said...

What an incredible journey. And the concept of the book has me more than intrigued. Can't wait!

I suppose we won't see much of you here for a couple months, eh?

Elizabeth said...

super super news to read...i hope that my success story will be as exciting! :-)

Melinda said...

James,

Once again, all I can say is congrats, you deserve it.

Well, I can say a lot more, but why?

You dah man!

Tamra Norton said...

It's been quite a ride these past five years, James! Watching things as they've unfolded has ALMOST beed as fun for me as it has for you. Almost! :) And really...this is just the beginning!

The Anderson's said...

James,
that is really cool, I know how hard you have worked to make all this happen!
Blake

Q said...

Okay, I want to read this book. What are you doing blogging when you have "a LOT of work to do"?

Okay, just kidding. I like to hear stories.

ally condie said...

Good for you! The (former) English teacher in me is thinking, "Dang, that book would be SO cool to teach in a classroom."

SarahK said...

I remember reading the first few chapters of the original...so I am STOKED!

James Dashner said...

Thanks, guys. I've had a lot of fun today piecing out my new outline compared to the old one, trying to figure out the structure of this thing, what I'm keeping, what I'm tossing, etc.

I really think this will be my best book ever.

Mindy said...

What a great story (like so many other things you have written)! Thanks for the tip on Curious Letters from DB. Went to Sandy today to get it! My daughter and I are fighitng over it.

Shay said...

Wow! That's great. I can't wait...another book...wow still going on about it. It sounds like it will be a very good book it might even top the 13th reality...maybe. =D

Jaime Theler said...

A testament to the power of persistence and never giving up. I am so thrilled for you!

Eowyn said...

Psst. Don't tell anyone, but I might actually be more excited about The Maze Runner than 13th Reality 2, but don't worry. I'll still buy 13th Reality 2, but I'm for sure buying MR. I'm pretty sure my honey will looove it.

And your journey through it sounds amazing.

James Dashner said...

Well, actually, I also think it will be better than 13th Reality. Hopefully, I'm always improving!

It's definitely very different.

Shay said...

different is good. =D i just started writting a new book that i'm really enjoying, and some how i'm still working on the third and fourth of my other series...it's entirely different from my other books and i don't know where it came from. i plan on turning it in before school starts, so at least i can hope for something...
wish you all luck possible =)

Arlene said...

Wow, I knew it took a lot to get this baby published but that's quite a journey!By the way, I hate that there is no set date for the release, or have I missed it completely? And why WHY didn't I steal your ARC when I had the chance at LTUE? I know you want to give it to me.

Arlene said...

HA! My verification word is trial. No joke. Does this mean that I should view my wait for the Maze Runner AS a trial? Or that you, my friend, are a trial that I'm just going to have to live with in order to get my copy of the book?

Arlene said...

I'm such an idiot, like falling straight on my face idiot. I see now that the release date is October 13th.

No really. I'm okay.

Anonymous said...

i am a book seller, and i just read the adavnced readers copy of the maze runner. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! this book is incredible. i could not put it down!!!!!!!!!!! and the ending blew me off the couch!!!! this is a MUST READ. this is the best read of the year. you have to read this book!!! i sure there is a second book.

James Dashner said...

Wow, thanks for that! And from a bookseller. Thanks for making my day!

bookseller said...

i sure hope you consider writing a second book. you Made me Need to turn the page to see what happened to these kids!! i NEED you to continue!!! i have no idea why they are touting this book as "young adult" because i think everyone will enjoy it. and i will be sure to put this book in the hands of everyone who walks in the store!!! i have read Lord Of The Flies 5 times and this really has the same feel. who knows? this book could become a classic too! kudos to you Mr Dashner!

James Dashner said...

Wow, you are SO nice. Thank you!

And don't worry, Book 2 (The Scorch Trials) is already written and comes out next October.

bookseller said...

oh thank God!!!!! i'm so happy!!! i'll have to make sure my rep gets me the galley when it comes out, cuz october 2010 is way too long to wait!!! and it will make it much easier to sell if i have already read it when it comes out. yay!! i'm so excited!!!!!!!!! thanks for book 2!!!

Ramona said...

I am a children's book seller in Mississippi, and I just have to tell you that The Maze Runner is one of the best books I've read all year. I finished the galley in July and have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to hand sell this title! 28 days is still too long to wait. All the teens in our book club (not to mention my co-workers) have heard me rave about it, and I am so glad to read you never gave up it despite its many challenges. The Maze Runner is supreme!

James Dashner said...

Thank you Ramona! Thank you so much! You really made my day....

Anonymous said...

I just finished the book The Maze Runner. It is awesome !!!!!! Thank you soooooooooo much. When will book two come out?

reg said...

I just finished THE MAZE RUNNER and it was amazing!!! I totally loved it!

Jasen said...

I just finished the book today and i LOVED it my favorite book of all time no doubt! Definitely not klunk

Harry said...

I just finished the Maze Runner the other day, and I can honestly say that it was the best book I've ever read in my 14 year lifetime. But I do kind of hate you for pages 356 through 358. I cried so hard!! The ending totally exploded my mind, and I want to invent a way to break into people's minds, so I can figure out wht happens in the Scorch Trials. By the way, are we allowed to know what year these books are set in, or would that give stuff away?

Vivien Chai said...

After fully reading your blogs and the Maze Runner, I'm just going to sit in the corner, eat a banana, and drive myself crazy waiting till it's October. Look what you did to me, Dashner.

Anonymous said...

I just finished this book today. I am a thirteen year old girl thats in 8th grade and many people rave and comment so good on this text. I loved it, are you going to write a second one?

Ayumi said...

Wow, hi Mr. Author~ this book was certainly interesting-I'm currently on chapter 34 in 2 days- you see, I've spent my sleeping, eating and class hours wondering if I should just read the next chapter(and the next, next,next)-and never in my life have I thought that books can be such harm to readers(joking) I love how you portray a community that only guys live, how crude and ruling they would be. Other than the plot, your style of writing is very interesting, it gets the reader to think "ooh! I have that same feeling!". The character that seems to grasp me at heart was Minho, may I ask if you meant for him to be Korean? >_< Coward he was at first, I'd say, but a very strong character. Before I began to babble again, I wan to say, thank you for writing such a book.

Bryn said...

this book sat in my room for about a month before i finally got to it. i kept putting it off cause everyone was talking about how horribly it ended. when i did start it i couldn't put it down. i spent my entire Saturday reading it! i can't wait till the second one comes out!
and to those who are like me; the ending isn't all that bad it's just kinda shocking.

Ista (: mencavage said...

i had to read your book for an authors project i had to do in english. i was actually really suprised to find such an interesting book, and a book i was actually excited to read on the list. Cuz let me tell ya the list had the most boringest books ever. and i know boringest isnt a word. but i really liked it! i think it will become a classic though, because it was on the list! and that list was all about classics. im so happy i found your book on there, you have noooo idea. anyways, im in 9th grade and i loved it. and i recommended it to my friends. but school ends in three days and they all want to check it out. so it sucks for them! cuz they actually have to go to the library. But since your book is alreay in my school library i think you'll make it big. and once you get a whole bunch of money you should give me fifty bucks for recommending it to my friends ;) im totally kidding....kind of. so good luck! im going to read the second one. i think. if i have time... im going to be in highschool so... maybe. k bye!

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Bryan said...

James Dashner, dude! My name is Bryan. My english teacher owns a copy of The Maze Runner and I've read both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials because my friend Ryan told me The Maze Runner was a great book and convinced me to read it as well as the sequel. I found both books interesting! The Scorch Trials had kind of a cliffhanger ending but it's okay. I've recently heard about the third and final book in the series called The Death Cure and I can't wait until that book is released!! EXCELLENT JOB, DUDE!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!By the way, I have three questions for you, James:
1)What's The Death Cure going to be about? You know, background information?
2)Will Teresa ever fully 100% regain Thomas's trust?
3)Just where and what is Gally up to?

Samuel Ward said...

Awesome books James, my name is Samuel ward, I'm 14 years old, and I live in Boise Idaho.I got the maze runner for my 14th birthday last November and I read it in two days, I literally could not put it down. I'm dying to read the death cure I'm not trying to sound selfish but if you could get The Death Cure out by like now that would be perfect,I don't know if I can wait all the way till October, 2011, I might forget it all. but anyway I absolutely loved the first two and can't wait till the third. hope you make it to Boise soon,
Samuel

Samuel Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

sorry accidentally published it twice

Anonymous said...

the last one was from me Samuel too

Anonymous said...

ya I think mike chang off glee would be perfect to play minho if there is ever a movie[miike chang is korean by the way he looks exactly like i have imagined minho]

Nicole said...

Omg! I read two of your books(The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) in a total of 3 days and I can't believe how great it was! You're an inspiring writer and I also can't wait for the third book! The Death Cure!

15 and loves to write said...

THE MAZE RUNNER and THE SCORCH TRIALS are my favorite book series of all time!! You are so good with your words and i just love how you make the book feel like its real, like you could walk out your door and the Glade could be standing in front of you. Out of all the books I've read (and I read at least one a week sometimes more) your books are my favorite! I have the 13th reality books and of course the maze runner and the scorch trials (Jimmy Fincher is next on my list) You are an amazing author and i think im writing too much but i just wanted you to know that i think you're amazing!!

Grace said...

Such an amazing trilogy <3