Building Your Own Cage

by Ron Estrada

Recently I received a phone call from my agent. Yes, it was “the” call. A big 5 publisher read my entire middle-grade manuscript and likes what she sees. However, if I don’t mind, please re-write the entire thing and here’s a better idea for the series.

Now, I’ve been at this for a long, long time. I’m way past pride. I have arrived at the “whatever you want I’ll do it because I’m going to die soon” phase of my career.

So the re-writing, as of this post, is almost complete. The first quarter of the book has been slashed and about a dozen chapters added to please aforementioned publisher. As much as I hate to admit it, the story is much better. I have yet to resubmit and sign a contract, but even if it doesn’t work out with this publisher, I feel my odds of success are greatly improved thanks to her input.

Same with the series suggestions.

If you’re like me, you have a tendency to box yourself in with your series idea. I had so completely sold myself on the concept of my Navy Brats series that I left no room for better ideas. I had intended to write about a different Navy Brat in the years spanning 1968 through 1984 because, you know, I lived it.

The publisher said (and I’m paraphrasing), “boooooooriiiiiing.”

Know what kids want to read about? War. The stuff in their history books. She loved my idea of using military families in my stories, but suggesting I use some recognizable historical incidents as my setting. She blasted my original Navy Brat series, even hated the name. So where does that leave me?


Suddenly, I’m not caged in by my own narrow scope for my book and series. To be honest, I was absolutely hung up with book two of my original idea. And not willing to change directions. Sure, I knew that a military brat in the middle of the attack on Pearl Harbor would be somewhat more interesting than the same brat in 1972 Hawaii, but I couldn’t see past my own self-imposed restrictions.

Now I’m already planning book two of the new series (still don’t have a good name) and reading up on the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. And this is exciting stuff! My middle-grade readers will eat it up.

So the moral of my story today is thus: when you get “the” phone call with a long list of suggestions, there’s a good chance the publisher knows what she’s talking about. And there’s also a good chance that your story and series will be much improved whether you get this deal or not.

What about you? Has a suggestion from a publisher or agent drastically changed the direction of your writing? Or are you, right now, stuck in a series you’re no longer excited about?


Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at  You can e-mail him at or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.