Monday, October 26, 2009

26 October progress, and a bit on the NJRW conference

Sometimes the generosity of our published authors astounds me.

On Friday night, after the awards ceremony, I realized I'd entered my story in a total of seven contests: two in 1996, before an incident had me shelving the story and turning to other writing outlets, and five since 2005 where it reached the finals four times. The best it ever placed was third, however, and it did that twice. Always the same kind of comments (and I must add, some of them have me wondering whether the judge actually read the work or skimmed so missed some salient points. I mean, if someone is faceless, chances are you haven't seen his/her face, right?): Excellent writing skills, beautiful imagery yadda, yadda, yadda. BUT . . .

So, on Friday night, I threw me, myself, and I a huge pity party, cried my eyes shut (and paid in spades Saturday morning!), and debated tossing the %*&@ manuscript in the trash. Those kinds of comments give no direction. WHAT is behind the incessant "but?" Where was I---and I didn't fool myself the story was at fault (although blaming it would have been so much easier)---falling short?

Saturday morning, I talked to a friend who is a NYT best selling author. She asked if I'd read her comments. What? It turns out she was my published judge. She told me she'd written extensive comments (which, the contest coordinators promise, I shall have by email tomorrow) and knew what the story lacked. Then she talked to me and put a face on that elusive "but."

She didn't have to do that. The woman has a career many of us would commit some kind of felony to have. Even so, she took the time. I am so grateful.

I told her about the challenge, too. She thinks it's a great idea, but told me to trash the prologue I'd written, and then told me why I should. (Okay, I'm cringing here, but I have to say this:) After thinking about it, I have to agree, she's right.

So everything I've done so far goes into the circular file, but it'll be worth it for a stronger, more saleable manuscript.

What other profession gives so freely of its time to those that would follow?

Writing is a lonely, often discouraging profession, but there are hands out there ready to help, encourage, even slap, if need be. How can we not offer the same to each other and, in time, those who will follow us? I must say, I feel honored and privileged to be counted among such amazing, selfless women.

Now it's on to keeping my part of this challenge bargain. I'm excited. Scared, but excited.

Time to get to work!

4 comments:

Christine said...

I've heard the elusive "but" before and it is hard to know what it means -- to have someone who truly knows this industry explain it to you is amazing. What a generous person!! There are so many times I think to myself, "I wish I had learned this or that thing BEFORE I wrote my MS (regardless of the MS), but at least I learned it before I started the NEXT MS.

My MAGGIE fnialist MS didn't final a year ago--but I took the judges' critiques and battled mighty hard to apply most into the revision. It finaled this year. Again, I got a four page critique from one of the published authors. I am saving it. I hope to meet her/him one day. I also applied her words into tweaking the MS for the GH.

Best of luck to you in all your writing and I hope you hit the bullseye this year!!

Kate said...

What great help. That's wonderful to have someone point that elusive "but" out to you.

1700 words in three convuluted scenes, followed by hearing 14 American deaths in helicopter accidents in Afghanistan today. I'm sure my writing will be darker tomorrow. And I ate four ice cream sandwiches tonight in a fit of nerves. My diet is hitting a brick wall. Hope my writing doesn't. Dark is okay. Stopped is not.

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

No writing done yet today. The in-laws showed up from VA and, because I love my sweetheart, that meant entertaining and feeding. It was a pleasant visit, however, and they will probably be back before heading home at the end of the week. These things happen so I'll kiss it up and go on.

I may be taking my dh to the emergency room in the a.m.--something else to put a crimp in the writing time (the story of my life, it seems), but the tearing pain he gets when he coughs has me concerned. If it doesn't ease up by tomorrow--he's assuring me it's getting better--then he's going, like it or not.

Christine,

It's great to know the judges' crits were so helpful to you. And a four page crit is just wonderful. Humbling and exhilerating, isn't it?

Kate,

Dark is okay, but you daughter wouldn't want you to stop writing. I'm sure she's as proud of you as you are of her. The last thing she needs is to feel guilty for derailing your ambition. Keep writing so she can stay focused on coming home safe and sound.

Continued prayers for both of you.

Christine said...

Kate: I am keeping your daughter in my prayers. I understand the eating for comfort--I took up knitting for a while to help stop my shoveling of fork to mouth. Timer on the computer helps.

Gwynlyn: hope your DH is feeling better soon! Mine is going for a hip replacement in the new year. I will be hauling my laptop to the hospital and the PT office in 2010.

Didn't accomplish much yesterday. My BF called long distance from Canada and we chatted way too long, but I was glad I did. I got my first CPs critique back... and a partial back from the other CP--much must be done to shore up the first two scenes or so, but I am brainstorming them now.

Will hit the revision on the first 50 pages for the GH really hard on Monday, the 2nd.