The Fear of the Known World

In case you aren’t aware, this year’s Harlequin/Mills & Boon sponsored mega writing contest, So You Think You Can Write, begins taking submissions of first chapters and pitches on Monday. As you may know, I entered one of my inspirational romance WIPs in the contest last year on the very last day that you could submit, not expecting much. I didn’t make it into the top 50, but I made a ton of writing buddies. I threw myself into NaNoWriMo with a completely different type of manuscript and started taking the possibility of a writing career seriously. It was this contest that started it all for me. One year and a slef-published Christian non-fiction book later, and I again have the opportunity to enter. I’m a year better and wiser. I have a new WIP that scored high in a contest this year and that all of those judges are confident would catch an editor’s eye. You would think I’d be falling all over myself to hit the submit button. Except…

…the sales of that four year labor of love, Altered before the Altar, aren’t exactly soaring. I have no idea what I’m doing, marketing wise. No one is buying it, and I don’t know how to fix it. The things I do know to do, I can’t seem to get myself into position to do–get reviews, garner attention through guest posts, host giveaways, etc.

…I’m a nobody. Nobody knows about my blogs, twitter, facebook, or Instagram. No one is beating down my door to represent me or buy my books. The people who matter in publishing have no idea that I even exist. I haven’t gone up in followers/friends very much in all of my posting and commenting. I’m just as stuck and below the radar on social media as I am in real life social situations.

Of course, none of this has any real bearing on my reluctance to participate in SYTYCW2014. All of this was true last year, minus the book I can’t seem to give away, let alone sale. So let’s get to the real reasons, shall we?

…I’ve racked up three rejections and an almost contest final in romance submissions. That’s a real stab in the gut. All of the feedback for the submissions is the same: promising, but not quite there yet.

…I have an even greater chance of not making the second round this year. Instead of a Top 50, SYTYCW2014 has a top 25. My chances are half as good as last year for getting to the second round. If the same number enter as entered last year, that’s over 650 authors vying for 25 spots, or a 1 in 26 chance.

…The timeline is much tighter. SYTYCW2014 will announce a winner nearly a full month sooner than last year. If I make the second round, I have less than a week to get the complete manuscript turned around. There’s not as much time for revising and editing and such this time around, so whatever I enter has to be written, revised and edited before they pick the top 25 October 6, or about 3 weeks from now.

…I know what to expect. I know my work will be seen by editors and other participants. I know that feedback can be brutal. I know I can get to the Top 25 and not make the Top 10, or make the Top 10 and not win. I know that they could still contact me after the contest if they want me to submit my full, revise and resubmit or etc. I know how hard, how improbable, but still so possible all of this really is. I know what needs to be done better this time around in my writing. And it’s scary me stupid.

…I am still finding things in the story I need to fix. There are still places where the motivation needs to be clearer, the conflict stronger, still places that can be wrung out for more emotion. There are still a couple of places I don’t want to go with it but I have to go with it to make it a real contender. I don’t know if I have it in me to take it to that next level.

But there are some good reasons for me to enter this year:

…my writing is stronger.

…Everyone who has read even a chapter or two of this story loves it. I knew from the moment I had the idea for this story that these characters were the kind that don’t let go. The idea feels fresh and the conflicts feel impossible to overcome initially. It has the makings of a great story.

…because all of the judges in the Valerie Parv Award Contest think this story should be in front of an editor (even the published author, who pointed out the areas for improvement as well as the things I nailed).

…because of that contest, I already have a synopsis (and pointers on how to make it stronger).

…because this might be one of those defining moments where everything changes and nothing is like it was before.

…because I know I’m not going to give up on this dream. If no other copies of Altered before the Altar get sold, or everyone hates it; if I don’t sell a romance for another five years, and when I do the reading public pans it; if the only thing about my writing anyone could say at my funeral is “at least she isn’t writing anymore”–I’m going to keep writing and reaching for this dream.

So, anyway, I say all of this to say: I’m entering my first chapter in SYTYCW 2014 this year.

XOXO,

Erica

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When Great Writing Goes Wrong…

I have a confession to make: I have been avoiding #LoveThyEnemy. And Pleasure’s Payne. And a couple other ones. I haven’t been avoiding them for the usual reasons; I didn’t run into an issue with the manuscript that I can’t write past or am unsure what happens next. The problem is that my writing has been scaring me lately. Why? Because I think it’s…good. 

That may seem a little backwards, but here’s the thing: all the writing advise says that first drafts are bad. The great Ernest Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is crap. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter of her popular fiction writing book Bird by Bird dedicated to crappy first drafts. Some random twitter quote said that a writing who thinks he is writing well is probably writing really badly. The encouragement is always to get whatever crap you can on the page because you can’t fix a blank page, but you can fix a crappy one. But what about a good page?

I’m not saying that every word of #LoveThyEnemy or Pleasure’s Payne is golden. I’m not saying that I have proofread and revised the sections I have written so that they look as good as they do. What I am saying is that maybe, just a little bit, I’ve hit my stride and found my voice with these stories. The thing is, I’ve set the beginnings up well enough that I have to deliver something at the end. The thing is, I can feel great within my reach, and it’s a little scary. Intimidating. All of these great words are clogging up the well. I’m finding new and exciting ways to procrastinate…like writing this post. Bah!

There’s also the possibility that I’m wrong. Every word I’ve written could be drivel. It could be moving in the opposite direction of what everyone in publishing is going in. Or it could be to on trend. Maybe what I have is a steaming pile of crap that needs to be excavated for the evidences that at some point a decent story existed. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed novice with her compass all messed up.

So I called in the big guns. Instead of keeping this project to myself as I have been, I am getting my Beta Reader on the case. Having to turn over my words to her keeps me on track and helps me focus. Next week is my week to share writing with my critique partners, and I’ll send them what I have as well. I entered 10,000 words of #LoveThyEnemy into contest, and plan to enter Pleasure’s Payne into a contest as well. I am putting my work out there for both egregious praise to bolster my self-confidence, constructive criticism to help me fix things that are going wrong, and feedback from contest judges, with the possibility of them garnering an editor or agents attention.

On (Not) Wimping Out

The past three days have been hard writing days for yours truly. I didn’t like what I wrote for Friday’s words, I wrote less than a thousand words at 10pm last night (meaning I wasted all of my morning writing hours–all four of them!), and this morning, I’m struggling again to get words on the page. With a manuscript that stands at a little more than 44,500 words, I am losing my momentum on it. The doubts are beginning to creep in: is the suspense element strong enough? Is the romance element strong enough? I haven’t gotten these characters on the same page in too many pages. When is she going to tell him she loves him? Is he going to tell her he loves her first? How are the conflicts going to be realistically resolved so they can be together (I resolved one conflict last night. Whew! Only one or two more to go)? How is this all going to end?

Other than these doubts, I’ve been dealing with minor characters trying to take over the story, awkward attempts at sensual scenes, and the ever looming realization that if I target Harlequin romantic suspense, I still have 20,000 words beyond NaNoWriMo to account for. Gah! No wonder I’m plastered to the ceiling! So. Much. Pressure!

Then I received a wonderful piece of advice from Sarah M. Anderson’s online workshop on revision (among a million other great pieces of advice in the forum). She reminded all of us that the holidays is not the time to send in a manuscript, as many editors are in and out of town, and requested manuscripts and establish author manuscripts tend to get priority. She told unpublished and unrequested authors to hold off until the new year, to use the next month to polish and revise. I had planned to do this initially, but I was fighting the impulsive side I had that wanted to hit send on this manuscript on December 5th and get the waiting started already. Hearing her words, in effect, gave me back a few weeks to get the story like I wanted.

I’m going to finish NaNoWriMo, and have all the major scenes, plot points, and resolutions/endings in the manuscript. I will continue on until the close of business November 30th, even if I have hit 50,000. But after that, I’m setting it aside until Monday December 10th. I am just going to get the things I still need to get on paper on the page, then I’ll go back and extend scenes that need to be elaborated on, fix word choices, find grammatical areas, deep clean each chapter…whatever editing tricks and tools float my boat. Then I’ll add in my chapter headings and make sure it’s properly formatted. Finally, I’ll develop my query letter and synopsis. Beginning December 10th, not now. Right now, all I need to do is get the words on the page in a fun way that keeps me motivated for at least 5,000 more words.

I’ve always had a problem ending things, of letting them be done so I can move on to the next step. I’m not a finisher. The problem is usually that fear chokes me. I am determined not to let fear choke me so close to my goal. It doesn’t have to be perfect; I have an entire month to sit with it and perfect it. Right now, it just has to get done.

Send me prayers and encouragement for better writing days and to finish NaNoWriMo strong and still proud of what I’ve accomplished.

How are you holding up this month?

XOXO

Erica

The Green Eyed, Pen Wielding Monster

green-eyed abyssinian

I'm battling the Green Eyed Monster...No, not this one... Image via Wikipedia

I’m fighting the Green-Eyed Monster this Monday morning, my friends.

A person I went to high school with, who may have been mentioned previously, has been published. She’s a self-proclaimed theater geek, someone who loves the production side of putting on plays. I have no idea how long she’s been writing, what inspired her to write, or when her first two books were accepted. I wasn’t there for the journey, just the facebook updates.

The latest facebook update, that her third book is being published, was met at first with a wonderful rush of good cheer and congratulations. I love it when people are achieving their goals and moving forward in life. I’m the type of person that can be happy for other people, even when my life is worthy of a good flush and a few floral scented sprays from an aerosol can. I’m happy when my friends are happy.

But then, a soft, insistent voice began speaking in my ear. “But, why isn’t that you? You’re a great writer. You’ve ALWAYS wanted to write for a living. She’s living your life, and you’re happy for her; that’s cool. I don’t understand it, but whatever floats your boat, right? But when’s it going to be your turn?”

I try to tune it out, but the thing is, the Green-Eyed one has a very attractive voice (he should really consider a career as a voice over artist). He’s also very observant. He’s seen me at my computer perfecting piece after piece. He’s seen me send out three separate pieces and receive three identical rejections. He knows exactly which emotional buttons to push to get this writer all riled up.

But I’m fighting him off with work. I’ve done two marriage kit interviews in the past week. I’m knee deep in work on this college preparatory course (to be turned into possible eBook). I’ve set goals for myself to send off one piece and finish a chapter of another. I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading inspiring quotes and blog posts and listening to empowering messages. Yet, somehow I still feel I’m on the losing end of this battle.

As hard as I’ve been working with all of these blogs, the readership is still low. Even with fresh, well-executed ideas for new content, design tweaks, promotion on Facebook and Twitter, guest posters, a full digital recorder, and most of my creative energy and positive thoughts focused on it, the readership still hasn’t grown much. Despite giving these endeavors my best, I’ve made little to know progress. How, then, can I expect my fiction and memoir writing to make any waves in a much bigger pond?

This morning, I’ve been tired. I’ve filled as much time as I could taking in post from other writers, gathering to myself suggestions to shake up my writing life, but I still feel bereft of any real motivation to write anything. Instead, I just feel a weak pulse of jealousy mixed in with fear of rejection, insecurity, and discouragement. My writing self is on life support…

The Green Eyed Monster is about to claim another victim.