The Bright Side of Losing

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No one ever said writing would be easy.  It’s a blood sport and you have to be willing to take a number of brutal blows to your confidence.  First, there’s the inner critic who always has a nasty word on the tip of her tongue.  Then, there’s a reader who doesn’t get it.  And don’t forget the agent who isn’t interested or the editor who thinks your short story isn’t good enough.  The list goes on and on.

At the moment, my inner critic is basking in the fact that I’ve lost yet another writing contest.  She’s quick to point out that this is the fourth one where I haven’t impressed anyone.  It feels a lot like sipping lemonade with a fat lip.   A year ago, a blow like this would have sent me slouching in a corner for a month.  Not now.  If anything, I’m determined to come back swinging.  Four is a little number and I’ve come to look at it like a rite of passage. Every writer with a published book has been rejected more than once and it just so happens to be my turn to pay those dues.

Instead of focusing on the loss, I’m going to focus on my victories over the last few months.  My dream of becoming a writer is slowly coming true one little step at a time.  The victories are small, but they all lead towards the larger goal of finding a publisher.

1. In April, I launched a blog that people actually read.  After much trepidation, I started this blog as a way to motivate my muse.  It’s been an amazing experience and I couldn’t be more grateful for each person who stops by to read my work.

2. In June, I finished the final draft of my novel.  After three years of toil, my first novel can be classified as edited and revised.  To make the journey even more fulfilling, I found the courage to share my work with four beta readers.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, which makes the next step of querying agents so much easier to take.

3. On August 10, 2011 The Daily Post chose to feature Muse Juice.  This was the first time something I’ve written showed up on a site other than my own.  Very exciting, indeed.

4. On August 11, 2011, I got the shock of my life when The Best Souvenirs Are Free was Freshly Pressed.  For a writer who has never been published, this was absolutely amazing.  I’m still giddy.

5. On Thanksgiving Day my letter about a random act of kindness was published in The Arizona Republic.  For the first time, I saw my pen name in print.  My muse and I celebrated with a happy dance.  This victory means the world to me as its the first time an editor chose to publish my work.

The process has only just begun and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Yes, the rejections are plentiful and always forthcoming, but the victories (no matter how small) outweigh every “no” I receive.

c.b. 2011

Query Letter Torture

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The query letter process is a bit like torture . . . slow and painful.  Between trying to construct the perfect hook to whittling my entire novel down to a few paragraphs, my hair is getting ready to fall out in huge chunks.  Then there’s the little problem of making my book sound really, really good, so a prospective agent doesn’t notice my total lack of publishing credits.  Too bad blog posts don’t count!

However, slowly but surely I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.  I’ve submitted a couple different drafts to Agent Query Connect, a great website with a fantastic forum dedicated to query letters, finding agents, and everything else associated with writing and getting published.  Both drafts have been picked apart by a community that isn’t shy about giving constructive criticism.  I’m getting ready to start another revision and hopefully I will get even closer to the perfect query letter with this draft.

If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of weeks, its the importance of knowing I can’t do this alone.  Writing is often a solitary act, but what good is it without the village?  No one likes the idea of rejection or criticism, but honestly there’s no getting better without either concept.  Thick skin is a must, especially when it comes to the publishing industry.  It took some soul searching, but I can honestly say I’m at the point where most crits bounce off of me and I’m able to accept them as help, rather than an attack.

At the moment, my latest query draft is getting flooded with suggestions, which is a little overwhelming but also quite welcome.  I’d rather have too many ideas than none at all!  Sure, I may lose a bit more hair, but it’ll be worth it when I get the call from an interested agent.

p.s. Bonnie, I’m sending you a draft either tonight or tomorrow morning.

c.b. 2011