Since I seem to be fighting myself to get anything done on either of my in-progress novels, I’ve actually begun something new. (Somehow, I tell myself, this is different than all those years I spent never completing anything and jumping from one project to the next. I can’t explain how it is different, but I feel pretty certain that it is.) Anyway, I’m working on a short story. And it’s not YA. And it isn’t paranormal…at least not yet. And that isn’t the plan.
I might even… SHHHH, don’t tell anyone in case I chicken out… try to enter a contest or two. I have never put a ton of faith in needing those types of credentials, but all the same, it’d be a nice little ego boost to have something like that under my belt.
Have you entered fiction contests? What has your experience been like?
Wanna join me in the adventure? Here are a few that I’m looking at:
You’re probably getting the idea… there are literally thousands of possible markets that will reward work judged (by whatever particular judges are involved) to be good. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
** Added later after attempting to get some work done but getting distracted by reading amazing short stories like these by Jack London…
Ergh. Good. Right. Sure.
So… lately I have found myself doing quite a lot of truth stretching and inventing in the act of parenting. I’m wondering … how much leeway do other parents allow themselves in this realm? Let me offer a couple examples.
My oldest little guy starts spring soccer this week. There are four teams each time, one of which is the red team. My guy LOVES the color red. He will choose it anytime he is offered a choice, and I literally have to force him to wear a shirt in another color when all of his (many) red shirts are dirty (often). ANYWAY, I received notice that we’ll be on the white team this season. Not the red team. (You don’t get to pick). I thought for two days about how to spin this ahead of time to avoid the meltdown on the first day of practice. Since practice is tonight, I had to do something today. So, this morning, when he was fully awake and happily munching pancakes (no, I don’t cook on weekdays, we freeze them from the weekends), I told him that I had gotten a call from the soccer coach. (This is a lie). The coach told me, I said, that the coolest team this season would be the white team, and he asked if I thought he’d want to play for that team. (Also a lie). I made it sound like he was specially invited to be a member of the coolest team there was (being cool has become kind of important as we near 5, unfortunately). He asked if he could be on the red team instead. I told him, sure, but that I thought he’d want to be on the coolest team and that the coach would probably be sad. (He’s beginning to be empathetic to the feelings of others). He considered, and quietly said, “okay, Mom. I guess the white team will be okay.” So the moral here is that while he isn’t super excited, he will be prepared to find out this evening that he’s not getting a red shirt, and he’ll have reason to believe that it’s actually BETTER to be on the white team. Is this lie ok?
Or how about this one — I told the kids that the Easter Bunny had dropped by and been quite disappointed to learn that these little boys were having a tough time staying in their beds at night. He told me, I said, that I should call him right away if they got out of bed between now and Easter, because he would not be able to drop by to hide eggs and fill their baskets if they weren’t being good little guys at bedtime. Last night I pretended to (loudly) have a phone conversation with E. Bunny right outside their door, talking about how I thought they were messing around, out of bed, making lots of noise and asking what I should do. He had me go in and tell them that they could have one more chance. They were quiet the rest of the evening. Okay lie or bad lie? (you are wondering if I’m really willing to cancel Easter, aren’t you? I am wondering that, too.)
So how far is too far? Is okay to be less than completely honest with a four and two year old to avoid excess trauma / drama?
…is pretty much useless.
I tend to be a perfectionist in some ways. I’m more anal than most people I know about spelling, cleaning the kitchen, and doing things in a very specific order (like the laundry). But I’m also not as much as stickler as I could be, at say, work. I’m a tech writer, and generally, that means that I’m responsible for the little crap that no one else cares about. Like is the word Website always capitalized? Is it always one word? And what about teammate? Do we use a hyphen? If both ways are correct, which way do we do it this time? And in the other thirty-seven documents that are part of this task order? And should we use 12 point font for captions, or 11 point? You get the idea. And I do okay with this… except that when it comes to the really nitpicky stuff, I just don’t think it matters that much. My mantra, as I get older, seems to be evolving into “good enough is good enough.”
So how does this apply to my own work? That is a question I’m still working to answer. In light of my recent editorial adventure, I’m still looking for solid footing for my ego to stand on. And I’m definitely not thinking that I know better than the editor I chose, or that I will not take much of her advice to heart. But I am saying that I write partially because I enjoy it (the other part is because I can’t not — what a great sentence.) And when it ceases to be fun, how much further do I want to push? I certainly understand that the act of polishing a manuscript isn’t always as fun as coming up with the story in the first place. And I know that ripping apart your own work is a notoriously difficult task. And it’s fun as long as I’m keeping the objective in mind — that it would be really fun to have an actual book OUT THERE… whether published through traditional venues or on my own. That would be fun.
I think that is what I’m going to try to focus on. I’ll work with a couple willing beta readers — hopefully a few in the same step of revision that I’m in, so I can beta read for them too — and then I’ll move forward with the best product I can create without driving myself completely over the edge.
How do you know when what you’ve got is good enough?
My other love… And now that we’re on the east coast, things actually grow! So much more rewarding than beating my head against the wall (and the caliche) out in the CA high desert!
I’m trying to prevent myself from taking my usual over-reactive path… which is to go wildly in one direction or another if I feel something is not working. And now that I have received the criticism that I totally asked for, I’m going to stop feeling hurt or sad, or disenchanted. I’m going to ask for more instead.
Is there anyone out there who enjoys YA paranormal novels that might be willing to be a beta reader for part or all of my book, “From the Shadow’s Grasp”? Just email me here or post a comment to let me know. I’m most interested in the opinions of those who have read lots in a similar vein … things like The Mortal Instruments, Twilight, The Sookie Stackhouse books, the Nightworld series, Evernight, etc…
Thanks in advance.
Feedback has been received from the editor who I asked (paid) to look at my work. And it isn’t bad. But it is clear that there is still much to be done. And somehow, I’m much less excited to do it at this point.
I had a love story… a paranormal romance. And I thought that there wasn’t enough going on, so I turned it into an adventure, with many more supernatural elements, action and even a bit of time travel. And she suggested that it ought to be one or the other, but that it shouldn’t be both. And I feel deflated. And kind of silly. And like not a very good writer.
The good news I think, is that she didn’t mention huge issues with things like sentence structure, word choice or punctuation. But I’m a tech writer in “real life” so I didn’t really expect that those were going to be my issues.
A part of me wants to shove the whole thing. It’s not shiny and new and fun anymore and now it seems like some serious decisions about it have to be made and everything will have to be redone. I had been floating on the relief that came with being “finished” in some way. And now I am very unfinished.
And I’m starting to see the side of writing that daunts those who try it. I am seeing clearly why most novels (at least before self-publishing) never saw the light of day. What a process.
The most concerning element of her critique is that perhaps I haven’t hit my intended audience. One aspect of the story, she says — the love story — skews to the YA crowd I’d been planning for. The other — the adventure — she thinks skews younger. Though I think there are great books for middle grade out there, I’ve never wanted to write one. So I’ll have to think a lot about this… She did also mention at the outset that YA is not her expertise, but her comments on plot and structure are certainly valid and based on years of experience in editing and writing.
Back to the keyboard. Ugh.
I haven’t been writing much in the last few days. It’s crazy how life sort of takes over sometimes. Between my ‘day job’ ramping up in a lot of ways, making decisions about my kids’ schools for next fall, and managing the house and marriage (and if you have one of these, you probably know that it does take some management…), and it seems like time just gets away.
I’m reading The Paris Wife, as I mentioned previously. And of course I’ve read Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast, which was about the same period, the same people — the same life. I also watched Midnight in Paris with a friend last week, and though I’m not a big Woody Allen fan, I did find this idea to be charming, maybe because it was about a writer who is struggling with so much of what I think about each day. But in the movie, and also in the books, the writers involved are all struggling with writing. And with not much more. I can only imagine what Fitzgerald or Hemmingway would think of my attempts to find traction in the term “writer” — to make it accurately describe me — in the midst of all the other crap I deal with. One hour at 4:30 am on a few mornings a week does not a writer make, they would probably say. And truthfully, I look at my completed manuscript, which is printed and sitting on the edge of my desk right now while it is with the editor, and I wonder exactly how it came about. I did take a week off work to focus on it around the holidays, that is true. But there was a lot of other time too, that I can’t seem to find these days.
We’re getting ready to start swimming and soccer again… and the afternoons are long and filled with kids riding their bikes and parents in shorts and capris making distracted cul-de-sac conversation. And by the time the sun is finally tracking down behind the trees in our yard and I’m in the kitchen making dinner, it is hours later than I’d thought. And the kids are grumpy and need a bath and by the time it’s all over for the night, I have nothing left for my house or my husband, let alone for me or my efforts at writing.
I realize this is mostly and excuse and a complaint. But it’s also the truth.