Happy Consequences of NaNoWriMo

It’s nearly halfway through December, and I am still on a NaNo high. Apparently, the results are long lasting, especially when I consider the unexpected consequences of being a first-time NaNo winner.

 

The cookies and coffee I shared with my husband the night I finished (a day early, because there wasn’t the time on Sunday) were the first leg of the celebration, and undoubtedly the best. But in the days that followed, I also received a congratulatory Facebook message from my kindergarten teacher, who still holds a special place in my heart. Turns out, Mrs. B. remembers the stories I wrote those many years ago, complete with “inventive spelling,” which I hope has been remedied by this point.

 

Another bonus to the experience was a resurgence in interest in Nighttime Ninja, one of my favorite picture books to read to my kids. When I won the word sprint at my local kick-off party, the prize was a ninja hood, supposedly intended to be a “thinking cap” of sorts when we hit a wall. I took it home and used it to reread the story, which had languished too long on the shelf. My younger son, especially, fell back in love with the book, and has asked for it many times since. We always have to find the hood first, and we take turns wearing it.

 

photo 2

 

Now I am enjoying just knowing that I have two full manuscripts in my repertoire! I didn’t make any solid writing plans for December. I am enjoying the rest after a determined month-long focus.

 

I intend to start the new year with a literary bang, and am beginning to gear up to revise my previous novel in January. My writing time the next few weeks will be devoted to note-taking and editing my synopsis to figure out how to solve the problems my rejections illuminated. I am encouraged by the progress I made in a single month, and am already looking forward to next year’s NaNo.

 

But in the meantime, I have a heck of a lot of editing to do . . . and ninjas to read to, and Christmas cookies to eat.

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Induction into Club Rejection

A few weeks ago, I got my very first rejection from a publisher.

And I was thrilled.

I’m finally in the club! Every legitimate writer has been rejected—and now, so have I!

The rejection was initially complimentary, and noted a couple of things I had been trying to do with the manuscript were working. What I took from this was that I am capable of writing well enough to be published; this just wasn’t the right story for this editor’s list. I have written this type of response from the other side of the desk, and I respect it. Sometimes there is something intriguing, but it’s just not enough to go all the way.

The reason to pass was not a surprise, and I was grateful that it was a critique I could see and understand. As much as I wanted to send out something absolutely perfect, my agent and I had agreed that the manuscript does have a shot, and I’d gotten it as far as I was going to get it at this stage, for a variety of reasons. It was time to see whether anyone was going to fall in love with it.

Thus far, two editors have not, and I am surprisingly okay with it. It’s easy to say whatever will happen will happen, but it’s a lot harder to legitimately feel that way when things don’t turn out as you’d hoped.

I attribute this to a couple of things:

  1. A novena to St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers, which helped me gain mature perspective on my life as a writer. The prayer is not explicitly focused on writing, which made it difficult for me to say at first. Over time, I’ve found that because it reaches more broadly, I can better see how writing fits in to the whole of my life.
  2. My agent knowing not only when the manuscript was ready, but also when I was truly ready to let this one go.
  3. Encouragement from family and friends who remind me that writing a novel and getting an agent are pretty big deals in themselves (it’s tougher to remember this once you’re on to the next thing).
  4. Being super excited and slightly intimidated by my next project.

Now, I hope, it’s not too far fetched that sooner or later I’ll make my way into another, more coveted club. There’s a whole lot of hard work between here and there, but it’s work I’m more excited than ever to do.

Motivate, Motivate

I’ve been in a constant state of trying to get psyched enough to finish this edit. You know this; in fact, you’re probably sick of hearing about it. My hope is that if you’re reading this blog, you’re in the same boat. Every little kick is a help.

Today I’m linking to an article on getting traditionally published, which is my goal. I’m partway through the steps–simultaneously on steps 7,

Read it like it’s your worst enemy’s magnum opus and your job is to expose its every tragic flaw.

and 17,

Your attitude and willingness to learn and grow will not go unnoticed during this process, so keep a brave and tenacious face on, even when you’re dying inside.

 

Some of it can seem harsh, but the humor makes it encouraging–I hope for you as it was for me!

 

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/08/13/25-steps-to-being-a-traditionally-published-author-lazy-bastard-edition/

 

 

The Third Time Isn’t Always the Charm

Last week, an application for my other blog, YoungMarriedMom, to join a blogging network was rejected . . . for the third time. I’ve been writing on that blog for over three years, and it’s turned into a lot more for me than it started out being. I simply wanted a way to hold myself accountable to writing regularly. Over time, it turned into a means of getting in touch with old friends and staying connected to friends and family who live far away, and an incredibly powerful tool of healing in what was a dark time last year.

At face value, it is a bummer that the collection of thoughts, photos, and reflections that I have poured my heart and mind into don’t fit into a larger online scheme. And yet, I wasn’t upset for very long after getting the news.

First of all, at least I got an answer, and I know my application isn’t wandering around somewhere in cyberspace.

Second, and more importantly, this blog was a stepping stone. That’s all it was intended to be, and it’s served its purpose beautifully—with the bonuses I mentioned above. Would it have been cool if it took off and became something huge? Of course. Is it any less valuable to me because it didn’t (or at least hasn’t yet)? No. Not at all.

Too often I have to remind myself of my own definition of success: to communicate something genuine, honest, and real; to make a positive difference in someone else’s life while making better sense of my own; to improve as a writer with every word that hits the page.

Hopefully the time for Big News will come. When it does, I will celebrate for sure. But in the meantime, there’s a lot of work to do, and I’d best enjoy it for what it is.

Dealing with Revision

Last week, I met with my literary agent, in part to discuss my most recent manuscript revision. In my mind, this pass had the most dramatic changes and as a whole, came closest to achieving my thematic goals for the book. I thought it might be ready to go out on submission to publishers, and I anxiously awaited feedback from my agent.

 

Wise editor that she is, she made some really valid points about changes that still need to be made, as a result of what I did in the last round.

 

At first, part of me was crushed. Despite having been the person to tell an author there was yet more to be done, I second-guessed my agent’s message. If I needed to revise again, was it worth it at all? Would the manuscript ever be ready to submit? I’d told myself that if this manuscript weren’t picked up by a traditional publisher, I wouldn’t self-publish (more on that in another post). But now, maybe I would. If someone else didn’t like it, that didn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. I worked hard on this. A lot of my readers sincerely enjoyed it. And on and on . . .

 

When I took a breath and considered the situation objectively, I was able to remind myself that a request for revision is not the same as rejection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Why would an agent spend her time reading and commenting on a manuscript she doesn’t believe is going anywhere?

 

What I took as a blow to my pride is something I should be very grateful for. Constructive criticism (and everything she suggests is constructive) is, for a writer with her head on straight, the greatest gift to receive. Of course my manuscript isn’t perfect yet. If we can edit out some of the easy reasons for an editor to pass later on, let’s do it and give this thing its best chance. Here is another example of how important humility is for writers.

 

No one in publishing knows it all, but I believe that experienced publishing professionals trained by other successful publishing professionals have a good idea of what works, what doesn’t, and how to get a writer’s work from one side to the other—if she’s willing to listen.

 

I have at least one more revision to do before we move to the next step. Would I like to be there already? Maybe, but not if my manuscript isn’t in the most promising state it can be.