I have no idea how the first Wednesday of the month snuck up on me like that, but boy howdy, it’s the first Wednesday of May! Happy Beltane! But it’s also the day we release our fears and insecurities into the world. Feeling good today? Then spread some of the joy, but don’t forget to head on over to the Ninja Captain Alex, and his cohosts, Lynda Young, Mark Koopmans, and Rachna Chhabria, for this month’s installment of IWSG.
This time, I'm not feeling so much insecure as I am feeling like a bit of a n00b.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but last year about this time, I was going crazy for a little thing called The Writer’s Voice (They’re doing it again, and you might want to go read Brenda Drake’s post about it here). We were all desperately signing into Mr. Linky (or not), and I entered a manuscript that wasn’t quite ready yet.
It still got me a spot as an alternate.
I was so thrilled. I mean over the moon ecstatic. Until that moment, my work had never received any recognition as something that might be worth reading. I thought I was on easy street to getting an agent. I got a partial request. I spent a lot of time doing the happy dance.
Then, that partial came back with an “uh, yeah, not for me.” (I always envisioned the agent getting to some deal breaking part, dropping the manuscript, dashing off a no, and then running like mad in the opposite direction).
I was disappointed, but I figured “hey, I’m getting experience. I’m learning how to handle the whole rejection thing. This is really important for my work, etc. etc.” That novel didn’t pan out. I realized there was something broken with it right around October. I revised it, but it seemed, you know, good enough. (hint: good enough just isn’t)
I sort of blew off the manuscript around December, deciding that I had other fish to fry, and I needed to work on a different project (which I did, and it’s incredible and I love my query bait. I shall love him and squeeze him and call him George). I revised another manuscript, and got it ready for the trenches. I’ve been slaving away on my WIP (go pirates!), but then, something came up. Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robots is opening up to unagented submissions.
Now only a fool would pass up an opportunity this good, especially since the only YA manuscript I have is that one I pretty much abandoned in December. It’s free and clear of any obligations, just the sort of thing that can be sent out into the world for a lengthy engagement. I figured, “oh, what the heck, I’ll dust it off. That story is great fun, everyone loves the humor and the world, but all the agents hated it. Maybe some editors will like it.” So I thought I’d just pop open the manuscript, tweak some minor bits of grammar and send it off to do battle in another circle of query hell, the unagented submission hell.
Just a few little grammar tweaks…. Sweet mother of Science, I am so naïve.
I opened up that novel, and to my complete horror, it was awful. And by awful, I don’t mean filled with awe, I mean filled with the stuff that falls out of the south end of a north-bound horse. BAD. (OMG There’s even a shower scene!!!! Who the hell was I kidding?? Did I think no one would notice that I spend a full page taking a bloody shower???!!! ON PAGE 10!!!! **hangs head in writer shame**).
Which is to say that for the better part of eight months, I labored under the false pretense that my novel was pretty darn good, well polished, and otherwise only lacking the stamp of approval from an agent. I was wrong.
So what was the difference between how I felt about that novel in October and how I feel about it now? About 200,000 words. If writing is like walking down a path, and the number of words is how far along the path you are (which it isn’t, but go with me), 200,000 words is a lot of experience. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, there’s this moment where you’ve been going through some lovely terrain, full of forests and what not, and then you turn a corner, go through a tunnel and there is Yosemite Valley. It’s just laid out before you. There’s a sign on the road for people who haven’t been. The sign says “Hey, idiots, don’t stop driving, the people behind you aren’t gawking yet.”
|Yeah, this isn't that view, but it is this spectacular.|
Okay, it doesn’t say that, but it should. Sometimes in writing, you can hit these turning points where the view becomes vastly different on the other side. It’s called perspective. If you have it, then you can look at your work objectively**. If you don’t… well, you have shower scenes in your first ten pages of your novel and think it’s fine. So, I guess this is yet more advice that boils down to “Keep writing, it gets better” and “be sure to give your manuscript space.” (which, by the way, I thought I had… le sigh).
It looks like I’m going to interrupt my writing schedule to do some rewriting of my YA to see if I can get it into a place where it won’t be embarrassing to send it off. I mean, rewriting is a skill I have to learn too… (If I sound less than enthused, it’s only because this novel is like a zombie, I hack off a leg and it just keeps coming. I take off an arm, the arm crawls after me. It must really want to get out into the world).
**Some people get perspective like this really quickly. Some people have to grind away at the wheel for a long time. Some people never get perspective, and worst, you have to get perspective for each manuscript (oh writing, I would totally stop being involved with you if I didn’t go crazy every time I stopped).