It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in my writing life. I’ve learned this is completely normal. Sometimes things move like a slow emotional ballad. Other times, they move like the thumpin’ beat of a dance track.
(Note: I’m probably not going to give up on the boy band music analogies any time soon. You’ve been warned.)
Since I last posted, I made it into Round 3 of Query Kombat. I’m thrilled and humbled by this accomplishment. My Round 2 competitor (a book I know will be published and I want to read) ended the contest with a whopping 14 requests from agents—more than any of the others. So, while she didn’t win. She SO won. And I get to carry on in the contest, honing and strengthening my query/first page until the time when I’m out and can start querying. Win/Win.
While things were moving in QK, I also attended the Arkansas SCBWI conference, where I got to meet some amazing professionals and gained a lot of knowledge, plus hang out with my writer friends. No, scratch that, friends who are also writers.
The overwhelming take-home I get from these experiences is this phrase: Everything is subjective.
In QK, there is feedback posted by judges and by other “kombatants.” My round 2 had 18 comments. That’s 18 different opinions. And I mean 18 DIFFERENT opinions. I got comments that read “love the peanut butter line” and those that said, “I’m not getting the peanut butter line.” A lot of comments said my MC is a too cocky, yet I had almost as many that said they loved him and he had a great voice.
I even had one comment that read they suspect Derrick’s narcissism my actually be MY narcissism. I’m still not sure what to do with that one, but it’s certainly something for me to think about. I appreciate the person taking the time to comment on it. (Would a narcissist say that? I’m not sure. Anyway…)
Then when I went to the conference and pitched my book to one of the editors there, he told me some things I didn’t want to hear. (Along with some other awesome things that were perfectly in-tune with my little writer heart.) At the end of our session, however, he said, “But that’s just MY opinion. Someone else may say something different.”
*Looks at QK entries* “This new query is better.” “I liked your first one a lot more.”
At the conference, the fabulous agent, Molly O’Neill, presented a workshop on dealing with rejection. I ate every word she said up with a spoon. The essence of her presentation was that it takes only one agent to “get it” and every rejection you receive before you find “the one” isn’t something to take as personal. There are dozens of factors that can contribute to a “no thanks” and just as many that can lead to “the call.” Outside of writing a killer book, most of those are out of my control. I hope I’ve done the killer book part. We’ll see, I suppose.
Listening to the professionals at the conference, different variations of the same theme kept coming up in presentations, in pitches, and in casual conversations at dinner. Basically, if someone doesn’t like your work, it’s their opinion. Take it, consider whether or not there’s merit to it, implement it (or not), then move on.
It’s just one person’s opinion.
That sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s easy to get bogged down when someone gives you a critique that’s harsh or you get yet another rejection from an agent. I’m learning to navigate the waters by trying not to let the things I don’t like get under my skin. Or rather, make my skin tougher so those harsh crits and rejections don’t hurt me as deeply.
It’s not easy, but I’m getting better at it. I think the key is remembering that my worth (as a person and as a writer) isn’t tied directly to my manuscript. A harsh crit or rejection doesn’t make me a bad person or poor writer. A harsh crit or rejection means that one individual did not believe the work was where it needed to be for them. Maybe that means I need to revise or maybe it means I need to find another person. It really doesn’t mean I should give up or that I suck.
Because I won’t. And I don’t.
(Ah, maybe there’s something to that narcissism thing.)
My MS is getting better as my skin is getting tougher. It just might be where it needs to be for that one agent to “get it.” If not, I’ll be here Hangin’ Tough
(What? You KNOW Donnie Wahlberg is your Home Boy.)