Thursday, November 29, 2012

Survival of the Fittest

Not only are Thanksgiving and Black Friday over for the year, but the 2012 edition of NaNoWriMo will end tomorrow.  In my mind, I see writers at their desks with their heads down as they race to the finish line to see how close they can each get to that 50,000 word goal.

Fifty thousand words written in a month.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  Exhausting.

I joke, but this is really serious stuff.  Anyone who even gave it a try this year is a winner.  Setting a goal and working toward it is something to be proud of, even if the goal isn't quite reached, participating in something like NaNo is an achievement that shouldn't be passed of as nothing.  It's something.   Just the act of trying is courageous.  But isn't a lot of life the same?

The old proverb, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," [1840 T. H. Palmer Teacher's Manual 223] holds true for everything in life.  Well, the good stuff, anyway.  We don't want to keep trying to be evil and mean and blackhearted.  What we do want is to be successful in the things we do, from being a good person, a good parent, and at least have a modicum of success in the things we choose to do.  While it's true that we can't always be highly successful in everything, sometimes we don't know our true worth until we reach for that brass ring.  Missing it isn't failing, because trying, itself, is positive forward motion.  Don't throw in the towel too soon.

Because writing is one of the arts, it takes time to hone the craft.  In honing, we often learn from our mistakes.  One of the things we can count on 99% of the time is that we our work will be rejected at least once. Please note that the WE is crossed out.  I did that for a reason, because while our work may be rejected, we as persons are not.  Granted, it hurts.  Yes, it can feel personal.  But the key to keep in mind is that a rejection is not just what some call "an invitation to resubmit" but a chance to learn something.  It can be the catalyst to dig a little deeper or try again for that spark that makes a story cry out in a sea of other stories.

Rejections aren't only for those trying to break into publishing, but for those who have a backlist.  Yes, published authors get rejections, too.  And they try again.  The proof is in the pudding.  My pudding.  In June last year (2011), I submitted two proposals for two new stories set in Desperation, OK.  They were rejected in July, with an invitation to revise and resubmit.  I revised, resubmitted (August) and was rejected (September) again.  Definitely a time to reconsider.  I decided to keep the heroine in one story, because she's been a minor character in the series, but to give her a new hero and story, then write a completely new story for the second, with a completely new hero & heroine.  I submitted those at the end of October.  They were rejected mid-December.

To say I was disappointed and questioning my ability to write anything beyond my name would be an understatement.  But I wasn't completely down quite yet.  I took a deep breath and wondered what to do.  I had two more story ideas with brother heroes that were left over from my Silhouette Romance days, so I quickly worked up proposals on them and sent them to my agent and editor in mid-January.  When they both were accepted, I breathed a big sigh of relief, patted myself on the back and immediately set to work writing them.  If I'd given up after those three rejections, A NANNY FOR THE COWBOY (March 2013) and DESIGNS ON THE COWBOY (June 2013) would be nothing but old story notes.

There are so many things to think about when writing a book, and it sometimes seems that the more we know, the harder the writing can be.  Unfettered writing, such as that done during NaNo, can sometimes unearth some of our best work, only because we're not questioning each word written.

Whether you're wrapping up NaNoWriMo for this year, or you're fearing another rejection, or even if you've recently stuck your toe in the dark but sparkling waters of writing, stay strong.  Work hard, grow that thick skin so your psyche and muse don't become too bruised by the journey, and be fit enough to survive.  To quote Spock, "Live long and prosper."
I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. - Jimmy Dean, Actor, Singer and Businessman

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