Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Life Gets in the Way Sometimes....

Today is one of those days where I have no clue what to blog about. Life has been so stressful lately that it's hard to step back and realize that now that I know I have a job, I can relax. It's never easy to command yourself to relax, though. There's always something to worry you.

For me, it's my writing. I haven't written anything new in a while. I've been editing for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). That was pretty fun but once I was done, I was done. I've been lurking on the boards and there are some people out there who are nuts about editing. Even after they'd submitted their entry, they were tweaking until the final deadline. Some people even want to know if the contest administrator's can open up the process again once finalists have been selected so they can tweak a little.

Personally, I have a bit of an issue with this. I know the contest is for new writers, unpublished writers, writers who haven't had luck with traditional routes of publishing. I know that the desire to have a perfect novel is driving, it's demanding, it can obsess you. No novel will ever be perfect though some have come close. I know the need to edit can be strong. Yet, at some point, you have to stop. Like any other submission whether it be to agent, publisher or magazine, you're supposed to submit your best effort. You don't submit to a magazine and say, "oh, hey, I rewrote this section of my story, I'd like to submit it again, please", do you? Well, maybe you do but you shouldn't be doing that because chances are the editor will say "why did you bother submitting in the first place if it wasn't your best effort?" and they'll reject you.

I understand that some writers discovered ABNA later and had to quickly submit their manuscripts. That was me last year. I had a week to register, edit and upload. It was a tight deadline but it was the most fun periods of my writing life. Having a deadline is awesome in a way. It makes you feel like a real writer, someone who has to get their work done no matter what and if you don't, you lose out. However, once I was done editing, I was done. My novel probably needed more editing but I had done the best I could. I was proud to submit it. Granted, my experience last year wasn't stellar as I documented here, but I learned and, for a brief time, had some hope.

So I get it. I get why writers can't leave their books alone and can't stop editing but there comes a point when you have to. For me, I've learned that I can't edit when I finish a novel. I have to put it away for a long time, from six months to a year, and then edit. It's easier then. I find the errors, I find the clunky passages, I find the extraneous pop-culture references that would easily date my story and so I take them out. Yet on a cold and heartless note, I can't help but want to say to those constant tweakers and rewriters on the ABNA message boards, if you weren't happy with it, why did you submit it?

Then I have regret at being so mean. After all, not everyone is the same. For me, I can't submit anything I don't fully believe in. I can't submit something that doesn't feel like it's ready. If I did, I'd basically feel like I was throwing my lot in just for the heck of it. You know, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not a bad option. Yet if that was the option I chose, I'd also try to keep the mindset that whatever happens, happens and if I don't get anywhere then maybe I should have spent more time on the manuscript/story before I threw it out there.

The contest is proving to be an interesting experience, even when I'm just lurking on the message boards. Once again, the forums have been hijacked by the same few people. The people are funny and they have a rapport with each other but it does make it a little intimidating to jump in sometimes. Yet it's still fun to learn about the entrants. They range from complete beginners who shyly post questions on the boards to the more professional writers who can share their stories about bad agents and publishing feats. Last year's winner, Bill Loehfelm is even showing up on the board, always dispensing smart, seasoned advice.

It's fun to read what people have to say. I like to read the advice they give, especially from the writers who have had success. This year, I'm bound and determined not to be mean and snarky. Last year, I read some of the pitches and wondered who on earth would read that book. Then I realized after I got booted out that people probably said that about my pitch. This year, I'm taking everything and trying to learn, to see what I could do better and learn from other writers. That's not easy for me. I don't like to play well with others as I've said before. However, those others have had more success than me, thus they have to be doing something right.

Now I'm done editing, it's a waiting game again. I'm waiting to see if I get booted out again or if maybe, just maybe, my pitch is actually strong enough this year.

In the meantime, I want to write yet...I can't. I've sent out queries and am waiting on those. I made a deal to myself that I wouldn't write another novel until I'd tried hard to sell the ones I have. Yet I haven't. I'm getting nothing back from my queries. I don't know why. I feel paralyzed. Part of me wonders what the point of writing another novel or story is and the other part want to get lost in a new work.

Yet I can't. Not at the moment. And I don't know why. I have ideas but nothing seems worth spending the time on. I should just write through it like I have in the past, push through the block. I've never truly believed in writer's block because there are tricks to getting through it. The block I have right now is my own making. I've let the stress of life get in the way and now it's fixed fast in my path. I need to find a way to ignore it and then the block will go away.

It'll pass. Eventually. In the meantime....I'll just keep waiting, trying and hoping. Wish me luck with that.

Happy Tuesday.

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