Another Year’s Growth

2014 calendarOrdinarily, the onset of a new year brings on a sense of melancholy. I feel as though I’m losing something that I can never get back. You know, like the song lyrics, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” This year I decided to look back on 2013 with a more positive eye and focus on all that I’ve accomplished as a writer.

I was surprised at what I discovered. The most important result of my evaluation turned out to be growth, growth in confidence and growth in skill. In the early months of last year, I submitted pages of my paranormal manuscript to editors at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference. My insides were a mess when I had to sit and hear their comments, but I did it. One editor was very critical while the other editor said she loved my writing. I basked in the warmth of the praise and took the criticisms to heart and made some changes. After more editing it will go to beta readers

Seemingly on a roll, I next submitted a short story to the Level Best Book anthology and to the Al Blanchard Award contest. I received my first rejection from Level Best Books and my second from the Al Blanchard people. However, the fact that I did make it to the first round of that contest lessened the pain.

In March I entered into a NanoWriMo-type challenge with my writing group and completed over 50,000 words of a Fantasy manuscript. After doing some editing, I submitted the first ten pages and a synopsis of that manuscript to two different RWA chapter contests. Although I didn’t win either contest, I did receive three excellent critiques from each one. I found that some of the critiques voiced the same problems. That really helped me. Being able to see a specific part of my work in connection with the problem made understanding the teaching point so much easier.

Some of you may have heard of the Brenda Novak Auction in May. Brenda’s a New York Times best-selling author who hosts an auction for writers to benefit the Diabetes foundation.  This year, with much trepidation, I bid on the services of an agent. It was pricey but I felt certain that, once she read my work, she’d want to represent me. I submitted the thirty pages and waited to hear from her. Within five days, she met me on Skype. During the forty-five minutes we spoke, she explained all the things I did well and those that needed work. She followed that up with a written critique by email. Well, I’m still agent-less, but I did get some valuable advice and I also learned that agents don’t bite.

You might think my confidence would have been depleted by then. Not at all. All the negative critiques I’d received were about form, things like “show don’t tell”. The substance of my story, the plot and the writing critiques, were mostly positive. While I kept adding to, refining, and editing my manuscript, I entered one more contest, the Crime Bake Flash Fiction contest in November. The premise is to write a 150-word or less crime story using ten words from the guest author’s book titles. Last year the guest author was Meg Gardiner. And, guess what. I had a winning entry. Yup. I finally won a contest. Meg Gardiner was kind enough to post the top three winning stories on her November blog. Hmmmm! Does that mean I’m a published writer? Maybe not.

The other positive input to my writing career has been my writing groups. I belong to two, one online and one in person. The writers in those groups have been an integral part in my continued writing. They’re a sounding board, a fan base and a cadre of trusted critical readers. They urge me to write, even if I don’t want to, and when necessary, they help me “part with my darlings” using kind, yet sensible, reasoning.

My understanding of writing and what it means to be a writer has undergone an important transition in the past year. I notice it when I read other writers. My new awareness sometimes takes away from my enjoyment of the book. The other day, immersed in a book by a very successful author, I found myself correcting her, even going so far as to re-write her sentence. How strange is that? Last year at this time, I would never even have caught it.

What’s in store for this year? I fully intend to write something daily, work on my writing techniques, and succeed in getting at least one thing published. In April, I’ll be sending pages of my Fantasy, The Watcher Clan, to the agent or editor assigned for the upcoming New England Chapter RWA Conference. I’ll be sure to let you all know when they snap it up. In the meantime, I’ll keep a positive attitude and write, write, write.

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