Monday, May 2, 2011

Marshmallows, fear and popping your query-cherry

Okay, this is too awesome.

I am not yet at the stage where I am querying, but I have sent out one query, so I guess I'm like the kid that licked the marshmallow, but didn't bite it.

In the second week of January, I promised my writing group that I would finish my rough draft (of a 65,000 word story I had, at that time, only written 30,000 words of) and hand it over before I left the country on January 25th. So I got to work. I had about 3 weeks to write 35,000 words.

...and I wrote, a bit. I knew if I was late, my writing group wouldn't care (we're pretty lax about deadlines), and this looseness had slowly worn off on me over the years. I know I can write fast and hard when I need too, I just had to find a way to kick-start myself into *obsessive mode*.

And I found it about a week later when an online writing-buddy asked me to beta-read her submission for ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award)...something I'd never heard of. She told me about it and that the deadline was 3 days before my promised deadline to my writing group., y'know that obsessive part of my personality? Well, I figured holding myself accountable to an even earlier deadline would probably make me write faster.

And it did. I wrote those 35,000 words in 10 days (including 6,500 words on the day the contest opened), gave it a quick grammar check, then submitted it and didn't once look back. I was not going in with any false/elevated expectations. I was handing in a first draft in which I already knew the first two scenes needed a drastic re-write. I didn't care. I had sent myself an insane goal and I had accomplished it (and did manage to make it through the first round in the contest, when the VINE feedback nailed everything I already knew had to be re-written).

While I was half-insane/bleary-eyed at 12:10am on the day the contest opened, I haphazardly e-mailed off a query to an agent.

No, this wasn't an accident. I meant to do this and I even felt a pang of self-loathing when I did indeed receive that rejection e-mail.

When I first found out about the ABNA contest, I didn't immediately leap at it. In fact, I think it was almost a week after hearing about it that I decided to sign up. During that week I kept asking myself why wasn't I leaping at it? I mean, the deadline was only a few days earlier than I had originally planned. I wouldn't be doing more work than I was going to do in the first place. It was a first draft, so I didn't have any *great expectations*, so there was nothing to lose by not proceeding to the next round of the contest... so why not? Why was I hesitating? When I actually thought about it and laid everything out in this way, I realized that if I didn't enter, the only possible reason was that I was being a coward.

I was afraid of submitting and being rejected in some way.

So I submitted.

Then I submitted a query to an agent picked almost at random. Okay, not at random. That person seems really awesome online and I would have been ecstatic to work with them, and even though they rep YA, I think what I write is not exactly what they like... and that's okay, but I still don't recommend this. If I wasn't so caught up in facing my fears, (it's called tunnel-vision. It's the reason I will forget to eat for an entire day or why the dog has learned an intricate and annoying tap-dance to alert me when she needs to go outside), I would have realized the absurdity of doing so. I was wasting someone's time, and I hate wasting people's time. It's rude.

So, yeah, I did wrong, but I don't think of it as burning a bridge and at least I learned from my own mistake and won't repeat it in the future. Silver-lining folks. Even the bad has good.

The point is that I needed to face my fear and get it over with. Next time, when I send it to an agent I truly do want, when I get that rejection, it won't hurt quite so much. When you analyze a situation and the best reason for NOT doing something is fear... that's what I can't stand the most. I can handle a lot of things, but fear of something so silly as another person not liking my writing... all I could do was shake my head and tell myself to grow up and submit (yes that was intentional) :P

So how do you deal with fear?

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