Sunday, December 16, 2012

(Not) winning

This was the first weekend in a while that I could really look forward to writing. It made me realize that while I may have a third book out at the beginning of the new year, what I was most excited about was the work that ran up to it. Not that the editing experience was not enriching, or that it did not produce an objectively better book. But nor could I really say what it was, either. For those of you who aren't aware of my facebook page, the cover is done. For those of you who are, the edits are also complete.

I didn't win, or place, or garner an honorable mention once again in the sci-fi short story competition that I attempt yearly these days. It would be a lie to say that yet another flop isn't a repeated blow to my ego. On the other hand, I really believe I had assumed the dual posture of someone who both thought he would do exceptionally well and someone who would not be surprised to get the rejection letter. As always, the form letter came along with it links to online classes and lectures that were beneficial to past winners. In my mind I thought, "I don't need any help to write more like me, thanks," but out loud my only voice is the sound of my mouse, working steadily to move the letter into the online stack of rejections I'm collecting.

If you'd like to read what I submitted to the competition, it's here.

Unfortunately, I got back to my writing too late to immediately jump back into it. My careful road map of an outline helped practically none at all. I couldn't figure out the deeper, hidden things that the me in the moment would've just known. I realized I would have to re-introduce myself to everything all over again. My confidence at finishing before Spring slipped ever so slightly. Which is to say I take it as a challenge.

I also reconnected with a former co-worker recently, and she paid me half a dozen startling compliments. She's someone I highly respect because she's a writer, too, and a sculptor and philosopher, and has been published... in Finnish. She spends times for months over seas and makes journals of her travels; she owns fewer things than most by choice. She's a wizard, and this person decided to draw something I wrote, and then asked me if that was alright. I couldn't imagine a scenario when it wouldn't be.

Lastly, the other situation that I was very hopeful for fell through, also. That window over at Harper Voyager closed. I got my submission in, and the three months are just about up. After it, they insisted the author accept their silence as a rejection. So, no breakthroughs today, or for the whole of 2012. That's alright, I suppose. Provided we're all still here and kicking, there's always 2013. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fight(ers), fight(ing), fight

The first round is done. I can't be sure, but I think I'm much closer to understanding the difference between good and bad editors. Not that the previous ones were bad, but the current person I'm working with feels better. Things are developing into what I could only describe as a working relationship. In the beginning of the manuscript, when she saw that I was going about something in a confusingly convoluted manner (for instance, using adverbs too much and/or not using strong enough verbs) she would say that things could be, or needed to be, tighter. Towards the end, the only comment was "tighter" and the arrow pointed to a highlighted sentence in track changes. I knew what she meant and went about things accordingly. She was explicit in that I didn't have to change things, but I needed to provide explanation. She wanted the back and forth. And I can admit that at points it was frustrating, but that's mostly because part of me wanted to be lazy, and all of her wanted me to be better.

We still came away disagreeing on some things, to be sure, but by the end of the first round I honestly felt like she respected what I was doing, and me, and that she was as committed as I was to making the novel as good as it could be given time constraints. She said she liked the book. I even got a handful of compliments in the comments section that had nothing to do with awkwardness or tightening or semicolons. Those felt especially good. I may not have come away with another fan from all of this, but hopefully a colleague.

"Please take this all with a freight car filled with salt," she wrote, "I have great respect for what you have accomplished."

And maybe I shouldn't be quoting her, but I wanted to get the words exactly right. It's cropped up lately again that while I am most certainly a writer, I might be writing about the wrong sorts of things. I never know what to do or say with that sort of thing. I can't think of a recent precedent, where an athlete chose the wrong sport or a musician the wrong genre (well, there was MJ but I will not be making that comparison). "Well, you can certainly sing, but... this isn't your wheelhouse." In all of these categories, the work is difficult, and at the beginnings of all these careers the compensation is low. The drive comes from love, I figure, in just about every case. The criticism, as a result, feels moot, and yet...

I met someone new last night, and she asked me what I liked writing about. Hm, no. She asked me what most of my stories were about, as if to establish a trend or quantify a track record. Speculative, was my reply. Stories which arise from wondering, as opposed to catharsis or purpose. What if, I always say to myself. But then of course when we dance into the specifics it all becomes terrestrial again. It would not be very inaccurate to say that I'm standing in line, miles and miles and miles behind Meyes and Rowling, but the only real differentiation would occur if someone picked up my books and read them after reading theirs. "Oh," the imaginary readers in my brain say, "it's similar, but not really." My editor compared the latest book to King's Dark Tower series. I may have already said that. I may say it again. Frequently.

So this is me, waiting for the second round to start, waving hello to December, and looking forward to 2013.