Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stomach Churning Submitting

With the submission deadline for the first round of the New Voices competition mere hours away, lots of people are earning awards for bravery by actually posting their offerings. For the first time, many are allowing strangers to read their work and it is nerve wracking. It makes you feel physically ill.
It does always remain nerve wracking. It is a roller coaster ride, complete with feeling sick and then wonderfully alive. I get it every time I submit to my editor. Most authors do.
But also, it is addictive and great fun. There is a lot of excitement when you press the submit button. It is about embarking on a new adventure.
So what can you learn from submitting? Even if you get a Form R. First of all, you learn that you don't die. Your family and friends still love you and that you can do it.
Once you get the response back, it is all about what you do next.
Before I was published, I never finalled in any contest. The one online contest I entered with Kate Allan, we finished dead last. No comments, just voting and there was some suspicion of vote-rigging.  The book however was published after we did extensive revisions and became The Lady Soldier.  So in the end, I suppose we had the last laugh.
Other authors can similar stories.
When I was at Orlando, I was struck by the fact that a number of the Golden Heart finalists had finalled in previous years and sometimes had won.  There were also people who never finalled who had sold. It all comes down to the editor seeing the magic in your submission. Sometimes, people get so focused on contests that they forget the important thing is the STORY and telling it in the best way possible. You don't want a good contest submission, you want a great story. And for series romance, you want a great story that fits the demands of the line.
So what do you do if you don't final in NV? Take a long hard look at your submission. Read the finalists. See if you understand why they were chosen. Do you agree with the judges' assessment?
See if there are ways you can improve. Can you add more dialogue? Cut out back story? Make the story more immediate? Make the stakes higher? Decrease the secondaries? increase the emotion? Up the sensual tension? Make the characters more rounded and less cardboard cut out?  There is no right or wrong answer. Go with your gut and see.
Do it and then submit the traditional route.
If you believed in your story enough to submit to NV, you should believe in your story enough to submit using the traditional route.AFTER you have taken another look at it. Craft helps improve Story Ideas.
Maybe though, you relise that in order to do the story justice, you need more craft. Use your new found knowledge to craft another story and submit that. I wrote 7 full length manuscripts before I sold. Writing is never wasted.
And it does become addictive if you want to be a career novelist rather than penning a single story.

Right off to finish my partial and send it off to my editor for her eagle eyes. And I am waiting to hear on my Online Read. Does it work? Will it need revisions? I could be sick... but I trust my ability to use craft to fashion a great story. Or maybe I'm delusional?


Joanna St. James said...

ha thanks for this pick me up, I just subbed and i really needed this right now.
My CP and I did a happy dance after we subbed, this means we are no more baby writers we are officially big kids now :)

LindseyHughes said...

Sound advice! You are always the voice of reason. Had begun to believe 'the craft' was in fact witchcraft - back on track now (but armed with a wand) A steeper learning curve there never was...

(Thrilled that 4 of your books have made it onto the local library shelves. I'm claiming credit after the filthy row I had with them about failing to show sufficient respect to all things M&B. Much to my embarassment (now) I was most patronising about how to ID the various lines but it seems to have worked albeit it has taken some months.

Amalie Berlin said...

It is definately nervewracking. Especially when you click and see... I got 10%? Omg! But still exciting.

Your pep-talk was just what I needed! Big picture, big picture, must look at the big picture... *orangutan-arms*

Lacey Devlin said...

A great post. Thanks Michelle! Fingers crossed for your online read.

Caroline said...

Great post Michelle - you are so right - it is SO nerve wracking - I didn't think I would be that bothered - but I was! Caroline x

Tammy said...

hiting the send button was almost as hard as login in each day to see if anyone read or rated my chapter. Scary but very helpful. Some days you wonder are you mad for trying other days you cant wait to get back to your writing and work on the advise you where given. :)

Joanne Coles said...

Lovely post, Michelle. Thanks for the inspiration and insights :-)

Michelle Styles said...

Glad it helped people.
And Joanna -- the pure act of submitting is a HUGE step. Many people never get that far. Something like 90%. I think it means you are now eligible for RWA PRO which is a great organisation.

Lindsey -- Oh thank you for telling me about 4 of my books making it into your library.

Amalie - Nerve wracking but addictive. It gives a new meaning to email and the post!

Lacey -- the Online Read came back with a few revisions. I muddled the heroine's motivations and my editor for this wants it clear. She likes the story and it will make it stronger...

Caroline -- I enjoyed your chapter. Hopefully you will be submitting whatever happens. And the Roman period is opening up...Fingers crossed.

Tammy -- I am SO proud of you!!

Joanne -- YOu need to get working and submitting on your requested ms!

Teresa F Morgan said...

Thanks for the great advice. I've entered the competition, and just the feedback from other writers/readers alone has been worth while.

And I've made some new friends.

Michelle Styles said...

Teresa -- Getting some feedback and finding new friends who understand about writing is so important.
I know that without eharlequin and the fact that Kate Hardy kindly invited me to join in the conversation on the Medical authors thread, I wouldn't have felt so determined. Kate remains one of my closest writing friends...

Alison said...

Well, I finally worked out how to post and did mine. It's called 'Eloping with the Earl' and I have one (positive!) comment.

Caroline said...

Thanks Michelle - you've made my day! Caroline x