Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Perfect to Reject in 3 Easy Steps

You know...I left the Today I Won post up for a few weeks, because, if you know anything about writing, when you finish a project...for a little bit...you feel like you've done something perfect.

And then the day after you feel like a total reject. Because that's when the letters start pouring in.

Let me show you how this happens:

When the 'no' letters start to come in, you're sad but still hopeful, so only the letter 'p' falls off to make:


And then a letter comes in full of praise, but still 'no,' confusing the letters and making them think...hmmm, why not?...so they switch places and become:


And then a particularly wanted letter comes in...'no'...and it knocks you on your keister so you can't breathe...which also knocks the letter 'f' completely backwards and upside down until it almost doesn't look like itself anymore. In fact, it looks like a 'j'. So now you have:


See? Perfect to reject in three easy steps. That is why a writer has to have skin the thickness of a 2x4. And that's also why you don't stew about it and cook yourself into some serious mental health soup.

You start over. Which I did.

And you laugh about it. Which I am.

And you have a good time. Because if you're not doing that, you shouldn't be writing in the first place.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today I Won

Did you know that today I won a pizza, found the secret to wrinkle free skin AND can get larger breasts???

Now that's a lucky day.

I love reading the subject lines from the emails in my spam folder. They crack me up. All the lines read the same, screaming out:

You are special.

You have won.

You want this and you didn't even realize how vital it was to your existence until you saw this email.

Well...maybe. Pizza and wrinkle free, sure. The breasts...I'm fine with what I got.

As a writer, I think it's easy to fall into the trap of needing to hear someone say you are special. And good. Some form of acknowledgement that putting your heart, your work, your missed family time that you can't get back...in short, your life...into something is going to pay off. That, in some way, you will win in the end.

And I, being perpetually unhappy with most of what I write, find it very easy to look to someone else to tell me what I haven't told myself.

Over the last year, I wrote a story that I like. It is different. I would even say special. Parts of it are good. And today, I sent it off to an editor. A very cool editor who might not even be a good fit for this book, but that I would love to work with someday.

So today, except for the pizza...and the wrinkle free skin...and the breasts...

I won.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Puke Factor

I finished the line edit. Chopped 2,500 words. Added maybe 1,000.

Now the manuscript is ready to go out on submission.

But, you might challenge with an outsider's wisdom which, I promise, is much smarter than me: How do you know it is ready?

I have two standards by which I measure readiness:

1.) Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD reference to kneading faces while feeling burned out and rubberized.

2.) The puke factor.

Every other time I finished a draft, it felt good. I'd celebrate draft success but I knew I had TONS more work to do. And I refused to let my neurotic need to send my crappy writing overtake my neurotic need for it to be really good.

Been there. Done that. Hid my face in the sand about it.

But when I finished this draft, I wanted my husband to look at it. And then I wanted to throw up.

That's how I knew it was ready.

What do you know about your writing process? How do you know when you're done?