My writing self has two personalities. Let’s call them Brenda and Phoebe.
Brenda is a struggler. She enjoys being a writer but often wonders if there is any point to putting the work out there.
Phoebe is full of confidence. She knows the work is good and that it’s just a matter of time before the debut novel is on the shelves and doing the review rounds on Goodreads.
She is confident and best of all, believes in the story.
Brenda thinks that it doesn’t matter how many times revisions are done, the manuscript will always be a ‘bottom drawer’ job.
Phoebe is proud of being shortlisted in a national writing competition and that the work has had several partial and full requests with much positive feedback from betas, agents and editors. Her characters have inspired comments such as, “Their witty banter and easy rapport made them truly likeable characters with a lot of depth,” and “We fell in love with this couple and rooted for them to be together.”
Brenda cries in the shower over being told she was in the bottom 10 of a local competition. She will never be good enough. She is an amateur. She gets rejections that say, ‘I couldn’t connect with the voice’ and tweets from agents saying, “SO tired of stories where girls swear off boys only to find ‘the one’.”
Phoebe imagines what she would say on a panel at a writers’ festival.
Brenda pulls the doona up over her head and wonders if the despair will ever subside.
With such conflicting discourses – who do I listen to?
It depends on the day.
I entered a competition earlier this year with the lure of two judges reading my manuscript and providing detailed feedback.
Fantastic. Feedback is a drug that my writer self craves.
The feedback received illustrated the dichotomy of my writing self perfectly:
|Judge #1||Judge #2|
|Total Score: 110/206
Hated the work.
|Were you drawn in straight away?||3||9|
|Has the writer raised questions you want to see resolved?||3||9|
|Does the writing seem natural, give necessary information and advance the story?||3||9|
|Does each scene promote or advance the plot?||4||9|
|Do you care about the characters?||2||9|
|Does the writing have a distinct style or voice that impacts positively on you?||4||9|
|Did the writing touch you emotionally – either with the characters and/or the situation they were in?||2||9|
|Did you enjoy reading this entry?||3||9|
|How do you rate the readiness for submission?||2||9|
So what do you do when the voice saying, ‘Why bother?’ roars louder than the one with the pom poms? How do we as aspiring authors, never ever give up? So much of our sense of worth as a writer is invested into these queries and for some reason, it’s the No that is louder than the Yes.
I had a face-to-face meeting with an editor from my dream publisher earlier this year. She didn’t offer me a contract but was clear on the areas to work on before it was ready. I was directly told, ‘Don’t give up on this manuscript. It’s nearly there.’ She believed that with a few revisions it would be ready for publication. Phoebe was ecstatic and that entire night she was buzzed. She had notes and ideas and was ready to get to work.
The next day, Brenda woke up and realised it was not good enough.
For months I couldn’t bring myself to write a word. My WIP and my completed MS sat untouched.
It was too hard.
I could not make it good enough.
The edge of the cliff loomed – would it really matter if I threw my writing self off it?
I imagined the free fall and the end of my very short writing carer.
I was/am not ready to give up. So I did what I do when things are dark and endless: I made a plan.
Fiona’s Plan For Not Falling In
1. Reach for Support
We all need a personal cheerleader or two. Mine are my hubby and a few others who have read and love my work. My Print Posse are my writer life lines. They get it because they live it also.
2. Identify the Positives
I take a copy of all the positive quotes from agents, publishers, etcetera and re-read them when I need a lift. I’m making them into a picture I can frame and keep on my writing desk.
3. Step Away
Just take one step back. Take time to think about something else – a new story, project or idea. A wise woman once said, “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small.”
I tell my students that every wrong answer is an opportunity to learn something new. It’s the same for rejections. What can I take away from this that will make my writing stronger?
5. Just Keep Writing
You don’t win an Olympic Medal by being in only one race. If you want it (and I really, really do!) then you must never, ever give up.