Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's All Subjective

sub·jec·tive
–adjective
1. existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought ( opposed to objective).
2. pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation.
3. placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.
4. Philosophy . relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself.
5. relating to properties or specific conditions of the mind as distinguished from general or universal experience.
6. pertaining to the subject or substance in which attributes inhere; essential.


It's that time of year. If you're a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, you'll know I'm referring to The Genesis, a writing contest for unpublished authors. The finalists have been announced, and the rest of the entrants are left to ponder their scores and wonder why not them...
Okay, a disclaimer. I didn't enter. I entered for two years running a couple of years back, then decided it wasn't worth it, for me.
I'm just not a contest kind of gal, really. Not to say the contest itself isn't a great one, because it is. I never did final those two years, but I did get some good constructive feedback, and some not so good.
So what do you do when you've pinned your hopes on finaling, even winning, and then you don't? Cry and moan about it and declare yourself the worst writer that ever lived?
Please don't.
Move on. Put it all in perspective and remember how subjective this business is.
Trust me, there are more important things to cry about. One day you will believe this.

I finally learned, the hard way, I might add, that I will never ever, ever, make it around here if I whine and cry over every rejection that comes through my inbox. Yes, I get it. Your book is your baby. It hurts when nobody wants it or calls it ugly. Really. You can't help but take it personally. And you know, maybe you're not a good writer. Harsh? I don't think so.
I thought I was a good writer for years. I enjoyed what I was writing and other people told me they enjoyed reading my stories. The truth? I didn't know what good writing was. Obviously the people reading my stuff didn't either.
Boy did I get a few slap you down in the mud wake up calls once I started submitting my work to publishers.
But listen to me. We need those 5AM alarm bells to go off once in while. Because they get us up off our backsides and force us to face the fact that we still have a long way to go.
If getting published was easy, everyone could do it.
If you want easy, there are places you can go that will be happy to publish your work for a small fee and a pound of flesh.
But if you want to work at honing your craft, becoming the best writer you can be, and finally getting the call, be it from that dream agent you've been stalking or an editor telling you she can't wait to publish your book, then you're going to have to put some muscle into it.

I don't count how many years I've been at it anymore. Mostly because if I do, I'll probably go all Hemmingway and lock myself in a closet for a very long time. No, scratch that, I'm claustrophobic, but you get the idea.
What I'm trying to say is that contests are good, but they are most definitely not the be all and end all to your future as an author. Take those comments for whatever they are worth to you. Learn from them if you can, but don't, whatever you do, let them knock you down.

Don't give up just because somebody out there didn't like what you had to say or how you said it.

Case in point - my Vietnam book. (Yes, she's on that tear again, run if you must). If you've read this blog at all, you'll remember I've had a really hard time with this book. Rejections across the board.
I put it away for a bit, concentrated on other projects, and it's all going pretty well. But I have to say, as crazy as it sounds, this story will not leave me alone.
I know that someday soon, somebody will love it like I do. I'm exploring different options for it now, potentially going over to a different market than CBA, *gasp*, and I feel good about it. I'll post more about all that later.
I'm getting some great advice from authors I trust about that decision, and yes, I've had a few responses like, "You will never sell that story whether you take it to ABA or CBA, because people just don't want to read about Vietnam."
Okay, thanks. And I move on.
I have to, because I believe in this story. Maybe I'm walking the fine line between determination and stupidity, but this is something I have to do. I will follow every lead, make every revision necessary to ensure I'm presenting my best work, I will seek advice, take the good and ponder the bad, but I will not give up. I can't.

Yes, it's all subjective. People are going to tell you you're never going to sell that story. Others will cheer you on with all they have in them until you do.
The beauty is, you get to choose who to listen to.

2 comments:

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow- Wish I had read this the day I found out I didn't final and had my hour meltdown:))
Funny thing, my friend didn't final either and the next day, the same story finaled in another contest. Subjective is right. Not all of us are going to like the same book.
I will tell you though, you are a very good writer and I'm enjoying reading your work:)) I believe like you do that if you work hard enough on a story you believe in, someday it might make it. Might take awhile but only if it is well-written. I'm still learning to cut and let go of my bad sections. Doing some of that today with the help of my critique partners.
Can you hear my groaning?

Georgiana said...

It's great to see that you are 100% fully committed to your story:D Well, you must be a good writer because look at who is your agent! It's sooo hard when someone calls our babies ugly, though, isn't it? I've so been there. But you are right--it's good we get to choose who to listen to!