I finished my WOTF first draft this weekend and finishing it, I thought, dang, this story, this is it. When it is polished and shiny, this is the one that will get published. The story isn't done, but there feels like this promise to it that I have never felt with any other story. I have loved characters, invested heart and soul into works, but never before have I felt, this one is going to go pro.
Then I went to edit. Suddenly, my confidence is shot. What if I am crazy? What if there is nothing special to this story and I am just imagining that? What if after fixing the changes I already know I need to change, I send it to the WOTF crit group and the crits come back saying "what is wrong with you that you think this would ever be good enough to enter?" Or if I polish it all spiffy and send it out and don't get HM or anything. And then I submit to other markets and everyone hates it.
Or on the other hand, what if it is good, but it is the only good story I will ever write? What if whatever I did right in this story, I can never do again?
And so, instead of editing, I sat there freaking out. So, while the obvious solution is to just get two publications (the second shows the first isn't a fluke), any more immediate suggestions?
It's a story. You're not asking for someone's hand in marriage. The worst that could happen is that you have to sell it elsewhere.
If you know where you want to submit, as it appears you do, save the original draft and "pretend" edit in a different file. That way you can go back to the baby untouched and the edits aren't "real." Of course, if they work then the edits are real and you are a writing genius.
I've had submissions all lined up to send and then paced for hours. In the end, all you can do is submit and then get back to writing.
Or as my crazy uncle said, "There's a lot of crap that goes pro; surely your crap is just as good."
Just kidding. Don't let fear get in your way. You need the wariors spirit. If you can write one good story you will write more.
Just do your best.
edit it the best way you know how.
Format it the best way you know how.
Don't forget your cover letter.
Put it in an envelope. Don't fold it.
Here is the tricky part. Forget about it and start writing another entry...or story. If you are like me you will have written ten more stories before you even hear about it again. If you win, boy are the publications going to love those ten stories you wrote when you have your WOTF conquest on your cover letter to them. That is how dreams are made. Now your work starts to get published one in three submissions instead of one in three hundred. Or something like that. You meet an agent at a workshop that asks when you are going to write a novel. "Funny thing you ask...I am about half way through one now"
Focus on the positive in life. More writing, less worrying.
I may be in the minority, but I don't really believe in the whole idea of "bad" writing or bad stories. If it comes from you, if you put feeling and effort into it and care about it, I believe it has merit.
The WOTF judges aren't the arbiters of what is or isn't a "good" story.
My only real advice is, have confidence in yourself, your muses and your stories. Keep at it. Don't get freaked out. If you've come this far, then you will continue. Your stories are there, waiting for you to tell them. Just do that, polish and shine them so that YOU love them, and let the rest take care of itself.
That may explain the emotions you are having. It will be fine.It is just the hormones talking. You are a writer. You write great stories. And win or lose, you at least have the courage to do what you love.
I go through little cycles of self-doubt all the time. I remind myself I'm writing for myself and would keep doing so even if I never had any chance of being published. I keep writing. Eventually the little nagging voice of doubt gets drowned out by all the character voices insisting on being put to paper (well, computer screen).
No one's ever going to see your story the way you do.
Submit the work and take pleasure in the fact that you still like the work you're submitting - that one day you'd want to come back and revisit your characters,- and that your family (and friends) can read it, enjoy it, and find joy in the fact that it was produced by someone of their blood, and is now part of the family legacy. How fun is it to read a story by someone we know personally, even intimately, and see a new side of them? There's something special about that.
If your inner editor/subconscious is attacking you, the writer, and not specific aspects of the story, it is wrong. Period. It might help to transcribe all the bushwacking on paper and look at it in the light of day. If the doubts are about specific facets of the story, examine them and use your judgement to make any changes you deem appropriate (and you can always go back to the original). Letting the story sit for a couple days might help.
Posts: 612 | Registered: Jul 2005
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If you wrote the story, you're probably not the best judge of how good it is. You're too close to it. That's why we have critique partners, but even they aren't the final say. A story that is not good for one critter, editor or WOTF judge might be perfect for another. It's all subjective.
Every story I write I think is either a masterpiece or a pile of crap. Sometimes I think both about the same story at various times in the process, but neither outlook is true. So I toss my hopes and fears aside, put the story in the mail and move on to the next one.
I feel like this all of the time. One minute I think, this story is so awesome, and the next minute I think, this is just drivel. I'd like to know how to manage the roller coaster ride of confidence and doubt.
But I think it is good to feel conflicted about our writing. If we don't have confidence in ourselves, we won't keep trying, but if we never doubt, we won't learn and grow as writers. So I think it is very healthy to feel this way.
I have to say, it sounds like you have written a story that really resonates with you. That is a good sign that you have written something very special. Good luck with your submission.
That initial feeling you had, when writing, that's the feeling to trust. It's the feeling that will get you up out of your chair and get you walking the manuscript to the post office. Or e-mailing it to an e-market. When you're writing you are in Creative Voice and that's where the inspiration and the power comes from.
When you are re-reading, you're in Editor Voice or, worse yet, Critic Voice, and your Editor/Critic Voice is liable to hate much of what Creative Voice does. Basically, your Editor/Critic is going to sabotage you at most junctures, and if you rely on Editor/Critic you're liable to trunk the story and never let it see the light of day.
My Editor/Critic thought very poorly of my story that won Writers of the Future.
sholar, I did the WotF crit group for the first time for Q02. My crits ranged from 'great story' to 'this concept doesn't work for me, I suggest you scrap it and start over'. Of course, those are the extremes. Most of the responses were 'pretty good, but these points need work'. And many of those suggestions helped me build a stronger story without compromising the main idea of the story.
Don't over-edit until you get some feedback. But - trust yourself and no matter what feedback you get stay true to your story. It is your belief and passion that make the story come to life.
Hurrah- a mild form of external validation. I sent in (first time I have actually ever submitted) a story I thought sucked to Apex and it made it through the first round! So, now waiting for the next editor's opinion, but even if its a rejection, getting through the first reader feels really good.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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Well, they quickly passed on the second person. But I got personalized feedback from the senior editor (they thought it was interesting but a little unbelievable for the protagonist to get away with so much). I am pretty happy with my first rejection though. I can see the point, but I am not sure if/how to fix it. So I'll think about it and then resubmit elsewhere.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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One thing to consider about that feedback, sholar, is what OSC has said (and, again, I'm paraphrasing): you don't necessarily have to fix what an editor says is wrong with a story. If you can figure out what in the story gave the editor the problem they mentioned, you may be able to fix it by going back and doing something different earlier in the story. (I hope that made sense.)
In your case, instead of trying to figure out how to have the protagonist get away with less (a possible "fix" for the problem the editor had with the story), maybe you can go earlier in the story and set things up so that it isn't so unbelievable for the protagonist to get away with so much.
Or, you may be able to figure out how to structure the story so the protagonist doesn't need to get away with so much because of something someone else in the story does.
Or, you could have someone in the story express disbelief in how the protagonist gets away with so much, thereby acknowledging that it is a little unbelievable, but the protagonist doesn't understand it either and is grateful and very willing to take advantage of the "good luck" for as long as it lasts.
Or, you could have someone else in the story do something that makes it possible for the protagonist to get away with so much (maybe by secretly "paving the way" in some manner) and the protagonist never knows about it, but at least the reader does.
Or some other approach, more relevant to your story (since I haven't read it and am really just tossing possibilities out there).
Anyway, don't just try to fix the exact problem the editor mentioned. Try to figure out what else in the story caused the editor to have that problem and see if you can fix it indirectly.
Thanks for your advice! Reading your suggestions, I realized that there is a good reason he gets away with stuff, which is hinted at, but could be brought up more explicitly and would actually strengthen the story. I tend to have a problem with following Daniel Abraham's rule #8, though I am working on it.
From Abraham's blog: "8) Trust your readers to be as smart as you are, but don't assume they can read your mind."
ETA- I am actually feeling really good about this rejection. It wasn't a form rejection. It gave me a concrete problem. Also, they had a list of potential problems and none of those were checked (instead, they said other and typed in senior editor said X). Not having things like "fails to hold interest" or "poorly edited" marked makes me feel like I did an overall good job and have skills, just this person had this specific problem with this story. And I know I am probably over analyzing the rejection, but I am taking this as a really positive start of my career.
[This message has been edited by sholar (edited April 07, 2010).]
Oh, the other great thing, is now I can follow Heinlein's rules by editing only to editor comments and sending this baby out again. Just need to decide where next. Back to Duotrope's.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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