Thursday, January 29, 2009

On having a bout with doubt

So this week has been a bit of a rocky one for me. I can't really blame anyone but myself. Well, that and the fact that I want to be a published novelist. Well, that's still my fault huh?

February 2 marks two writing deadlines for me - which are of course self inflicted. I'm going to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and submit a bio/synopsis/excerpt combo for a podcast series Eric Maisel is putting together on his website. And I can't even tell you how much more challenging this has been for me than writing an entire novel.

First off, writing about yourself in third person is weird. Selecting an excerpt is difficult. Writing a 300 word query/pitch is HARD. In the mix of all this, I've also been getting the first feedback on my manuscript from one of my "beta-readers" and my NaNoWriMo writing group. While the feedback in terms of storytelling and writing style was great, the bad was revealed as well.

I make an exorbitant amount of typos. When working on my fiction, I average about 1400-1800 words per hour. I also do a very poor job of finding them when I'm editing. I'd put money on the fact that I've missed a typo somewhere in this blog post too.

So the train wreck started when I used wordle. This is a really cool tool, mind you. It's very fun to see what words are used the most in your writing. I filtered out all the names of characters and locations and was made privy to the fact that my most used word was back. While 532 uses out of 101,578 words might not seem like a lot, it ended up showing its ugly four letter face on every page multiple times. It helped though. I was able to weed out quite a few backs, realizing that I do indeed use the word in many cases where it really just isn't needed. Being that the other words in the cloud include stuff like eyes, head, nothing, around, face, hand, something, and even, I found myself having weird feelings. Feelings like maybe my writing is too simple and basic if these are the words popping up as my most used.

Then I got some feedback from my writing group about how many typos I have, including a comment about being an editor's nightmare. (Of course, this was said in a constructive way. It was also followed by encouragement to find an agent. One who likes copy editing. LOL.)Everyone from the group knows that they are looking at early drafts, and some of the problems I had already fixed by the time I received feedback. However, I began questioning what I might have to lose (not loose, my dear fingers. See, I know the difference, I swear!) if I submitted something less than stellar - as in less than perfect - to the ABNA.

Would I be marred forever as the author who makes tons of typos? Would this hurt my chances of picking up an agent at a later time if I put out a manuscript that isn't error free?

After some heavy thinking, accompanied by excessive whining, I decided I don't really think I'll be shunned from the publishing world for a submission that could very well not even make it past the first judges (ergo, never be publicly posted).

This, with the stress of trying to put together not one but two separate pitch things due on the same day, started to make me go a little insane. I don't think I've ever really doubted my writing, but I was seriously starting to doubt my ability to get an agent due to my apparent SUCKAGE at editing.

Piece of mind came when I decide I'm going to look into some copy editing services. I'm not looking for a writing coach or someone to refine my story. I like my story. I feel like I tell the story I sought to tell. I need someone with the skills I lack to go through it and pick out all the stupid shit I did when I typed it way to fast. Lose and loose, missing words, missing letters, extra commas and mistaken uses of semicolons.

I stop and question if I might be selling out or something. I don't think so. I think I'm buying time. I might never get my manuscript flawless in terms of errors, no matter how many times I go through it. I have no idea how long it would take me to become comfortable with "close enough." Six months? A year? Ten years? I could be querying in that time. I could be querying while working on finishing my next manuscript. For me this feels like an investment. Get a project out there now. A project that won't get rejected because I have an extra period at the end of a few sentences.

We all know agents are forced to reject more than they might want to. Agents are flooded daily with queries, and if something is an easy reason to cull the herd, who wouldn't take it? I do it myself in my own work. When I'm putting together a series of stories for the Good Works, I pick, as often as possible, the most complete submissions. I look for a story with enough information that I can write about and also that there is already a picture included. If I have these things I don't have to spend the extra time calling for more information and waiting two weeks for someone to get back to me with a photo. I don't think anyone elects to more work than needed, especially if they have a hundred other possibilities waiting for them.

I want my story be judged for the story it is, not the typos. I don't want to be auto-rejected for a mistake (lots of mistakes) in the manuscript. I want to give myself the best chance possible from the gates. I don't want to spend a year querying with something I'm not confident in. I'm ready now. I'm ready to realistically pursue my dream and stop just talking about.

For me, this is certainly worth spending some money.

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