For as much as writers put themselves “out there” by publishing work, doubt gnaws at us as hungry as a mouse chewing through insulation. Maybe I should put the piece through one more editing round; maybe I should scrap it entirely and start all over again; maybe I should admit today that I am through–I’m a fraud, I’m not a writer, and today’s the day the world will know it. Tomorrow evening I won’t need to write, I can kick back and goof off. Except….
Prolific, delightfully action-packed writer Jonathan Maberry (check out his Joe Ledger series or his YA zombie series that begins with Rot & Ruin) spoke at a writer conference in Worthington, Ohio, two years ago, and said something I needed to hear: At some point, in every book, he was sure his career was done. He’d written junk, and now the whole world would tell him to quit. This is from a New York Times best-selling author who has written dozens of books. He’d shoot a late-night email out, and hope a writer-friend could assure him something could be salvaged in the book.
When you’re writing a piece as part of a timed competition, doubts like this cripple. This is when we turn to our writer friends. If it’s 2 am EST and I’m sure none of my friends is online, well, remember, I’ve got some in Mountain Time and Pacific Time, so maybe someone who isn’t in the competition is still up; or what about my UK and Australian friends? Oh, joy, Pam is up for the day! I shoot something to her, and she gives me a cold read if it’s funny, snarky, whatever I shot for but felt I’d missed the mark.
Concept by concept, sentence by sentence, I strengthen the piece because of my beta readers’ feedback. I claw my way back to confidence. I can do this. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again. I’m a writer from the jagged edge of my pinky toenail to the tip of the gray hair that stood straight up the moment before it landed in the trash can.
Judges Feedback, “Granny’s Got Your Gun,”
I’ve received my judges feedback from New York City Midnight Short Story Challenge (NYCM SSC) Round 1. Even when you move on, as I have, you wonder what the feedback will say.
I read one judges’ feedback, and I blushed. This couldn’t really be about my li’l ole piece, not really, nuh-uh. Yet the details the judge included, unh-huh, chick, this is your piece!
Here’s the bit that had me blushing with the comparisons:
Deliciously-written lead paragraphs. Wonderfully inventive . . . Very evocative sense of humor and comic relief. The monikers are terrifically satirical: “Healthy Hearing . . . Healthy Hunger Decree.” Sounds like Arlo Guthrie on steroids. Vonnegut would smile over “Granny’s self-reliance.” The run-on monikers are as hilarious as they are immensely creative: “greedy pork-barrel-riding-pony-boy legislators.” What a splendidly sound and keen mind created this piece of creative writing. Garrison Keillor would love this. Also, Ken Kese would have delighted in reading this, as well–straight, or on acid. It only gets better with: “ooh-la-la-ing.” Margaret Atwood on estrogen supplements. Yaowza, what a story. Highly publishable and solidly commendable political satire and irreverent but sophisticated top-notch work of creative writing.
Struggling as I was on the big battle scene of my YA novel, Solve for x, this judge’s feedback brightened my afternoon more than the evening sun fighting through the slats of my blinds. Sure, the judges also called out what needed work; and I scored fourth in my heat, barely making it to Round 2. The honorable mentions are gnashing their teeth, so I will take my fourth place and give it my all in the three days of writing I have in this round. Prompts drop tonight at midnight, EST.
At the end of the day, this validation, this delight from a reader? That’s a big part of why I write. Political Satire kicked me squarely out of my comfort zone, probably adding to my bouts of self-doubt on this piece; but my betas validated the strength; and the judges validated why I moved on to Round 2.
Yup, I think I’ll stick with this writing thing.