Lost a contest, gained perspective.

This is my first blog post, so forgive me if this turns out as bright orange text on a red background. I tried. I also threw in a chart and link, because that’s just what you’re supposed to do.

I recently entered Michelle Hauck’s New Agent contest, a writing contest where entrants sent a short query and the first 250 words to a panel of slush readers and, eventually, agents. The contest was comprised of a couple different rounds, elimination-style (I didn’t make it into the first round, thanks for brining that up). I was sort of bummed, but I was too overwhelmed by the advice flying at me in the form of tweets and by the new friends I had made to see it as a failure.

The contest connected me with dozens of new followers. I received feedback on my query from some awesome people.

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Remember, I’m new at this “posting” as you young kids call it, but if you can see the above graphic, you’ll notice a green spike. My daily twitter counts before the contest fluctuated between 0 and 5. The green spike? Yeah, that was the day of the contest, taking the lead with a whopping 22 posts. I clearly had too much coffee that day. Not even sure what I said.

The point is, I was intimidated by Twitter before the contest. I was worried I had nothing to say. I was worried the friends who didn’t know I was a writer would think I’m “weird.” But it’s not about any of that. Those things are trivial. It’s about getting ahead in a tough industry and doing what you love. A social media base helps. When you look at it from a business practice and not a “I can’t wait to tweet what I had for breakfast” practice, it takes on a new light. 

Quality of my tweets wasn’t the only thing I doubted. The difficulty of writing a query brought out doubts I didn’t even know I could have. Meticulously picking every word (with less than 250 of them) isn’t an easy task. Summing up a 100,000 word novel into an enticing, fresh, well-built query is even harder. But I realized the doubt was refreshing. 

I realized doubt is an author’s worst enemy and best friend. Doubt that you got that beginning right. Doubt that Mary Sue is so perfect after all or that Bill Covington truly forgives his wife for cheating on him. It’s how we discover new perspectives or tunnels for a character to venture into. I doubted that my manuscript was the best it could be. I had to put my satisfaction in labeling it “done” aside and get back to work. 

If writing a novel could be summed up with an algorithm or exact equation for success, we would test out every way possible to tell the “perfect” story until we figured out that equation. Until someone actually does this out (see: apocalypse), we are the ones who have to explore every angle of our story to tell it the best we can. Until the next contest, I’ll be looking for the perfect way to tell mine.