Whirlwind Writerly Weekend (with the footnotes to prove it)

Yesterday I mentioned in my HoK post that I was still trying to think through and manage the emotional roller coaster that was Shelley Watter’s [1] First Page Contest. I think I’m finally ready, so here it goes.[2]

It started Friday night. I pulled out Chrysalis’ prologue and dusted it off.[3] I figured out I had a 100 more words than the contest allowed. Now, I could just use the first 250 words like other contestants were sure to do, or I could edit and deliver something completely self contained, that ended with a powerful punch. [4]

I chose to edit. I was so pleased with myself, I tweeted it. [5]

I stared at my entry for eons and then put it up on my blog. Then  I read How to Take a Critique by Annette Lyon to prepare myself for the hopefully constructive criticism that would come in over the course of the next two days.

I was ridiculously excited for this for a number of reasons.

  1. Strangers, who had no emotional investment in not making me cry [6], would be reading my work. It would be wonderfully honest, which I’ve been craving.
  2. For good or ill, I would have the usable data I’ve been craving. My degree is in psychology [7] and we study difficultly ambiguous concepts all the time. I really feel that the feedback you get about your book is like that. Some things are just matters of taste and others are actual writing issues that need to be addressed. It takes data to discover which is which.
  3. The prize is kinda glorious. I want that critique from an industry professional. It would throw my data set out of the water and into the upper atmosphere.

My first comment arrived at 6am Saturday morning. I have a BlackBerry with email apps that reflect my desire to have all the data in all the world. [8] I also keep it on vibrate all the time. I’m not a ringtone girl. Not having ringtones isn’t a problem though. My little phone is quite motivated when it wants to be. [9]

And I can’t just let it be at 6am on a Saturday morning that I’m in a contest. So, by 7am, I was awake, attached to my phone, and really wishing that I’d gotten more than 5 hours of sleep. Eventually, I stuffed my phone deep in my purse on the other end of my house. I missed phone calls from friends wondering where the heck I’d gone. It was worth it.

By the end of Saturday I had a mixed data set and I had to make some hard choices. On the negative end, people were confused by what was going on. On the positive, the typos which had cleverly hidden themselves from me for the last few drafts were found by the fresh eyes and most everyone loved the voice, atmosphere, and someone even called it lyrical. [10]

So, Sunday night came and I was in a huge quandary. I want, more than a lot of things, to be the kind of writer than can not only take criticism well but not get defensive. [11] But I also wanted to maintain my artistic integrity which what I was trying to do. I also had the advantage of knowing what the piece was setting up and, and (this was a stab through the heart to realize), exactly what I had cut in order to fit the prologue into 250 words.

Suddenly, I was not as pleased about Friday’s editing as I had been. So, I tweaked a few words, here and there, fixed those wily typos [12], rewrote [13] the final chunk (which consistently gave the majority of my fellow contestants problems) and began fretting. [14]

So I messaged the lovely Brittany, my best friend [15] and fellow aspiring writer, and fretted at her. She looked at three different versions, read through the notes I’d been given, discussed my writing goals, as they related to the prologue, with me and helped me reach a decision. [16]

After more fretting [17], I tried to sleep on it, and despite my tendency towards rampaging insomnia, I managed an entire six hours. [18]

And this is how I ended up with something only slightly tweaked in the contest. Currently, I feel exceptional about it. We’ll see on July 11th when the winner and runners up are announced.


[1] Let’s not talk about the many different and very wrong ways I tried to spell her name. It’s just too embarrassing.
[2] I also wanted to write it up with my silly footnotes. My HoK voice doesn’t lend well to footnotes and they’ve become my thing. [19]
[3] There was a lot of dust. I hadn’t seriously touched it in over six months.
[4] I won’t make any attempt to be humble. I love my first line (it’s mirrored in the last line at the end of the book) and I love how the prologue ends. It’s amazing in the things it’s setting up. I totally feel like I keep the promises it makes. [20]
[5] Any time I’m able to cut words out of Chrysalis, I’m pleased. I also tweet it.
[6] I have awesome friends and family who have read Chrysalis and given me excellent feedback. They are honest and not the stereotypical “I love everything you do because I love you” kinds of friends and family.
But I’m very much like J M Barrie’s Tinkerbell, who sometimes only feels an emotion so singly that it can take me some time to come back down to logic and decide what I really feel. Because of this, I spaz out, fret, but ultimately will take a few days to respond so very thoughtfully and professionally. I promise.
[7] It’s a Bachelor’s of Science! This means I’m a scientist! [21]
[8] Have I mentioned that all knowledge is worth having? ‘Cause it is.
[9] It sleeps on the stand next to me so I can smack it when it tells me its time to get up.
[10] I happy danced over this. This is my favorite word to use when describing Martine Leavitt’s Keturah and Lord Death, and anything written by Maggie Stiefvater.
[11] This is why I let myself be Tinkerbell but only open my mouth after counting to ten. Or two thousand. Yes, there is a life story here. I’m a lesson learner.
[12] I’m a huge believer that after reading something fifty billion times, writers can miss glaring mistakes. That’s why fresh eyes are so important and I love me some fresh eyes.
[13] And rewrote. And deleted. And rewrote. And agonized. Then deleted.
[14] Fret. Fret. Fretfretfret.
[15] She did this at midnight on a work night. This is one of the things that makes her the awesome. She also has been there since the inception of the idea and knew exactly where it was coming from.
[16] And she did all of this whilst my phone was stuff in my purse at the other end of my house.
[17] And tweeting!
[18] I’m pretty sure Tinkerbell passes out after hours of feeling that one emotion so singly too.
[19] I totally think in footnotes now. It’s kinda amazing. And weird.
[20] That’s something the Writing Excuses Team taught me.
[21] Really! Really! No softies here!

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