Anyone who knows me will know that I’m no stranger to the self-doubt monster. I try repeatedly to tell myself that I am a good writer and a good editor, but sometimes you need those external sources to provide you with the little boost. For me, multiple events in very recent times have provided me with the boost that I needed.
I can do this!
Let me take a step back and set the stage for you.
My regular readers will know that last year I was stricken down by a MASSIVE case of self-doubt, complicated by the green-eyed monster threatening to strangle me. Add on top of this the fact that I chose to submit to PitchWars for the second year running (same novel), knowing perfectly well that I wasn’t going to get in (my word counts would have been seen as too high). I had decided back then to shelve my entire fantasy series and shift my focus to a standalone thriller and the military science fiction series that I’m writing with my US-based writing partner. That is still the plan, but it was a massive emotional setback.
And the emotional setbacks kept rolling in. There’s that old saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Well, I needed a boat to survive the flood that resulted. Everything came crashing down around my ears, personally and professionally. 2016 really needed to take a flying leap! However, I refused to let 2016 get the better of me. I came back fighting — with fists and swords.
Right at the end of 2016, something shifted within my little world. I don’t know if it was me begging for things to change, making myself more receptive to ideas, or if it was something else, but through the overwhelming insecurity came unexpected opportunities. Now that certain announcements have been made public, I’m now allowed to share with you all my excitement and how I know that I’ve finally found my stride with this writing and editing venture.
Last year in October, I released a series of instructional videos for writers on how to use Scrivener (a word-processing program designed for writers). You don’t want to know the amount of hours I had put into those things for what at the time seemed like very little reward. I even enlisted the help of my writing partner Ann Bell Feinstein to finish them, simply because she writes using a Mac and I don’t. (The software has different features on the Mac system.) I was pushing the clock with a deadline, wanting to release the videos before I ran a workshop within my local community on how to use the software. I also ran an on-line workshop for those in the home town of my writing partner — a special request from Ann. (Isn’t technology a wondrous thing?)
Those workshops were well received and the videos are doing really well. In fact, the videos have done better than well. In just the last 28 days alone, I’ve had 562 views across 11 videos. (2,083 views since the series went live back in October 2016.) My jaw drops at those numbers. And here I was thinking that they were just okay. But those videos have turned from something minor into something that is earning me some major recognition.
At the end of October 2016, another writing buddy of mine, Emma Lowe, insisted that I put in an application to present Scrivener at the Romance Writers New Zealand national conference in August 2017. Em actually did more than insist. She got hold of Ann and the two of them ganged up on me. So I pushed past the doubts and insecurities and put in the application, mentioning that I had just released those videos. Well… I got the phone call in November… Those little videos landed me the gig.
I was so excited, but I couldn’t say anything. The conference coordinators wanted to announce the full programme at the same time, come the end of Feb. I had to keep my mouth shut, not saying a word on social media. Do you know how hard it was to attend meetings with fellow members of Romance Writers New Zealand, knowing that I’m going to be presenting at the national conference, and not being allowed to tell them? Talk about torture. (Of course, I did tell Em and Ann as soon as I could. It was because of them that I applied in the first place.)
Two weeks ago came the next bit of excitement and validation. Somehow the coordinators of the RWNZ conference got wind of the fact that I’m a bit of an expect on social media and websites. They approached me to run another workshop at the same conference, but focusing on the hidden traps of building a writer’s platform — how one can protect themselves and their reputation. It was so ironic, because that is exactly the topic of the book that I’m working on right now, pushing myself to have it ready for release come August 1st. Of course, I said yes. (Do I look stupid?)
Two major sessions at one of the biggest writers conferences in my home country. Agents and editors from around the world will be there. This is a big deal for little ol’ me. So big that I feel I can faint.
(BTW, it’s unlikely that I’ll be pitching to those agents or editors, simply because the editors will be from Harlequin Romance and the agents represent romance and woman’s fiction. I write fantasy and science fiction with strong thriller roots. But I will be taking advantage of the fact that they’re there, hoping to pick their brains on who I could possibly approach.)
Earlier this week, I got another boost of confidence. Some time ago, I had submitted the first chapter of my manuscript for review by an editor. It was so long ago that I had completely forgotten that I had done this. Well, I got the report back.
The editor that had looked at my opening chapter had been an editor for Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Penguin Random House (three of the Big 5 publishing houses) with over 16 years experience in the industry. I quote:
It was such a pleasure to read your submission… I could tell right away that you are a skilled and experienced writer with a strong grasp on your story and characters.
[T]he world building is clear and excellent.
[O]verall the writing is very strong. I really don’t have a lot to edit here!
In all, this feels like a confident start and gives me the impression you have a firm handle over the voices of your characters, the world you’re building, and where the story is going. Great work, and good luck moving forward!”
To have that sort of comment from someone with that level of experience…
This is on top of comments that I’ve received from a literary magazine about my fantasy short story where it was “a well-written story that succeeds in establishing an emotional between the reader and the characters.” That particular magazine ultimately rejected the story, but only because the main character was “a very heroic, ‘good’ character, lacking in the shades of grey that [they] look for.” (I was flying high with that sort of personalised feedback.)
To me, it’s proof that I do know what I’m doing, both with my writing and my editing. (Yes, folks, I edited my own manuscript, based on the critique advice from fellow writers and an editor friend.) Those comments have made me wonder whether it might be worth pulling out that shelved manuscript and polish up the query letter, giving it a go. I’m not sure about that, but I certainly feel confident that when I have my standalone novel ready to head out the door that it will definitely be ready and not something that belongs cooped up in a drawer.
I have submitted my short story to another magazine only a week ago and am still waiting to hear back.
We have only just now finished the second month of 2017 and already this year is looking to be MY year. I’m taking this one by the reins and not letting go.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017