Saturday, March 19, 2011

What it’s all about - and yes, it can happen to all of us.

by Monica Stoner, Member at Large

We sit in front of our screens, our typewriters, our yellow pads, pouring thoughts and emotions out for the world to see with the hopes some day the world will see. Other than our critique partners, our supportive friends and a few anonymous contests judges, our words’ world is very small. We dream of the day we get the call, and as we keep typing, keep plotting, keep running scenes through our heads while going through grocery checkout, deep down inside we start to wonder. What’s it all about? Is it really worth the time investment?

Sure we need to give a home to our characters. One day. In the meantime there are so many demands on our energy, and to say “I can’t, I have to write” becomes weaker and weaker as the weeks, months, and years slide past. Until “I have to write” segues into “I’ll write later” and the span between writing times grows. We pull ourselves out of the pit from time to time, take a class or two, jot down some plot ideas, maybe enter a contest. Or maybe judge a contest, telling ourselves we’re “giving back” or “keeping our hand in.” We keep up our memberships, though sometimes we wonder if that money couldn’t be spent better elsewhere. Giving up our memberships and meetings might mean we are giving up on ourselves as writers.

Because we retain our memberships, nurturing that tiny spark of hope we hope will rise into a flame; because we still plot, still polish, still review, one day we participate in a pitch contest, and we’re asked to submit. Or we learn of a publisher “actively seeking manuscripts.” And we have just that - a manuscript ready to submit to a publisher for consideration. Maybe we’ve done this before with less than stellar results, until “we find your ideas interesting but your writing is not up to our standards” becomes worse than “it’s not you, it’s me, I need live more before I settle down.”

This time, though, this time it just might be different. And we send our polished, pressed, primped child off to the prom with an introduction but without us to stand behind them when they fall. We get the automatic acknowledgment of receipt with a promise to get back to us, and an advisory to ask if we haven’t heard within a span of from one to three months. One to three months, can we hold our breath that long?

Conditioned by past disappointments, we put thoughts of the submission out of our minds and go about our every day lives. Houses still need to be cleaned, snow shoveled or sidewalks swept and the laundry never ends. We tell ourselves not to hope, not to think about it, and wait for the rejection so we can at least apply for our PRO status. When the e-mail comes back in a long weekend, we sit with fingers poised on the keys, hand dropped over the mouse, take a deep breath, and click. Such a fast response can’t be anything good, can it? The message opens on the screen, and you read:

“I am pleased to tell you that I enjoyed your Into the Woods very much. I found only minor editing problems as I read, mainly punctuation errors, as well as your tendency to shift POV in mid scene, sometimes in mid paragraph. But these are easy fixes. For the most part, Into the Woods is very well written.”

She said WHAT??

“If you are interested in publishing Into the Woods with us, please let me know, and I will have our attorney prepare a contract for you.”

Does that REALLY say what we think we’re reading? Better print it out, just in case. Yep, the words are the same on the page as they are on the screen. Gulp. A Sally Field moment, for sure. “For the most part Into the Woods is very well written.” Yep, that’s what she said.

Oh. My. God. It really happened. Someone who doesn’t know you likes your writing and wants to introduce your people to the world. You are a writer. For years you’ve been telling yourself and others the sheer act of putting words on the page makes you a writer. And it does. But now you are a Writer.

Yes, it happened to me. I sent off “Into the Woods” to Black Opal Books on February 17, and had an answer on February 22. I just finished the first round of edits, they want to change the name, and I’m looking at cover art. While doing this for “Into the Woods,” I’m grooming another book to send, this time with fewer dashes and ellipses and without a ping ponging Point of View.

All the years of wishing and hoping and helping out the chapters and taking notes at workshops has paid off. Could I have done it without the fantastic support system set up by and for Romance writers? Maybe, but I doubt it. This one’s for you, OCC. Thank you to everyone who has supported, critiqued, pushed, nagged and given out tough love.

This one’s for Michelle, who gave me OCC’s address. Love ya babe.