Monday, December 13, 2010

Jumping the Gun

Somehow, it is always a surprise to me when I discover I have created a work of art or fiction that strikes me as 'good'. Twice in the past three months, I have done just that.

Some of you may have followed my excited ramblings about the International 3-Day Novel Contest, an annual contest where writers all over the world challenge themselves to write a novel over the long weekend of Labor Day. It is an endurance marathon that challenges not just your resolve and endurance, but your ability to maintain coherent thought after three days of sleep deprivation and caffeine overload. Anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel, take a weekend and do this! Even if you don't pay the fee (which you should, 'cause it is a great incentive to NOT waste the entry money), participate. There is a forum every year with supportive authors enduring the same exhaustive trial. If you ever listen to me: Do it.

I think we should all give ourselves the opportunity from time to time to surprise ourselves. The reward is most assuredly in what we take from the experience over what we win in the long run. This contest was one of the few in which I've participated where the event really was all about the participant. You are who you do this for. The prize is a golden finish line to shoot for, but in the end it is you that you're running for.

I was so motivated by this contest that I decided once a year was not often enough to push my limits. I liked throwing myself and my muse into a tight box for three days, I thrived on it. I found it so rewarding, that I promised myself I would not let only one long weekend a year be dedicated to the sole purpose of pouring myself onto parchment. So, I created a small blog and forum for what I titled The Quarterly 3-Day Novel Challenge. I decided once every three months, I would take a long weekend to write a novel in the same spirit as the International 3-Day Novel Contest. The only differences: No entry fee, no manuscript readers, no word counters, no prize. The only incentive for the first weekend of December, March, and June were the personal accomplishment and a manuscript at the end of the ordeal. Rules were lax, and the only one holding you responsible was yourself.

Last weekend, I held my first Quarterly 3-Day Novel Challenge, and I stood alone. I had strummed up some support early after the International 3-Day Novel Contest, and gotten an encouraging number of respondents to the challenge, but when the date rolled around, the idea had lost steam and support. I thought about not doing it (and was supported in this choice by those with whom I have obligations). I had work to do on the house, for Paradice, for our livelihood, for family. The list goes on and on. I had a thousand reasons to say, "Hey, it was a neat idea, but I'm just too busy". I shudder to think how I would have spent that weekend and what I would have lost had I given in to the temptation and pressure to relent.

I told myself, and those who thought my time would be better spent, that every three months I promised myself three days to dedicate to writing. Three days. Such a small sum of time comparatively. One weekend. So I did it. I stood alone, holed up in my little study, and wrote my crazy brains out. And what do I have to show for it? The second book of the Divine Guardian Chronicles. If I had not persisted, I would not have a 48,272 word first draft. Thank God I did not give in. It's good. It's very good, and I wrote it.

Yesterday, while visiting my sister in the hospital, I mentioned my completion of the Q3DNC, the I3DNC, and how proud I was of both manuscripts. I said I would start editing the second book now, since I didn't have to wait for a ruling in January like I did with the first novel. I mentioned how desperate I was to edit the first book and the improvements I would make. That was when an epiphany struck me. Why was I waiting? It would be awesome if I won first place in the contest and earned publication, but I would ever worry about an inferior manuscript being published when it could have been so much more after a few more drafts. If I took the time to hone the manuscript and add what I felt it needed (which would change the genre from Young Adult Fantasy to Paranormal Romance), I could begin sending queries out to agents and publishers.

What was the worst that could happen? Nothing. I could get no responses and be out of luck with my queries. Or I could win the contest before I got a response and have to turn down any offers that came. What was the best that could happen? I could receive a response from an agent or publisher interested in my book, and open a door to genre I have always wanted to author in. I might have to turn down first place (publication) in the contest if I won... but let's be realistic. It is far more likely that I won't win then that I will. Prudent money would be on preparing the manuscript for the almost inevitable non-win. There is literally NO reason I shouldn't go for it now and not wait until the ruling comes back in the end of January for the I3DNC.

So my current project is to polish books I and II of the Divine Guardian Chronicles and pimp my work to any agent and publisher who might take the time to read a query letter about Paranormal Romance.

What's the worst that could happen?


JW said...

Good luck! And for the record, I've paid money to read your writing, and while I've yet to finish the book I already know it was worth every penny.

Post a Comment