Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Lessons: Go for It

I've learned a lot of lessons as a writer over the past few years.

-In dialogue, characters can speak, shout, and whisper words, but never laugh or smile them.
-It is possible to edit 1100 words down to 500.
-I need to proof read carefully because my pinky finger has a mind of its own when I'm typing and insists on turning every "its" into an "it's".

But one of the biggest and best lessons I've learned is to just go for it. So many great things in life can come out of a willingness to take a chance.

I took a chance and, at the urging of my wonderfully supportive husband, enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature. I've sent out dozens of short story manuscripts to children's magazines and braved the sting of rejection letters. I started a writers' group and began handing over pages filled with my heart and soul to be critiqued. Because of these things I learned how to pursue my dream of being a writer, received 5 publication acceptances, gained some wonderful friends, and my first children's novel is being edited and polished into something beautiful.

Last year I submitted a picture book manuscript to an agent. She didn't choose to take me on as a client. She said my book wasn't unique enough to make it in such a competitive market. But she did have some very nice things to say about my story. And if I hadn't gone for it, if I had chosen to let fear of rejection, fear of a harsh critique stop me, I would have never gotten those encouraging words that helped me feel like there was hope for my dream. (Not to mention that next time I get ready to contact an agent, I'll feel like I kinda, sorta know what I'm doing).

Last week I took another chance. I pitched my children's novel to NaNoWriMo's pitchapalooza. I'm sure I am just one of thousands vying for the 25 critique slots. And chances are probably slim that I'll be chosen as the grand prize winner and be introduced to an agent. But in the end, winning isn't the sole purpose of my submission. The purpose is practice. The purpose is growth. The purpose is to go for it. Like the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you're going to chase a dream, you're going to have to take risks and put yourself out there. Sure, it might not happen. March 5th might come around and there will be 25 pitches and their accompanying critiques posted on the website, and it's very possible none of them will have my name on it. But then again, one of them could. One thing I know: Absolute statements like "that could never happen" don't belong in my vocabulary.

Mark Twain sums it up well in this quote, which I'll leave you with...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

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