Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wrestling Alligators (Or, What to Do with Genesis Feedback)

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.
- Olin Miller
(I'm no relation to Olin.)
Crystal, out wrestling alligators, my easy job

I am an introvert. In fact on the scale of introversion to extroversion, I am negative 5 to the introversion side. (Well, almost. I scored no extroversion points at all.) Lately I've been interacting a lot with people, whom I love, and I do LOVE to be with them, but then I have to recharge. Today I'm exhausted. Forgive me if I'm mumbling.

On top of that, I seem to be in the public eyeball in the last few days, which makes me nervous.I feel totally unworthy and like a nutcase whenever this happens and get gibberishly insecure with thoughts like, "People will really hate me now," to what I think others' are saying behind my back, "What makes her so special? I know her, and she's a drip!" But I'm finally getting enough years on me that my tune is finally changing to,"I've lived long enough to say what I want and suffer the consequences." (I shudder to think of how I will be if I reach the age of my mother-in-law, age 93.)

But I still tend to want to withdraw after being highlighted somewhere, whether a positive or negative experience. Whatever your personality, it does take guts and boldness to put yourself out there. I reveal my weaknesses to make a point. Writers have to do this to be read, but that doesn't mean that sometimes they wonder why they don't do something else--like wrestling alligators or underwater ice fishing. Anything but getting feedback for writing, exposing that writing. (And if you have a reader, you have feedback.)

On Saturday in addition to being with great people who write, and listening to a stellar presentation about navigating in tandem with your writing career the social and internet media by Amanda Luedeke, literary agent with MacGregor Literary Group, we got news that several in our chapter are semi-finalists in the ACFW Genesis contest. Of the Hoosier Genesis Semi-Finalists 3 were at our state meeting, so we were able to congratulate them, and take their photo.
2011 Indiana Chapter Genesis Semi-Finalists: Carole Brown, Melanie Brasher (Joy N. Malik,) Sarah Ladd
ACFW Genesis Semi-Finalists from the Indiana Chapter
(total entries: 48)

Melanie Brasher/ Joy N. Malik (Pen Name)

(total entries: 73)

Sarah Ladd

(total entries: 90)

Carole Brown (Ohio Associate member)
Michelle Weidenbenner

(total entries: 47)
Bob Lyzenga

We're proud of them. No question. However, of these few who made it to the final round, there are some of you awaiting your scores and comment sheets because you didn't final. You're trying to brace yourself, your expectations had been high, but you're sure you can't prepare yourself for what is coming. It's like standing on the beach, waiting for the tsunami. (Or so you think.) Some are going to have scores that just missed, and now you will be able to take those comments and polish off your manuscript. I've seen those who didn't final taking their manuscript to sold a short time later. But others of you will feel as if someone hit you with a Mack truck.

It will hurt. You might feel anger, wanting to argue with the judges. They didn't get it! Stupid judge.

And you harbor a grudge against this person who must hate writers and doesn't recognize genius. Some mealy-mouthed nit-has been, who is bitter and possibly a derelict dared to criticize your prose. (I've heard the ugly names....) I know judges who quit judging because they couldn't take the whining after the scores came back. And while some of it might be valid, it's still whining.

Here are a few things for you as your scores come back to keep you on track and to turn a seeming setback in your writing into a triumph and positive thing. See if any of this helps.

1. Rage against the judge, the contest, your 10th grade English teacher.
Yeah, go ahead. Boo-hoo!Scream into your pillow.

Just don't do it ON ANY PUBLIC social media, blog or loop. Don't Twitter it, don't Facebook it, don't write it on comments on boards or blogs. You can cry, take a minute to hurt, eat some chocolate and tell your best friend, your family, or if it gets serious, your therapist or pastor. But please, please refrain from calling these judges names, (I've heard some bad names on a nonChristian writers' loop,) question their humanity and worse, their judgment. Do they make mistakes? Well, duh, yeah. They are humans. (We suspect.) And they are your fellow Christians. Most of them agonized, prayed over you, and spent way too much time for no pay or any praise to give you feedback on your writing. They cared enough to sacrifice their own writing time, time with family and friends, sleep. They were your readers. They reacted and prayed about it.

2. After your day of chocolate overload, and you sleep off the DeBrand's buzz, look to see if there are any patterns or things you could fix quickly.
Go ahead and deal with the easy stuff first. Oh, brother, you left out a word, you misspelled flagrant, you used seventy -ly words or you used their instead of there twenty-seven times in the first paragraph (that covered two pages). Believe me, even the published authors have their pet trip-ups. Maybe you had a rough opening paragraph. Maybe you even knew something was wrong, but you couldn't put your finger on it and some judge caught it. The light bulb came on. That's why you entered this contest, right? Start with the baby food. Let it process. Absorb the good. The bad will take a natural course!

3. Put the burrs in your saddle into a separate folder to process or to investigate.
It's possible that the judge did make a mistake. Maybe only one of the three focused on something that blew your entry out of the running. One bad score can ruin your chances. Maybe that judge didn't get it. Maybe your entry is a gem. Good writing has often been criticized and rejected by editors, too. Or maybe you do have many problems. Educate yourself on what the judge or judges pointed out to you. Time to go to school.

Here, make yourself feel better by seeing other writers who had bad days:
1. Carrie by Stephen King – 30 rejections
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
3. M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker – 21 rejections
4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – 121 rejections
5. Lorna Doone by Richard Doddridge Blackmore – 18 rejections
6. Dubliners by James Joyce – 22 rejections
7. The Peter Principle by Laurence Peter – 16 rejections
8. Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – 33 rejections
9. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 18 rejections
10. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 15 rejections

4. Write a thank you note to your judges, even it's short and sweet, and you just thank them for their time. Let them know you will seriously consider their comments.
(Hey, this may be your best fiction writing.) But do try to mean it. Humble yourself and love the person for being a fellow Christian and for sacrificing to help you on you on your writing journey. For whatever reason, this is where you are at this time. It might be easy to be discouraged and no one blames you for feeling as if someone punched you in the guts. But don't hate the judges' guts and do give each one the benefit of the doubt. That person could end up seeing your manuscript again--only this time it could be while working for a publisher or an agent. How you react and process your scores/comments could affect how they react when seeing it again. Or consider this: if that person has the ear of the editor or an agent and your name comes up--will it be positive?

5. Do not think you cannot write, do not give up. Never give up. Don't let this be where you quit.
"Chesty" Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, and the only Marine to receive five Navy Crosses said this:
"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."

Have that kind of attitude. I had a writer friend who asked me to pray about her writing. She was going to quit. Discouraged. Really, she had already decided to quit. She just wanted some confirmation, so she could walk away guilt free. I said I would pray. And I did. I prayed God would send her a little encouragement to continue because she is a good writer. She didn't even realize it. But I knew. God knew. (She's getting published this year. Lots will know now.)

We can pray that you receive encouragement soon. You might need it. God hasn't deserted you. Your dream is not dead because of one contest.

Remember this in the big scheme of things: "You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." ~ Isaiah 46:3-4

That's a promise for your life as a Christian. God knows what your desires are and He knows His will and timing for you. There are people here in this chapter and this zone and this ACFW organization who can help you to keep going, keep the education going. We believe in you.

Write on. They can't get away now.

Crystal Laine Miller


  1. I loved this, Crystal. From the time I met you ... I knew you had the gift of encouragement! I love the quote you included from the Marine. I have never heard that before. It's great.

  2. The greatest piece of advice ever given to me, and offered by God through numerous people over the years was this:
    PERSEVERE! 'nuff said!

  3. Thank you, Aine. You are a kind person. And I love that quote from that Marine. It's how I hope to live. Ha!

    And amen, Linda!

  4. Wonderful advice, wonderfully said. (Sometimes a girl has just got to use ly words =)

  5. ROTFL, Sharon! (And exclamation marks!)

    And thank you for the kind post. :)

  6. Thank you very much for this great blog. Excellent advice.

    I recently competed in a contest (speech), and came in 3rd or 4th -- there were four contestants and they only announce the first two places. But I realized listening to the speeches that the two winners gave excellent speeches, as well as noting one spot where I paused searching for the right word.

    Thanks again.

    Jeff Reynolds

  7. Such encouragement and wisdom here, Crystal. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. It is said in this industry you need to have thick skin. That doesn't mean you never listen to what another person has to say (or write) about your manuscript. What it means is you glean what you can learn, then let the rest slide. It letting the rest slide that can trip me up sometimes :)

  9. Such an encouraging post, Crystal! It was so good to see you at the meeting. And thanks for your kind congratulations. I feel so honored {and blessed} to be a part of this talented chapter of writers.