The Kindness of Strangers

Snoopy and his eternal first line....

Snoopy and his eternal first line….

As I prepare for another NaNoWriMo win, (not ego, everyone who finishes wins.) I can’t help but review the last twelve months. I feel like I’ve spent a year in graduate school, a year of mixed blessings and hard lessons learned. Graduate school was an eye-opener for me. I took a few classes and decided it was not for me; I learned this working at a few graduate schools.

NaNoCrisssDuring my first successful NaNoWriMo, in 2010, I noticed some very interesting people writing. I read their bios, followed their tweets, posts and read their books. I started taking classes and kept tripping over a group who spoke in acronyms: HEA, HFN, H/h, POV, WIP, RWA, UF, YA, NA, RS and FUBAR… I kept thinking: WTF?

Then, during last year’s NaNoWriMo (2012), I landed on a path with those who know wtf they are doing and a few who only think they do, the RWA. Yeah! Writing is a career, it’s a job, it’s a profession. There are steps, classes and lots and lots of advice. I joined RWA in December and went to the Atlanta, where I learned a lot.

After a lot of growth as a writer this year, I entered the Golden Pen. I pulled on my tough-girl granny-panties and prepared for the sledge-hammer feedback. I hoped for constructive criticism, prayed I wouldn’t cry. I had already entered several contests this year and my learning curve was steep enough to give me a nose bleed. I downloaded my score sheets but wasn’t ready to read them; so, I went back to helping DH remodel the basement, do some laundry and bake some muffins… five hours later I finally opened the judge’s files. My eyes were deceiving me… the comments were all positive, some even raving but my scores were not that great, sucked, in fact… Okay, okay, er okay, deep breath, I backed away… I decided to feed the dogs, make a stew, bake some bread… have some wine, go to bed. Then, Tuesday morning I sat at my desk, braced myself and carefully read the comments…

lonely hero waiting

lonely hero waiting on page 60

Out of a total of 50 points, 20 were given to the romance between the hero and heroine and I blew it. How? The contest was for the first 50 pages plus synopsis. My hero does not enter the story until page 60. I wanted to focus on my heroine, so I used my secondary characters –they were jumping each other like wild dogs and I hoped that would get me a little break. My justification for this was weak, and I got called out to the woodshed.

Albeit, a few weeks after I submitted my entry, I did realize and agree that my hero needed to show up earlier. It was a day late and a dollar short. In every other score on the scoresheet, I received high grades. Realistically, how can a romance be evaluated without romance in the story? D’oh! Two judges said that and gave me nada for that section, even though every other section was almost perfect scores…. Wow did I ever blow it! One judge gave me credit (10 out of 20 points) for secondary character sex but said I really didn’t deserve it, but she liked the secondary characters so much, she had to give me something for them.

There was a time when realizing that I blew it and I would have been crushed, devastated, forlorn, etc. I would have been wailed, I would have cried, I would have agonized. But, I guess older is wiser because I have spent this past week reading and rereading the judges comments. One judge told me she was taking a considerable amount of her valuable time on my entry because it showed such promise and she hoped I appreciated it. I did, I do, I may reread it two more times. I am humbled, honestly! Some of it stung, but most of it was exactly what I needed.

I have often said I have relied on the kindness of strangers. My life is littered with them. Anyone who has stumbled, been crushed or kicked around by life will often find a place in time when a stranger has taken the role of angel. These strangers light the candle, take the time and without seeking reward, they nudge you in the right direction. I don’t know the identity of that judge but she was an angel. The other two judges were also tough. I feel very fortunate to have had two judges who were finalists but the third was every bit as good!

To have someone actually say” “sob sob sob, I love this guy and hate that you are going to kill him…” Of course, she went on to say, that this is going to be a very dark delicious moment and perfect for lots of reactions. I was ready to take the criticism with honest gratitude but I wasn’t prepared for any praise. Ask the dogs, they’ll tell you, I danced, I waved my arms and read passages out loud as they fled in terror out the doggy-door!

So, I would like to thank three anonymous Golden Pen Judges whose encouragement and guidance really helped me, in more ways than they could ever know. It was the like Christmas morning, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you! lol


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  1. Trackback: Do You NaNoWriMo? | Mimosa Mornings Writers

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