I’ve done it — I’ve entered my first “real” writing contest. I just sent in a submission to the Chicago-North RWA Fire & Ice contest, using the first 25 pages of the NaNoWriMo novel I wrote in 2007.
No, I don’t expect to win (though it would be nice), and I don’t even expect to final (though i can hope!), but I learned something important while editing like a maniac to enter this contest.
Not only did I learn a lot about self-editing (when you can only enter the first 25 pages, you want to make sure it counts), but I learned a lot about myself and my writing.
I learned that:
- I should have edited this manuscript a long time ago
- I really want to KEEP editing this manuscript
- I still believe in this story and love it, unlike last year’s NaNo novel
- There’s a reason that this novel was the easiest and most fun to write… even though it was the first one I’d ever written… and that is…
- I think that Women’s Fiction (ie. chick lit) is actually “my” genre. WTH??? I know. I know.
…and that was the scariest part. You’d think that my paranormal or my MG fantasy would have been the easiest, most natural thing to write, because that’s what I read the most of. That’s what I love, and that’s what I’ll pick up time and time again. But neither of my 2008 or 2009 novels flowed right… neither of them had that ‘it’ factor, that spark that drew me back to the keyboard and the characters. For some reason, I had difficulty connecting with the characters, and the story was always missing something.
Not so with Jacqueline and her quest of self-discovery. I don’t know if that’s because it was the first novel I’d ever attempted, and therefore had fewer expectations of myself (or of how to write a novel), or if it’s because that’s the only one of the three that I think really has a piece of myself in it.
Either way, I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, “chick lit” or as they’re calling it these days, “humorous women’s fiction” is what I’m supposed to be writing right now. I have a second manuscript in this genre on the go already, and pre-planned concepts for at least 2 other novels in the genre.
So, would it really be so bad if I edited this manuscript and made this the book that I query?
I used to be worried that if I did that, I’d be tied into this genre. That somehow it wasn’t “respectable” enough, or that I wouldn’t get taken seriously, or that it would kill any chances of ever writing fantasy in the future.
Well, you know what? It’s time to stop being afraid. It’s the book I love, and it’s the story I believe in. Why be ashamed? I wrote it, and that’s that. Lots of women love women’s fiction — heck, Jane Austen was the “chick lit” author of her day! — and there’s no shame in writing it if it helps women to escape into a good book with characters they can identify with. And so what if it eventually sells and I’m locked into a contract writing these kinds of books?
I enjoy writing them, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what counts? Not some false sense of “what’s respectable” or not. That’s selling myself and many authors I love short. Who am I to say it’s not good enough for me, even though I love their work? That’s prideful and a bad attitude.
So, from today forward, I’m going to stop selling myself short. I’m going to be proud of this manuscript, fix it up, and make the best darn effort I can at submitting it to the world at large. I would be honored and blessed to someday see my Chick Lit/Women’s fiction novel alongside the likes of Marta Acosta, Kristin Billerbeck, and Meg Cabot. I respect those women and they write damn good books with real characters, THE END.
I’m proud of my work, I’m proud of the genre, and it’s time I started showing it.
I’m going to write what I feel called to write, and stop thinking in terms of what I “should” do.
Sure, I’ll continue to devour fantasy novels for my reading pleasure, but I’m also going to write what’s fun for me, what’s enjoyable, and what comes naturally.
…but enough about me. How about you? Have you ever written something you thought was “your genre” only to discover that what you loved to write fell into another category? And if so, did you have a hard time accepting it, or was it an easy transition?