Yesterday, I got my first taste of writer’s rejection. It didn’t taste very good – bitter with an awful after taste. But it didn’t really bring me down, either. After all, over 1500 people entered Nathan’s contest. There were so many excellent first paragraphs and I read them all.
I read each paragraph (about 900 at the time) to determine whether or not I felt confident enough to submit my own. Would I at least have a chance against the other entries? In the end, I don’t really know. I find it very difficult to judge my own writing, but I went for it anyway. I entered with the same mindset as when I buy a lottery ticket. Occasionally, when some of the national lotteries get into the multiple million dollar prizes, we buy a ticket, dream about what we would do with the money, and then go along with our everyday lives. A part of me wondered what I’d do if my paragraph was recognized, even in a tiny way. But I knew that there were many more that were a lot better and the experience has driven me to work harder to improve my craft.
There were many great first paragraphs and l learned a lot about what I like as a reader, and how easy it was to move on to another if the first line felt too heavy, too cliché, too action heavy. Every word is important whether writing a paragraph or a good, solid query to stop an agent in his/her reading tracks when they receive hundreds a week. First impressions hold a lot of weight.
I also learned how subjective the process is. Certainly, a good handle on craft launched the writers into the finals: voice, inventiveness, humor, suspense, that "je ne sais quois" that hooks a reader into wanting more. However, before the finalists were announced, we (the blog readers) were asked to post which paragraphs grabbed our attention. The differences in our choices reflected how different our tastes are as readers. In fact, of those who posted their favorites only a few made the honorable mentions or finals (one happened to be one of my favorites).
So yeah, it’s a bummer and Nathan’s favorites and my favorites were mostly different – little consolation in this crazy quest for publication, but I’ll take it. Will I try again next year? Absolutely.