Yesterday the finalists came out on Nathan Bransford's blog for the chase/action sequence. Unsurprisingly, out of the 450+ entries, mine did not make the top ten. While not unsurprising (the odds being 1/90+ for making the top 5 finalists), the fact that I didn't make it plus my own extreme perfectionism hit home that, yes sir! I'm still an amateur. It was a good thing to remember, and humbling all the same.
So, what to do? Be proactive.
I joined a group on She Writes for peer-critiquing. Last night, I introduced myself to the group, offered my own humble reading eyes, and explained what I've been working on (specifically referencing Anabelle). Less than 12 hours later, someone offered to read for me! Whoot! Thank you, Greta!
I've also decided to be a little more proactive about changing the titles of the trilogy, especially thanks to the advice of Rachelle Gardner. I've emailed my beautiful, wonderful, amazing children's-librarian friend Rory to help me in finding 20 titles of YA books with similar themes, and she's happily accepted the challenge. The next step is for me to sit down with a pencil and paper (real paper, not the post-its on my computer) and brainstorm more words that directly connect to my work. I still think the biggest problem will be creating titles that are thematically connected in some way between the three novels (without going the route of Anabelle Lindsky and the Tale of...), but one step at a time, please....
I was feeling extremely reflective yesterday about my writing, and it wasn't necessarily positive reflection. I had checked out The Secret Year from the library to see what kind of books Nathan Bransford represents, and read it yesterday. It's a wonderfully well-written, emotionally gripping book (though the ending left me hanging just a little). But it made me question my own style. To date, whether it's the writing that I've done in the past year and half, or the writing I did in JHS, HS, and college, it's all been heavily dialogue-driven. My husband has said in the past that my writing reads like a screenplay. So I was lamenting my dialogue-based work to him yesterday afternoon, saying how difficult it's always been for me to write colorful, emotional, descriptive prose over telling dialogue. And so, he says to me, "Write a story without any dialogue." And the heavens opened and the angels cheered, and I mentally smacked myself for not giving myself such an assignment long ago. It's such a simple idea.
Of course, it's been an excruciating journey since then, almost 24 hours ago. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since he made the suggestion. I now have 850 words, and almost every one of them has been an agonizing choice. I'm going to work on it over the weekend, and then when I can squeeze in a minute or two next week (we'll be out of town with family and probably without internet access—eek!—for five days). Hopefully I can have a draft of something up here by the 15th. I'll be interested to see what reactions I get from it.
Find a site that offers weekly writing assignments, and do them. Keep up the harder work that comes with an assignment like Challenge 3. I definitely need the practice.
Don't beat myself up over the fact that my style is different from others'. Dialogue-based, minimal prose is not my personal bastardization of fiction. Hemingway comes to mind (though I'm hardly comparing myself to him). While my descriptive prose needs the heavy hand of a nun with a ruler, that doesn't mean that my work is awful. It just needs more work.