There's a lot of buzz still going on about the New Voices comp - the top 21 were announced yesterday and I've already chatted to my mentee, Vanessa, about her first chapter, what's coming next, and all sorts of other things. Before I go any further, let me just say two things. Vanessa is absolutely lovely. And so is her chapter. I read it and seriously had some writer envy going on. Her voice shines through, she's got conflict, both external and internal, distinctive characters, sexual tension, and spark. No small feat for 3000 words or so.
So it frustrates me just a bit when I read comments that put down the finalists, or cast criticism on the judging team and the company that sponsors this contest.
Mills and Boon doesn't have to hold New Voices. Believe me, there is enough slush passing through their office that they don't need another 1000 plus chapters. It's an immense undertaking, from coordinating to maintaining the site, providing a community, and of course, judging the entries and narrowing it down to 21. That 21 represents a mere 2% of entries. Naturally there are going to be a lot of good entries that don't make the cut.
For the most part the response AFTER the announcement has been positive - of COURSE people are going to express disappointment and even frustration. But most have been VERY supportive of the top 21 and wish them the best.
And yet there are the others. Sigh.
Yesterday I unfollowed someone on twitter simply because while I enjoy half of their tweets, the other half are venomous attacks on a celebrity. It blows my mind that someone passes judgment and dislike on someone they don't even know and who has no effect on their day to day life whatsoever, and then feels the need to spread it around the net. Negative energy - they haz it. And I'm out.
So here's the deal. I'm a firm believer that you get back from the universe what you put out there. There are a few sayings I like to adhere to - one being on the net for the most part it's usually in your best interest to smile from the wrists down. Not always easy, mind you. And the second being - don't post what you wouldn't want on the home page of your website. I thought about that as I considered writing this post, and then I decided yes, I have something important to say. Something that I hope helps writers in the trenches trying to break into publishing. Heck, trying to accomplish ANYTHING. Because anything worth having doesn't come easily.
And the truth is - you need to focus on what you can control.
This is not a business where you can afford to have hurt feelings. Because it is, first and foremost, a business. I think people forget that because it's also creative and especially with Romance writing it is based on emotion. But every publisher out there is in it to make money. So if your feelings are hurt because you didn't make it, it's not Mills and Boon's job to hold your hand. If it stings to feel you're not good enough, fine, but it's not their place to make you feel better. Truth is - you weren't rejected. Your story was. That is an important distinction. So what are you going to do about it? Take your toys and go home? Well, if you can, go for it. Paula Graves (Harlequin Intrigue) said once that if you can quit, do it. I agree. This is a tough business. I came close to quitting lots of times, but in the end I wanted to be published more than I wanted to be right.
So if you didn't make it - that's out of your control. What IS in your control? WHAT YOU DO NEXT. Michelle Styles always says it's what you do after the rejection that counts. So if going on a public forum and telling the publisher that they know nothing about their brand and they didn't make it clear what they wanted is your way of handling it, so be it. However, if you take the feedback you received and rework your chapter and submit it the usual way - and then finish the book - and then start another - if you understand what M&B is looking for by reading within the line you're targeting, joining a critique group, reading tips from authors within the M&B stable - well, in my books that's the road to success. Which one seems more productive to you?
I'm definitely not saying it's not okay to feel badly about it. Of course it is. Lord, that's what stocks of wine and chocolate are for, and sappy movies, and a bit of a wallow.
But going at the publisher and sour grapes is not doing you any favours. It is what it is. You need to decide what YOU are prepared to do. I used to say Don't Get Even - Get Published. One of my favourite biographies is David Foster's Hitman. Two things that stuck with me and I think nearly every day - because even after publication this is not easy (hah! I see pubbed authors nodding!) - is 1)the road to success is straight, and 2) look at everything as an opportunity.
The road to success is straight is what reminds me to focus on the prize and not get distracted. Everything I do should be intended to get me closer to that goal.
Look at everything as an opportunity. THIS HAS GREAT POWER, PEOPLE! It takes a negative and makes a positive. What did you get from this contest? Feedback? Meet someone who can be important to your road to publication? How are you going to take what's happened and work it to your advantage? Because you can. I promise you, you can. As Tony Horton says - you just need to get your head right.
And be gracious. I can tell you after writing 20 books now that editors know what they are doing. Every book I've ever written has been improved by my editor's keen eyes. The top 21 are there for a reason and nothing should take away from their success.
Get your head right. Mourn if you need to - it can be an important part of the process. And then - if you really want it - pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Truly - the romance community is a fantastic place. You'll have lots of support - if that's what you put out into the universe.
Best wishes to all of you.