Just for fun, I recently entered a query hook contest hosted by a fellow aspiring author. I’ve read some of the other entries – they’re pretty good! I have no illusions of ‘winning’, but that wasn’t really the point anyway. I was mainly curious about how my first line fared in critique. My hook garnered two comments:
- Doesn’t jump into the story enough, maybe start with action (paraphrased)
- “This is so friggin awesome! It’s perfect and I NEED to read more.”
If this weren’t so frustrating, it would be funny; in a matter of two sentences and less than ten seconds, I went from “Dang, am I ever going to be any good?” up to “Yay! Maybe my writing is decent!” My inner emotions moved from despair to elation with alarming swiftness – I almost couldn’t keep up.
Now that my heart rate has slowed to normal, I can appreciate this clear example of what I’ve known all along: writing is too subjective for an outsider to deem something good or bad. (Except for the agent, of course; if they don’t think a novel is good, it doesn’t go anywhere). For my physical health (and my sanity), I need more confidence that my writing has merit. If I truly believe I can write well, I can sell it with enough conviction that others will believe it too.
For the last week, I’ve been considering taking a Fiction Manuscript Writing class at a community college. The application is printed, filled out and waiting for me to get the courage to submit it. This experience has given me the nudge I needed, but I have mixed emotions: one part of me is excited to learn about the elements and proper construction of a story. The other part of me is scared I may discover that my aptitude for writing is marginal, at best, and my manuscript will crumble-putting my dream on life support. Who knows, maybe my manuscript and I are stronger than I give us credit for. I don’t know. There’s only one way to find out.
I’ve never found knowledge to be a mistake in the past, but then again, it’s always been a safe distance from my dreams. The way I see it, learning is the best way to get confidence in myself. What’s the worst that can happen? I have to rebuild myself (and my first novel) from the ground up? It could be a valuable life lesson-and we’ll both be stronger from it.