Taking the Plunge

My Dog (Ali) in the water (The second time)

My Dog (Ali) in the water (The second time)

As writers, we need to get feedback to improve our craft. Unfortunately, the feedback part of the equation is scary. Whether it’s submitting to contests, querying agents, or simply sharing our work with close friends, it can be intimidating to let someone else read our work – we’re giving them permission to tear it apart. To tell us what we need to do better, and really to tell us if we’re chasing a cloud.

But here’s the kicker: If we don’t do it, we’ll never get better and our dreams of publication won’t be realized. (Even if you self-publish, you still have to get feedback and improve and make your book the best it can be.)

Diving In

To get what you want, you have to ignore your fears, or put them aside for the moment and dive in.

My little dog drove this home to me the other day, while my husband and I were chilling on a rowboat at a local state park.  She is terrified of water. She’ll go in, but only if anything past her belly won’t get wet. It doesn’t matter how bad she wants something.  Even if it’s just a few more inches, she won’t go past the part where water starts to lap her belly. She’ll just stand, paws and legs wet and poke her paw out toward it, as though she thinks she has some kind of telekinetic power. After watching her do this for six years, let me assure you that she doesn’t.

In any case, the other day, she was sitting in the back of the rowboat, quite agitated. She’d tried everything to come up by where we were. (She even knocked over the cooler and sent cans of soda into the water while trying to climb up and over it. Those suckers might float, but does NOT mean they are easy to retrieve.)

The Ali-dog after she was retrieved the first time

The Ali-dog after she was retrieved the first time

Eventually, I settled into my book and my husband settled into a rhythm with his fishing pole. We heard a splash. Next thing I know, the little dog is paddling ferociously by me, terrified of the water that was surrounding her. I giggled. Then, found a bookmark. I tried to tip the boat toward her, but that didn’t work, so reached in. She scratched me a few times, but I pulled her up. And then she was quite pleased with herself, though sad about being wet, as you can see in the picture to the right. (However, neither of us let her crawl into our laps, which is what she really wanted: cuddles for being brave.

As writers, what can we learn from this?

I learned that:

  • Sometimes you have to go after what you want
  • Sometimes getting what you want won’t look the way you thought
  • You’ll always want more
  • You have to keep trying (more on that in a moment)

I went back to my book, my husband went back to fishing.

And then I heard another splash.

The little dog was in the water again, this time on my husband’s side of the rowboat. I think she was after the bait. She was fascinated with it, earlier. She just thought it was the neatest thing. That’s her, in the water, at the top of the page. I love the big scared eyes.

Wet dog, studying the water

Wet dog, studying the water

The husband put up his fishing pole and rescued her. The poor thing sat, shivering on the boat, for quite some time. And no, still no cuddles. When she made another go for the bait, I stuck her in back, hoping “out of sight, out of mind” would work. She wasn’t happy with the arrangement, but we didn’t give her long to dwell on it. We went in soon after.

From her second dive and subsequent swipes, I learned that:

  • Goals change over time
  • Just because people like you doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want (Read: an agent can love you, but that doesn’t mean he or she will want to represent your work)
  • You have to keep trying

Taking the plunge is hard to do, but if we want to succeed as writers, we have to be submitting to agents and other publishing gurus. We have to keep trying. We have to keep writing. We can’t sit back. We also have to understand that we’re not going to get what we want if we don’t try. And sometimes, even when we do, we’re going to be rejected, whether it’s because we weren’t trying hard enough, we weren’t shooting for the right goal, our actions had unintended consequences or it just wasn’t the right person.

What have you learned from rejection, taking the plunge – or my little dog’s story?

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  1. We have been camp hosting for a month, so I have not been following posts much, but finally had a connection this morning and wanted to get back into this excellent blog . What a great analogy. (Plus the dog is adorable. a maltese? We have 3 rescued bichons). I am no expert at this, but what I learned in finding a publisher for Tales from Farlandia: Ozette’s Destiny is that it is crucial to have a professional editor go over your manuscript once you have it as good as you feel you can get it and before you send it to agents or publishers. I remember the day my edited script was returned to me. We were camping among the white squirrels at Ocholockonee State Park in Florida (how appropriate) when the envelope came. I was scared to open it. (dive in!) It gave me a lot of confidence to know that someone who did not know me, was a pro and did not have a stake in whether or not my book was published found the book basically sound and delightful.. I took her suggestions to heart, and the book was stronger for it. I think we need to be careful who we ask for feedback, though. Friends and family may be too gentle with us. Was I terrified when i sent query letters to three agents? (Two wrote back nice comments but rejected the manuscript just the same. Never heard from the third). It wasn’t any easier to query Pants on Fire Press. We all put our hearts and souls into our writing. To hit send takes a bold leap of faith, but we have to dive in or our manuscript will remain just that – a dusty document sitting on a shelf. Just my two cents for what it is worth.

    • Hi Judy,
      Thanks for taking time to make a stop at our blog.
      I totally agree on hiring that editor. I had Susanne Lakin edit my suspense novel developmentally and then again for a line-edit. I feel liberated and so much more confident. I don’t have the same self-doubt I had before when I was relying on my friends and family for feedback. I’m going to send her all my novels that have been laying around taking space in my WORD file so I can feel more confident about them too. She’s an awesome professional editor and encourager. It’s like she put my writing in hyper-drive.
      I can’t believe you have three dogs. I love that you rescued them, but I”m not surprised.

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