Saturday, September 8, 2007

Avon Homage

Exactly one year ago on September 7, 2006, I submitted the first of seventeen chapters in the Avon FanLit contest. It placed near the very, very bottom of all 513 entries. I was crushed and wanted to quit. By October 20, the chapter I wrote for Round 6 came in fourth out of the top ten (thanks to Tessa’s sainted sacrifice). I admit that felt good, but even better, I learned something about the writing process each week. And more about myself.

I’m sure some of my favorite bloggers/writers will be getting reminiscent right about now thinking of last September and October, where all our hopes were placed on two Regency Rebels Without a Cause named Patience and Damien. The Vagabonds have already done VagabondLit, so perhaps we’ve got FanLit Fatigue all over again. But I want it known that this post was begun a month ago at 6:10 AM on August 12, 2007, after I woke up and felt sorry that summer was almost over for me. Forget the fact that I had two full weeks left to do relatively nothing. I wanted more time off. I didn’t want to return to work. I wanted to be sitting in my garden with a book or in my pajamas all day typing away.

But when I thought of things ahead, my mind returned to the mists of time: last fall’s fabulous, frustrating Avon FanLit contest, several weeks of inconsistency, immortality and insanity. The contest, for those of you who don’t know, pitted hundreds of would-be writers against each other to craft a six chapter novella in a kind of round-robin, building the next chapter on the previous week’s winner. There were some glitches in the voting, but it was amazing to read chapters and see how others used the same bare bones, fleshed them out and fattened them up.

I was lucky enough to final twice in the top ten entries in Rounds 3 and 6, and I “know” quite a few of the participants and ultimate winners now, whose work was bound up into These Wicked Games. Here’s a salute to every man and woman who spent two months pouring their hearts out into a hysterical historical, where the husband didn’t recognize his wife, cats ruled the roost, and purple was the color of choice. I’m drinking the whole pot of chocolate in your honor, and soon, I’ll be reading your published books!

To get mushy, the Avon contest kind of changed my life. For the first time ever, I wrote something that other people actually read. I bonded with lots of great writers. I finished my WIP, two novellas and am 75,000 words through another book. I started this blog. This past year has given me some confidence, even with rejections. I’m more serious and focused---comparatively speaking. *g* So, thanks, Avon. Even if I grumbled a bit, I grew.

Any thoughts on writing contests?

Elyssany entered and won! E-mail

Love is the only game that is not called on account of darkness~Thomas Carlyle


Tessa Dare said...

What a lovely homage, Maggie! Um, you can have your halo back, though.

I could never have imagined, back in round one of Fanlit, everything that I'd would be doing right now. I just the other day came across a journal of mine from 10 years ago. Like so many of my old journals, it had ten entries of daily, "I am going to be a writer, and this is it now, I mean it" pep talks. And then the rest is blank. That was the story of my life until 2006, and although I had finally started writing regularly before Fanlit, I had no real focus or goal of publication. That contest, and the community of writers that grew out of it, truly changed my life. And I've met some of the most amazingly talented and genuinely wonderful people I've ever been priveleged to know.

Although it has turned postpartum sleep deprivation into a way of life... :)

Atherley said...

Why, bless you, Maggie, I would sooner follow the DH to the war zone than enter contests, I'm that nervous about them! I'm glad I refrained from participating in FanLit, but I'm also sad that I can't reminisce along with everybody else. It must have been quite an experience!

Gillian Layne said...

Fanlit was an amazing experience on so many levels, and it changed the way I live as well.

Your accomplishments this year are fabulous! I wrote "the end" on my first draft two days ago, on 9-7. I didn't even realize the significance of the dates until I read this. In many ways it seems like fanlit was so much longer ago than 12 months.

I can't quit grinning when I look at my first submission. (rated number 400 and something). I had never even heard the term "format" before. But so many kind people explained what I had done right (precious little) and what I had done wrong (scads!). By the time fanlit was over, I had learned so much about general writing, MY writing, and the business of it all I think we all could have claimed college credit. I certainly worked harder during that time than I did in many of my classes.

The biggest thing I've learned about my writing style this year is that where contests are concerned, I tend to get easily sidetracked from my original WIP. But the feedback is wonderful.

And your blogs rock; keep 'em coming. :)

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Gillian! Congratulations on finishing! I'm finally revising what I finished earlier this year, and it hasn't been as bad as I thought it might be. Wouldn't it be great if we got to the point that the first draft was the last draft? I think Teresa Madeiros (Prudence) does this!

Anne,I don't think I'd ever do a FanLit style contest again, but I am glad I did it once.

Tessa, you and I are on the same page, except for the baby part!:)

Elyssa Papa said...

This was lovely, Maggie. It made me all teary-eyed! And yea, I won!!!

Like Tessa, I had journal entries where I would write, "I'm going to be a writer" or "wouldn't it be great if I was writing, what I truly love doing!" But I would start in snippets - get a scene and never go beyond that scene. Or get huge self-doubts.

I suffer a lot from self-doubts and whether or not my writing is good enough. Avon FanLit definitely had me honing my skills and had me writing more than I had in my entire life. Although I finalled only once, I think what I took most away from the experience is that the contest set me back on the path of writing. It helped me realize my voice which I think I've developed and honed more this year. I made countless friends who are in my same shoes and who I know one day I'll see their books at Borders and signing at RWA.

I actually finished a WIP earlier this summer and am sort of wading through the next one. (I've realized that part of my madness is that sometimes the novel just needs to breathe before I can write it). I still can't believe I wrote a novel. Does that feeling ever go away??? I think I'll probably have the same moment IF I get signed or published!

But most of all, the support of these strong women who give the best definition of support, love, and determination has been the greatest thing ever. I feel like I've joined some special club where all the "cool" kids talk about their writing, celebrations, and even losses. Where else would I find my cyber mom? *g* It really is a honor and god, I'm getting all weepy now.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Oh, me too, Ely. And as your cyber mom, go to bed!!! :)

Terri Osburn said...

Oh Fanlit - that wacky, wacky contest. I didn't intend to enter due to the Regency genre winning and I don't write Regency but I ended up entering 4 out of 6 rounds. And each round finished higher than the last which was great for the old self-esteem meter.

When I think of how much more I know now about writing than I did then, I'm amazed. That contest got me into seriously considering writing. Then the little story I sort of created kept poking my brain until I changed the *sort of* to really trying. And now I'm studying and writing and learning more and more everyday.

So, I'm thinking, no matter how stressful and crazy it was, that contest was a pretty positive experience. And the fact I met all of these wonderful and talented writers is like the icing on the cake!