There will only ever be one “first submission for my novel” to a literary agent (full manuscript or otherwise). Last week, I achieved that milestone.
At the conclusion of my Pitchapalooza win a few weeks back, an agent contacted me and wanted to see some material for my (as-yet-unfinished) book. She gave me a list of items to prepare as a book proposal to showcase the story and my writing ability before the full manuscript is completed. She gave me three weeks.
I don’t think she understood how much of a challenge it would be. I wasn’t fully aware of it myself. Now, on the other side of it, I can honestly say it was the hardest and most soul-wrenching push of my life to date (and hopefully will stay that way!). I’ve pulled my share of college all-nighters before, and the weeks leading up to my wedding were nothing but demanding and stress-filled. These few weeks topped all of them—maybe even all of them put together.
The final week was full-on “pedal to the metal” type stuff, working 12+-hour days, getting by on little sleep, really grinding through to get words written and scenes edited.
That last weekend? Hell. Unmitigated, unrelenting hell where time both stands still and rushes past, where you’re lost in a sea of adrenaline, exhaustion, caffeine, sugar, and words. Endless words. Words that have lost all meaning, but whose intricacies sear into your brain at the same time.
Get it perfect. Get it right.
Push, push, push.
I did anything and everything I could to stay awake and work:
– I shoveled food down my gullet, even when I wasn’t hungry (energy needs to come from somewhere!).
– I used the Pomodoro Technique for writing, working in short, focused bursts and then taking a quick brain break (the Medieval Madness pinball machine in my basement is my newest writing tool).
– I drank COFFEE. (Not the biggest of deals to the rest of the world, but I’ve never drunk coffee in my life. The bitterness rankles my overabundant taste buds to cringing and gagging proportions, and the same goes for tea. Blech. This weekend, however, I sucked it up (literally, through a straw) and dealt with the distaste.)
– I had a dance party. (No, I’m not kidding. I have an adjustable height desk that I raised to standing height, put on Pandora, and created a “Bond Radio” station (upbeat instrumental music), and I rocked out. While writing. I couldn’t slow down, I couldn’t sit down, or else I would fall asleep. I had to keep the blood flowing so the words would keep flowing, so I danced it out.)
Somehow, someway, at the end of the weekend, I finished. I did it. I managed the impossible, and I feel like I’ve won a war.
I’ve fought my inner demons.
I’ve fought Father Time.
I’ve fought my innate perfectionism, which has been a running theme in my life this year. The circumstances surrounding this submission weren’t ideal, the actual text wasn’t flawless, and I thought of a splendid closing segment one day too late. The proposal was rushed, unpolished (for me), and not my best foot forward.
But it was absolutely, 150% the best I could do in the moment.
I take comfort in knowing how hard I fought through this, and I know that the difficulties experienced here will be valuable lessons for the future (of which I’ll discuss in the coming weeks).
My main takeaway, however, is that life isn’t perfect, and my book won’t be either. I will always be learning something new. As stated in the photo at the beginning of this post, “Life isn’t waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” That’s exactly what I need to do: learn to write under difficult circumstances, write to deadline, write to reality. Reality is my book will never live up to the immaculate, exquisite version in my head, it will never be “perfect,” but that’s okay. I can get it as close as possible, for the moment I am writing it.
The storms of self-doubt, criticism, and time constraints don’t need to restrict my work. They can be tools to guide my writing habits. Self-doubt keeps me asking questions. Criticism makes my words better. Time constraints give me deadlines to polish and hone, and then force me to let the work go.
These storms can be allies. I don’t need to fear them. I don’t need to run from them or wish them away. I can embrace them and let them help me bring my book into the world.
I can learn to dance in the rain.
For now, I will use these lessons and the glow of achieving this milestone as motivation and get back to work. I want to share the universe in my head. I can’t wait to have the whole series come to fruition and have it be more than just a big idea. I hope to inspire and influence young minds with my perception of the world.
But first, I need to finish writing Book One.