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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Imperfection is Okay - How not to lose your mind when entering the Golden Heart. - Esri Rose

During Golden Heart preparation month, we spend a lot of time answering questions about picky rules, encouraging you to be picky about your writing, and offering critiques. This is all valuable. But for those of us whose pickiness might lead to paralysis, now is a good time to remind ourselves of the following:


There is no such thing as a perfect synopsis, a perfect partial, a perfect contest entry, a perfect completed manuscript, or a perfect book.


If you find yourself shaking your head in denial at this suggestion, then this blog is aimed directly at you, and I’m the one to deliver it.


Hello. My name is Esri Rose, and I’m a perfectionist.


Here are my credentials. Although I compulsively edit my emails and am the first person to straighten brochures at a check-out counter, I sometimes ignore an easily corrected problem on purpose (a crooked placemat, for example). Why? Because perfectionism is a flaw. So I consciously cultivate imperfect moments in my quest to become a more perfect individual. Wrap your head around that.


Am I suggesting that you leave out a paragraph in your GH submission? Of course not. But in the interest of preventing you from breaking into sobs at two in the morning because your caffeine-addled hand can’t properly fill out Federal Express forms, I offer the following list of acceptable imperfections.


Things You Can Let Go.


1) You can’t come up with a title that perfectly encapsulates your story, and you know the judges will hate what you have. You loathe and despise it.


You will find something to dislike about all of your titles, the titles suggested by your friends, and the title eventually pressed on you by your publisher. Now is a good time to get over it.


2) You realize you’ve used the passive tense in your opening paragraph, but try as you might, you can’t come up with a better way to say what you want.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.

If Charles Dickens could start his masterpiece with an entire paragraph of passive tense (not to mention repeated words), you can get away with the occasional use. Anyway, by the time the judges finish your entry, they won’t remember the first paragraph.


3) Your office-supply store is out of 60-lb. linen paper.


For every judge pleased by the white opaqueness of premium paper, there will be another who thinks you are an environmentally irresponsible poser. Plain old printer/copy paper goes unremarked by everyone.


4) You don’t have a colored piece of paper to separate your synopsis from your chapters. You don’t even have a sticky note!


The judges can tell where your synopsis ends and your manuscript begins. Really. No entry will be close enough to yours in every other respect that having to shuffle a few pages will make them subconsciously mark you down.


5) You ran out of binder clips. Not only won't the pages stay as square with your big paperclips, but the only ones you have left are old and oxidized and leave a little gray mark at the top of the page.


The judges with carpal tunnel syndrome will be pleased that they don’t have to squeeze a binder clip. Any metal smudges will soon be unnoticeable beneath chocolate smears, pet hair and coffee-cup rings.


6) You forgot to enter online, and now your Internet is broken. You’re mailing your submission and payment together, only you made a mistake in the written amount of your check and it’s your last one. You corrected and initialed it, but what if RWA thinks you’re a forger and won’t take the check?


They’ll take it. Even if a new strain of ink-eating bacteria gets inside your envelope and consumes every trace of the writing, RWA will call you and ask for some other form of payment. Same goes for if you forget to sign the check, which is a lot more likely.


7) After sealing your contest package, you turn around and find the entry form on the floor. That was your last big envelope, so you slit open the bottom with a craft knife and insert the missing piece, then neatly tape up the slit. Only now it kind of looks like terrorists tampered with it, making you worry that the post office will hold your envelope to check for anthrax spores, and you’ll miss the contest deadline.


The government is too broke to check for anthrax spores anymore.


So relax, and good luck!



P.S. I’m guest blogging at Yankee Romance Reviewers today, asking what kind of paranormal heroine you'd like to be and why. You also can read the first-ever excerpt of Stolen Magic (May 2009), the second in my series of urban-fantasy, romantic-suspense comedies. One randomly selected commenter will win a copy of Bound to Love Her and some minor swag. You can always find me at ElvesAmongUs.com.



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12 Comments:

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Esri,
I remember worrying mostly over the deadline. One year I worked up to the last possible moment and had to Fed Ex it. I love your sense of humor!

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

I read it to my mom this morning. When I got to the taped envelope one, she chortled and said, "You think just like me." The fact is, I have worried about all of these things. (Well, except for not having colored paper and stickies. I always have those.) I guess in addition to being a perfectionist, I'm also a paranoiac.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Wise words, Esri!!!

I think being a perfectionist takes up a lot of energy, but, really, one's life is so much more organized than if one were a slob. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle....
and may lean toward the slob end.

It is important to note that one's writing life does not hinge on the Golden Heart. The most you can lose is money (like we aren't all used to THAT after these last few weeks). There are many ways a good manuscript can find publication.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Tiffany Kenzie said...

Now that was fun!

Yeah, I'm not worried about small imperfections. I don't do those big binder clips either... that would require filling out a customs form because customs is stoopid? :)

My goal is to score better this time around than last year. That's it. People have either loved my story, or hated it for the exact same reason with this new book. So it's not worth the heart palpitations to worry about submitting the perfect story, to please everyone. Mind you, my title IS perfect :)

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Tiffany: I'm jealous. What's your perfect title? Or is it too good to tell?

 
At 1:08 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

LOL, Esri! I hope you're getting help for this affliction...you made me laugh out loud!

I think I'm more like Diane leaning toward the other side...but I used to have some perfection tendencies...years ago. I have overcome and now I probably don't care enough about those little details.

Tiffany, way to go! Great attitude. You can't please everyone, so you might as well just please yourself!

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I had to laugh, Esri. Anyone remember the Bad Old Days when Golden Heart entries got disqualified because one page of one copy went through the copier crooked, causing that page to have less than one inch margins on some parts of the page?

Well, if you do remember, then you also remember there was a membership revolt, resulting in rational rules that deal with quality of story, not crooked pages. If you make mistakes on your envelopes or fail to insert colored paper or the like, your judges will chuckle, remembering when they did the same or WORSE. We're all writers, focusing on writing, and sometimes that means we don't focus well on the less important aspects.

Do mail it on time. The deadlines don't flex. But relax and write your doggone best, and don't worry about the rest.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Really?! OMG, I don't remember that, but no wonder people revolted.

 
At 5:38 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

That SOUNDS revolting, Delle! Thank God they got over THAT!

Esri, thanks for a great laugh today as I panic about my inability to finish The Raven's Heart in time for the deadline and work 40 hours a week at a job that makes me want to buy some heavy fire power and look for a clock tower!!

I do find that my page count goes up if I have a "what the heck, just write it attitude" rather than a "I must choose each word carefully so as to completely enthrall the judges!"

The only bad thing about finaling one year is that you think it was all a fluke and you can never do it again! Any hints for that one?

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Louisa: Are you MAD? The fact that you finaled once means your chances of finaling again have gone up exponentially! That's just plain old math. Stop with the fluke business. And stay off clocktowers.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Tiffany Kenzie said...

Hidden Beauty :) And she's a veiled harem girl :) Thus it is perfect!

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Tiffany: You're right. That is perfect.

I would totally read a book about a harem girl.

 

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