Monday, December 9, 2013

Year's End: Be Bold

Man, how did this happen? All of a sudden it's nearly new years again and I'm studying like crazy for finals. It's been one more year of working on a project, making playlists, revising, and also joining this awesome blog. I may not have an agent to announce, or a shiny pub deal to close out the year, but Heather does, so we're celebrating with her!

The holidays are great, but sometimes it's kind of a bummer to look at goals you had at the start of the year and realize you still haven't reached them. Like Stefanie said in her birthday post, we may know that the goals we set for ourselves are slightly arbitrary (like this is the year I land publishing deal, or this is the year I get an agent) but it doesn't take the sting off not making them.

So instead of focusing on the goals I met and didn't meet this year, I'm going to look at what changed during the course of it.

A few months ago, my friend Kate Brauning and I tweeted about where we were a year ago using the hashtag #keepgoing, and, amazingly, it caught on. I have it bookmarked for when I'm in a yuschik, why don't we just chuck this mood, and it never fails to make me feel better. If you need a good pick-me-up, check it out. Here's a few of my faves:

We're writers. We know we're playing a long game, and the improvements we make are usually so invisible that we need the lens of time to appreciate them. All those tweets are right: a lot can change in a year.

So here's what I've learned in 2013, compressed in two micro-bites of Courage Wolf-esque wisdom: go all out, but also be aware that it takes time.

What do I mean by going all out?

That idea you have that you're not sure you can execute? Write it. If it works out, then this time next year you could be like whoa hey, remember back when that idea I had was just a one-page response to a writing prompt? And sometimes, yeah, it's not going to work. But how else are you going to know unless you try? 

That perfect image/wordplay that you keep in your back pocket because you don't want to waste your best stuff? Use it. The beauty of the creative mind is that it keeps creating. It's not like you're born with a finite supply of ideas and you have to ration them out-- you're an idea factory on infinite overdrive. Your best stuff is what agents, publishers, and readers want to see (and, frankly, deserve). There'll always be more, so don't worry. 

That revision that you're on the fence about doing before you query? Do it. You get one shot at a lot of these things (per manuscript), and if you know that you can make a draft better before querying, then put in the time to do it.

Yeah, the flip side of all this being as awesome as you possibly can be is that it's going to take time. But, if you'll allow me to bust out some Epictetus:

The competition out there is fierce. I can tell you that as someone who's read queries and who now reads submissions. I see a lot of stuff that's not ready, that really needs extra polish and thought, but also some stuff that blows me away. Writing is hard. It's going to take longer than you think (at least it does if you're me), but it'll be worth it.

One year ago, I had an idea for a writing prompt response and I wrote maybe eight paragraphs. I had zero CPs, my agency internship was winding down, and I was hoping to query my behemoth 130k urban fantasy draft after some (hefty) revisions. I legit wanted to work on the UF, but that weirdo eight-para story about a boy in an abandoned church fascinated me. Those paragraphs since have changed a lot, but the boy is now my protagonist in my current manuscript, the first YA contemporary I've ever written.

So as you go towards the next year, my wish for you is to take chances. Experiment a little and veer off the beaten path of your favorite things. Sometimes, yes, it's going to feel like you're doing something dumb and should just play it safe, because the time investment is just too large to risk for something that won't work.

But being a writer is always walking that fine line of oh-man-nervous-breakdown-I'm-no-good-shouldn't-do-this and two seconds later being the badass who's like no worries, guys, let's just

I leave you with my favorite Goethe quote, also about boldness. My parents sent me a card during my first year at college with this and ever since it's been one of my favorite things. Because yeah, you're going to be insecure-- you're trying new things and putting a lot of time into these new things without any guarantee they'll work out. But there's a whole lot of power in beginning something.

I'll keep you updated on where those eight paragraphs take me in 2014. Yuschik, out.

When Alex Yuschik isn't writing her next YA novel, she's working on someone else's as an intern at Entangled Publishing. She writes about lock picks, ghosts, the abandoned places in cities, and how not to strike bargains with stars. Between sneaking in time to game and rocking out to indie music, Alex spends the rest of her free time working towards her PhD in mathematics. You know, as one does.

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