Last week I was all caught up in Harlequin’s “So You ThinkYou Can Write?” contest. It’s a competition for unpublished writers to showcase one chapter of a manuscript. It’s open to almost anyone who has finished a novel and the winner of the contest receives a book contract. The top 25 entries receive feedback from a Harlequin editor on their completed manuscript – prize enough in itself.
I entered the first chapter from the novel I wrote last year: Unbreak My Heart. Spoiler alert: I did not make it into the top 25 of the contest. Sigh.
But the worst part was not that I didn’t make it into the top 25. The worst part has been my behavior during the contest and results. I entered the contest on Monday, October 1 then watched with an almost out-of-body experience as I went looney-tunes crazy for the next two weeks.
I don’t even want to talk about how crazy I was because it’s really embarrassing. But I’ll give you the highlights:
1) I bugged every friend I had (or used to have, most of them probably unfriended me) on Facebook for TEN DAYS STRAIGHT asking them to vote for me in this contest.2) About 2 days into the contest, I realized I could also TEXT PEOPLE and ask for them to vote for me on their phone. Aren’t most of you glad I don’t have your cell number?3) I went to the Apple Store at the mall 8 days in a row and voted for myself on every device they had hooked up to the Internet (which is 57, btw).4) I made my children vote for me on their Nintendo games and iPods. And told them to ask their friends to vote too.5) Do you know that the public library has multiple computers patrons can use? Want to know how I know that?6) Because voting was blind, I had no idea how many votes I had versus the other entries. What I could see was how many Facebook “Likes” an entry had (which had nothing to do with voting, but still… at least it seemed like real data). So I went through ALL 690 ENTRIES and wrote down the title of any entry that had more than 100 Likes. There were 120 of them in case you're wondering.7) I got ABSOLUTE NOTHING done the three days between when voting closed and they announced the finalists because I was so nervous and anxious to find out the results. Nothing – I don’t even think I cooked or took a shower.8) On Monday, Oct 15 when they began to announce the finalists, I checked my email incessantly even though my email gets sent to my phone and Tom Hanks announces “Houston, we have a problem” on my phone whenever I get email. Still, I manually checked. You know, just in case it was broken…8) I didn’t help my kids with their homework on that Monday because I was so busy watching Twitter to see who the winners were.9) I threw an absolute fit when one of the finalists started tweeting about how she didn’t even have manuscript finished so she better start writing *fast* so she’d have something to turn in.
HAVE SOMETHING TO TURN IN???? I have an entire book ready to turn in! How good can yours be if you’re writing ¾ of it in 2 days?And… scene.
Do the words: outlandish, preposterous, ridiculous, or absurd come to mind? They should. Basically I lost two weeks of my life to this stupid contest. And by “stupid contest” I mean: “a perfectly reasonable contest in which my behavior was asinine.”
It’s hard to watch a train wreck while you’re also conducting it. But somehow I managed.
Ultimately, I got over my disappointment of not making it into the top 25, and even cancelled the hit I put out on the writer who hadn’t finished her book. I had a Butterfinger Blizzard. A friend sent me an awesome link of some famous authors who were rejected by publishers multiple times, which gave me hope. Looking back on it all now that I’m older and wiser (you know, by 36 hours) I’ve realized some things.
I wasted so much time with this contest – not just begging for votes, but worrying about it and wondering about it and counting FB Likes that had nothing to do with anything. Being busy is not the same thing as being effective. If I had applied this time to writing, I could’ve been 1/3 of the way done through another book.
So ultimately, I think Harlequin is asking the right question in their contest to beginning writers like me. It just took me a while to find the phrase that should follow their question.
So You Think You Can Write?
Then quit worrying about this other stuff and sit down and do it. Writers write. Always.