Eye on the Prize

English: Hampton Roads, Virginia from space

English: Hampton Roads, Virginia from space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul and Silas thought
They was lost
Dungeon shook and
The chains come off
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

The only thing I did was wrong, was stay in the wilderness too long,
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

A link to Bruce Springsteen’s version:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBle58G0dsA

I don’t know about you but I am great at starting things. So many ideas seem interesting that it is easy for my enthusiasm to transport me into an activity…sustaining it to completion is often a different thing. I have painted, quilted, and cross-stitched…you might even add blogged.

I remember that when I finally ‘finished my book,’  I was ecstatic.  What I sometimes forget is that the prize wasn’t in finishing it, it is in publishing it. What I have is a manuscript, not a book…at least not yet.

Last Sunday when I was working on this blog, I saw a link to a writer’s conference near me in Hampton Roads.  That’s only an hour and a half away, and instead of ignoring it as I usually would, I clinked on it.

It was perfect! It not only had great workshops but it included a short story contest (a great possible way to build my writing resume if I could win), a chance to have a first 10 page manuscript evaluation by an author/agent, and a chance to pitch my book to another agent in my genre. A way to the prize had appeared before me.

So, what were the challenges? First, an unpublished short story.  I have one. Only one.

But with nothing to lose, (nothing ventured, nothing gained coming to mind), I opened it.  I have sent it to other, larger, contests and stayed in contention right to the end. But I’d thought perhaps it was too short, two thousand words in a world of 6,000 word contenders. This contest only asked for 2,500. So I spent Sunday afternoon and evening working on it, thinking to mail everything first thing on Monday.

Lucky for me I have a writing partner and a great husband.  I made some additions and revisions, and sent them on to them. That brought a great phone discussion with William (see the page on this blog about my Writing Partner), suggestions, more revisions, and more discussion. By 11 pm Sunday night, I was satisfied, and the story was both improved and now 2,241 words. Short story, check!

Then I went back to the conference link, clicking on the manuscript submission page, reading in more detail, and hit the next challenge at the bottom of the page: I needed a synopsis of my book!

For the last six months or so I have hemmed and hawed over completing this very task.  I have tried doing one from a variety of approaches and then ended up with computer problems. In a nutshell, I had many excuses. But the larger truth was it seemed daunting to me.  How can you reduce 124,421 words to one page?

It was clear I wasn’t going to the post office in the morning, and did I tell you the early bird deadline was the next Friday?  I decided to take Monday morning off from work.

I pulled up a number of my previous attempts and a query letter I had and got down to it.  I had actually made some progress when I had to leave for work. Leaving the college early, I raced home to start again. About 4:00 I sent a last version to William and to Doug, a cross between a synopsis and an overview, with a little pitch thrown in.

At 4:30 Doug advised me, at this point, I might as well give myself a break. Our small little post office would close in a half hour and if I mailed it at 8:30 the next morning it would probably not change the delivery time.  Then he added that he thought there were too many names in my synopsis which made it hard to follow! Back to the drawing board!

More labor, more conversation with William, more revisions and hours later I finally had a version we all thought covered the story well enough to make the 10 pages understood and carried enough pitch to perhaps interest the reviewer into investing in it.  I printed the forms and made my workshop selections.

Tuesday morning I got up early deciding to reread my novel’s first 10 pages, something I hadn’t done in months.  Mistake or not, I decided to edit a little. The 10 pages left off abruptly and I wanted the next few paragraphs to make it into the review.  So I texted my assistant, once again, I’d be late.

At 9:00 I did one last check on the website and there in red on submission page: now only three slots left for the review.  Off I ran to the post office while calling on the phone listed and leaving a message to say I would drive my work to Virginia if I could have one of them.

Ok…no suspense for you….I didn’t have to and it got in on time to get me a review. My husband and I celebrated, but will any of this get me closer to publishing?  Perhaps.

I don’t know what prizes you are seeking, or if you sometimes lose sight of them. I suspect you may be like me and find it is not always easy to sustain a vision. But not doing so guarantees defeat. So this is my wish that you will find encouragement when you least expect it, and then seize it. There may be a long road still ahead for you and for me…but as the song says, got to keep our eyes on the prize. Hold on.

About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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1 Response to Eye on the Prize

  1. Carolyn says:

    Fingers crossed! I will be eager to hear the next “chapter” in this adventure.


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