“I finished my second novel today,” you said. “Now all it needs is a date with the editor.”
He leaned forward with interest. “Hey, that’s terrific. Give me a synopsis of them, why don’t you?”
He nodded. Your heart sank inside. You turned into a terrified bucket of jelly. You really hate when this happens. You hadn’t thought about the first book in more than a year. You’d just emerged at ground level from the second one, so a bird’s eye view of the story did not pop to mind. Put on the spot, you blabbered something stupid, and the stupider it sounded, the more you struggled to somehow make your books sound less stupid. You could see his doubt mounting with every lame line. By the end, you’d convinced him you were just another hack author, no wonder you’re not published.
Great. Just great.
You have no problem letting your writing speak for you, in fact, most would say you have a pretty healthy ego (okay, that’s an understatement). You never question your work, no matter how many rejections, no matter how little luck you’ve had getting published. You have dozens of supporters who give you plenty of positive feedback.
But when push comes to shove, if somebody new happens to ask what you write, especially if that person is a man, you fall to pieces. You’re pretty sure it isn’t lack of confidence in your work. No, it comes down to the fact that you’re ashamed of your genre. You write like Jane Austen went to a superhero convention. You do not write great literature, but you do write great entertainment. In a sophisticated environment, like a party or meeting, talking about girl-power in skirts feels incredibly dumb, and certainly irrelevant to real life. You have earned the respect of men within writing circles; how can you secure that respect far and wide?
Good grief, how many people can claim to have written two entire novels, plus numerous short stories and essays? Your work appears in three publications. Take ownership of lines such as these:
“She felt strangely peaceful inside, much like when she killed the troll. She recalled its hot breath and the scent of decay on its pelt, and the bone-chilling promise of a painfully slow death. Calmness, not panic, had saved her life then. She gave a warning shake of her head, but Boyle’s partner kept coming, so she squeezed the trigger and shot him right in the chest.”
It’s a girl kicking butt in an epic fantasy. So what? Get over your bashfulness. Straighten your spine. Find a way to rattle off a quick and powerful synopsis, and no matter who does the asking give it with confidence, the same confidence you had when you wrote those lines in the first place. Make a connection between what you believe deep inside and what you project to others. They’re no better than you. In the privacy of their homes, they may read really bad fiction or play video games for hours and hours. Why do you care what they think of your creation? Hold your head up and feel pride.
And keep kicking butt.
For more of Colleen’s letters, click here!