Friday, December 12, 2008

NBPTS and Writing

First, before anything else at all: thank you to everyone who has either emailed me comments about my new first chapter or posted them on either blog. Seriously. Thank you.

Segue.

My day job is teaching fifteen year old hormone driven demons about the intricacies of Lao-Tzu's Tao te Ching and the structure of Holocaust literature. It's an uphill battle. And it doesn't pay much. But it pays a tiny bit more now that I just recieved my National Board Certification. For those not in the education field, this is basically just a piece of paper saying I'm qualified to teach anywhere in the nation, not just my state. But it was hell to get. There were portfolios and videos and tests reminiscent of the GREs and argh. Much angst went into the process, which took me a year and was more difficult than getting my MA in Literature. But I remember, last May, when I mailed my submission in to Texas or wherever it goes, I remember as I taped up that box thinking, There is no way I could have done any better. And since then, as me and the seven other teachers who applied for it last school year waited and waited and waited to see if we got it, that thought was really my only comfort. I could not have done any better. I really did do my level best. If the box came back and I'd failed, I still could not have done any better than I had--and I worried that if I failed, I may as well give up, because what could I have changed? In the end, I passed, and it was a relief, and even though I didn't get the perfect score, I got pretty darn close. And even now, when it's all graded and done, I still can't think of a thing I'd change about my entry.

Segue.

That's what I'm trying to do with this story. Looking back, I used to send manuscripts out, and then when I got rejection letters, I'd realize, Oh! I should have changed this! And then I'd rewrite a scene or two, and send stuff out, and realize, Oh! I should have changed this, too! Even now, if you were to pull out some of those mss. that I so glibly sent out a year ago, I know that there is a lot I would have to change. I think about it, every once in awhile, how I've got completed manuscripts just sitting there, but I don't send them out now because, honestly, I just cringe at the thought.

Here's what I want need to do: Get the manuscript so perfect that there is nothing that I could change. I want to be at the point where, even if I'm rejected by everyone, I can't think of a single word I'd change, a comma I'd delete, or a chapter I'd move around. And while this seems like the obvious thing to do, it isn't. How many times have I thought an old manuscript was perfect before, just to find out how wrong I was?

This does not mean that I won't be open to editing. I know that if when I get published, my editor will certainly make changes, and they may be large ones. I'm cool with that. I knew when I submitted for my NatBoards, the graders would not think it was perfect. I'm open to change, especially under the guidance of an agent or editor. All I want is to be able to ship my manuscript off, knowing that no matter what, I did my level best.

8 comments:

Justus M. Bowman said...

I understand.

If I sent out a perfect manuscript and got rejected, I'd feel okay sending it out again and again while I worked on the next novel.

Instead, I usually think, "That's why they rejected me! Time to revise." It's tiresome. It's easier to do something "right" the first time, but I don't always know what is right.

My decision is to send out this next revision to at least 14 agents before I give up and go back to revising it.

Great, I posted more in your comments section than I did on my blog. Thanks, Beth!

keri mikulski :) said...

Great attitude, Beth.

Wow! Congratulations on your certification! Amazing!!!

Gottawrite Girl said...

Well, well, well done. You are on a victory-streak, and I believe your ms will be NO exception.

It's a fine line between taking or not taking suggestions... at some point, you have to trust your own gut, I think!!!

: )

Susan

beth said...

Justus--haha! I always spend more time on others' blogs than my own... And I have totally had the same attitude as you--of course, it's easy to say now. Watch me make it "perfect" submit, and then start changing again...

Keri--Thanks!! :)

Justus M. Bowman said...

Am I the only one who sent you a chapter, or are you covered in other peoples' first chapters?

lotusloq said...

Congrats on the Nat Cert!!! Wow! I used to teach HS and so I know what that means. Woo hoo!

I know what you mean about the rewrites. They never seem to end. I have a hard time ever feeling like my ms. is ready to go out there. Right now I'm in the splitting/paring down thing with my novel I blogged about. When I get done with that I'd like to send you that 1st chapter to see what you think.

beth said...

Justus--nope! I have had a few "non-commenters" submit, too :)

Lois--Absolutely, send it by! And--ugh--rewrites! Good luck!

PJ Hoover said...

Congrats on getting it! That's awesome!