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.
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