Confession: I cheated at NaNoWriMo.
Please do not tell the people who sent my official certificate. They can't have it back, anyway. It's like, permanently stuck on my fridge.
Remember NaNoWriMo from Ashley's post? In case your memory needs refreshing, NaNo is a super intense month of nonstop writing with occasional breaks for sleep and food and your job.
I technically started my book in the beginning of September, but used NaNo as motivation to get myself to keep going and actually finish it. And … dramatic pause … I did!
Somehow, I made it to the 50,000-word goal (which, you know, I probably should have, with the whole cheating thing and whatnot.) About 40,000 of the words weren't any good, though, so I replaced those words with better words, and then I entered my book in a contest, and … dramatic pause part two … I won!
The prize was quite possibly the coolest thing ever for an aspiring author: the opportunity to revise my book with a published writer. As in, someone who actually knows what she's doing.
While this was all extremely exciting, it was also pretty terrifying. I've never been one of those people who walks around like, "everything I do is amazing." I'm usually more like "everything I do is awful," even if the things in question are not awful at all. For example, my book is clearly not awful because Amazing Published Author chose it out of all her submissions. So, there's that.
I was a nervous wreck as I sent off my book and waited for her to read it. Every time I got an e-mail, I imagined it was her, saying something along the lines of "This book is horrible and I regret the day I chose it!" in a really dramatic email voice.
As it turns out, she loved it, and we spent the following month taking it from pretty good to this could actually be something. Before, I wasn't so sure about my book, but now, I'm completely in love with it, and I'm not afraid to shout it from my sketchy deck-type thing. (I moved and no longer have a cool rooftop …)
What a nice place for the story to end, right? But it's only just beginning. Because even though she loved it, and now I love it, too, there's the concern that agents won't. And then, if agents do, publishers might not. And even if publishers do, maybe readers won't. Somehow, I've managed to create a chain of doubt over something that's supposed to be kind of amazing. I mean, you guys, I wrote a book.
As I was panicking over my Never Ending Chain of Doubt the other day, I came across these hysterical videos, in which well-known children's authors read the worst reviews about their books. What makes the videos so remarkable, though, are the author's reactions. You don't see anyone crying, screaming, yelling, or saying, "man, I wish I hadn't written that book." You see them laughing, because they know the secret I struggle to internalize-the only opinion that truly matters is your own.
Self-doubt tends to pop up in many different areas of life. Maybe not with a book, but with anything: your new haircut, the "it's either brilliant or stupid" paper you turned in for class, a date where you weren't sure you wanted him to call until he didn't call and then you realized you totally wanted him to call, etc. In these cases, the best thing we can do is trust our decisions, our instincts, and ourselves. Of course, there's always subjectivity (someone might love what someone else hates), but there is always going to be someone waiting to tell you that your book isn't good enough or your haircut isn't cute enough. These authors prove that one bad review is very, very far from the end of the world. And since someone is always waiting to offer negativity, there's no need to be that person to yourself.
When I submit my book to agents in the next few weeks, I know it's going to take a lot of something (Chutzpah? Alcohol? All of the above?) to click "send." There might be panic. There might be doubt. There will definitely be cupcakes. Regardless of what happens, though, I'll finally be taking the step to send something out in the world and tell the world that I think it's awesome. The world might not agree, but I'm ready to take the risk.
Follow Abby's exploits with her new Twitter handle, @_ACoops_