I received a really fun e-mail this past Saturday. Here's the beginning:
Congratulations! It is my pleasure to let you know that Secrets of the Heart, Book One, The Ravensmoore Chronicles is a finalist in the 2012 Write Touch Readers' Award contest! The winners will be announced at our spring conference (June 1-3) after Saturday's luncheon.
Since I was sitting at my desk I put both hands in the air and said, "YES!" I was so excited. This is my first contest final for Secrets of the Heart. My first final as a published author. And if you read my blog post from last week you'll see that I had a really rotten virus and felt really puny. So this e-mail meant a lot. I know contests aren't everything, but once in awhile we creative types all need a little encouragement, a little affirmation that we're doing something right because for the most part we don't get the kind of notice that folks like James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Ted Dekker, and others at the top get.
The other thing that thrilled me about this contest was that the judges were all readers that had nothing to do with the publishing industry, nor were they writers. I liked that a lot. Now before you go thinking my head is ballooning, it's not. :) It did Saturday for awhile but we're all allowed to let our heads get big for 24 hours, just like we're all allowed to wallow for 24 hours after a rejection, and I've had plenty of those. The thing is we all have to go back to the computer screen and keep writing no matter what happens.
This is where personal best comes in. It's fun to final and win contests and hopefully your day is coming if it hasn't already. Some contests are big and national or even international, and some contests are small and not so international. But how are you going to measure your personal best whether your published or not yet there? I think this comes in increments. For instance, you may need to work on your dialogue. So you go about learning and practicing this skill. I think it would be difficult not to improve if you are really putting effort into it. Just like anything else we practice we get better with time. The thing that stands out to me is passion. Think of the Olympic athletes and what practice looks like to them, it's grueling, and so it is for each us with the passion to practice and improve on our skill level. I read a great post by James Scott Bell over at the Kill Zone on Sunday, the day after I got my good news. Check out his article titled, Writers, Awards, and the Journey Also, if you have last year's MP3 from the ACFW Conference there is a wonderful workshop on there that Deb Raney and Tamara Alexander did together called, How to Write an Award Winning Book.
What I've picked to work on for my own personal best right now (besides showing up every day to write) is creating stronger character emotions. I want to go deeper and be able to show more adequately what my characters are feeling. It's not as easy, but then I don't think any aspect of writing is easy. I don't feel I'm one of those writers that was born with the talent to write, but I was born with the passion to study it and hopefully master it one day.
How about you? Have you met a personal best yet in your own writing skills? What skill are you trying to improve?