Thursday, June 28, 2007

The X Factor

Last week I went along to see my child compete in a short play competition. The stakes were not at "sheep station" levels, so it was relaxing and entertaining. The kids did a great job, and we (a few mums and the teacher) were thrilled to see them enjoying themselves to such a degree. Performing in a "real" theatre in front of an audience they didn't know was an obvious boost to their confidence as well as an invaluable experience.

But the interesting thing for me, was watching the development of the competition as each of the eight schools performed. It was obvious early on that our school's play was going to be in the front running for a prize. But soon we had a serious contender. The consensus amongst the other parents and the teacher was that this other school could take first prize off us.

As it turned out, we came second. The kids were thrilled, and waited to hear the expected result for first place. However, there was an upset. The school we thought would get first prize didn't get a mention, and the winner was instead another school, whose performance was - quite frankly - not that good (I'm being kind).

It's fascinating, isn't it, how things turn out. Sometimes what we think is marvellous, and deserving of accolades doesn't - for whatever reason - make the grade. Perhaps there was something we - as audience - weren't aware of. Maybe something that caused the entrant to be disqualified for some unknown, but valid reason.

The parallel to writing in all of this, is obvious. A rejection letter doesn't equal a failed manuscript. And sometimes, something unexpected catches an editor's eye. The X Factor. Assuming the work is presented in a professional and appropriate format, it's difficult to know what drives the selection process. Sure, great writing is always going to get there in the end, but a little luck can't hurt.

I write this as I await my response from Harlequin. My partial was sent off at the beginning of March, and I know that soon there will be a letter in the mail. And wouldn't it be wonderful if my three chapters caught some editor's eye? How would it feel to have a full manuscript requested? But writing is full of pitfalls. A rejection letter is just as likely, and I'm fully prepared to face that possibility. As I'm halfway through the next novel, I'll have lots to keep me busy.

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