Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And the Tumblers Fall, the Dice Rolls...

I've wondered: which is better to have? Luck, skill, or both. So many times I see rather "meh" stories land on the best sellers lists or gain some other worthy prize. The "meh" stories to me are those that don't exactly rock my world, but then my world is a little out of whack most times anyway.

Yet, just because my world is whack, it doesn't mean the "meh" story is a bad read. I have to believe that the lucky writer submitted it ad nauseum until the planets lined up correctly. Could have been for a number of reasons, that it slid across the slush pile just as an agent or editor was in the mood for that particular story - that on that particular day the trends changed in the writer's favor. Who knows?

Luck vs. Skill vs. Both. I've given this plenty-o-thought lately because finally after entering contests willy-nilly, I got a win. Mind you, I haven't won the entire ball of wax, but I did place first (see previous post) and the next step is five pairs of agents' eyes leering my work.

If not for the preliminary judges liking what they saw, my entry wouldn't be under the scrutiny of agents' eyes. My work has been in that position before. I came tenths of a point to making the finals of several contests, one the prestigious RWA Golden Heart, yet it fell short by the few tenths of a point because not every judge was wowed by my entry. Same goes for the other contests. I'd review the final score sheets, and there was always one who didn't see things the way the others did.

But this time was different. Three out of four (or was it four out of five?) preliminary judges of SFA-RWA's "Heart to Heart" liked it. They gave it rave comments, which completely floored me - I was all digging my toe into the ground and saying, "Oh shucks. Really?"

Yes, I've done nothing but marvel over this recent adulation. Little old me who submitted the same damn thing over and over...hmm. Luck, skill, both? I truly believe that luck plays an important and large role in every passing life event, but it sure as hell helps to have great skill when the lucky moment arrives. It's imperative to be prepared to take it to the next level, because surely it was more luck than skill that got me through the first level of judging.

Prepared for the next level? That's what I'm striving for. I won't be one of those American Idol contestants lucky enough to get sent to Hollywood, only to crash and burn under the pressure. You know, partying instead of concentrating on the next goal.

Let the partying come after the big one, that's what I say, and party I will if I get a win, request or sale. If none of the above, then I'll keep on keepin' on because sooner or later it'll all fall in to place - lucky seven, safe opens.

What's it gonna be for you?


Anonymous said...

One great thing about finaling in a contest is the affirmation that comes with it. Nobody can take that away from you. Not only that, but it goes to show you're on the right track.

I think luck plays a HUGE part in this. If you're writing a story about an drunk agent who's life is in the gutter, you had better hope the agent you're submitting to doesn't have a drinking problem on the side. ;-)

Kath Calarco said...

"If you're writing a story about an drunk agent who's life is in the gutter, you had better hope the agent you're submitting to doesn't have a drinking problem on the side. ;-)"

Now that kind of luck would suck.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I think luck is a huge part of the submissions process. A lot of agents, for example, say that they won't take on a project if they already represent one that's similar. Or they could be having a bad (or good!) day. You just never know. But no matter how open the agent is, or how nice the contest judges, a writer won't get anywhere without skill. Luck just makes things easier. And then there's perseverance, which is probably as important as luck and skill.

Kath Calarco said...

Caryn, perseverance has got to be a key ingredient. Thanks for bringing that up. I was just thinking about that today, that if I didn't put myself out there over and over again to EVERYONE, no one would ever notice me.

Robin said...

I agree that luck plays a role. Having your manuscript in the right hands at the right time is key, but the writing still needs to shine. So the two go hand in hand. But skill has to come first, followed by luck. And somewhere along the way you've got to get rid of all your doubt, and trust that with determination, when it's meant to be, it will be.

I also think it's important to enjoy the journey.

Kath Calarco said...

Robin, another great point: Enjoy the journey. I've always said that if the fun goes out of it, then I'm gone, too, otherwise, what's the point? If I wanted misery I'd return to working for attorneys.