I am not Wonder Woman.

If I every had any delusions about superpowers, they took wing when I started writing a novel.

Some of the best tools available to aspiring authors are the contests run by various writing groups. Whether they’re judged by industry professionals, published authors, or aspiring writers, these contests let you see how total strangers react to your work. And what they found in mine surprised me.

It shouldn’t have–but self-awareness has never been one of my strengths.

My first submission was a mystery novel, and in the end, the heroine got herself into a risky situation and was rescued by her number one suspect. I liked the element of surprise in that–the twist on what I’d led the reader to expect.

But the judges unanimously hated that part of the story. It’s apparently a no-no to allow a woman to be rescued. As one of them warned me, “a mystery heroine always saves herself”!”

I revised with that caveat in mind, and re-submitted to a few more contests.

I was still in trouble.

“Your protagonist is reactive, rather than proactive. She allows things to happen to her, rather than making them happen.” Your heroine is too passive.””

At this point, I knew what was happening. Like most beginning writers, my heroines bore a suspicious likeness to myself. I didn’t want unrealistic, unbelievable characters, so I didn’t turn myself into a superhero; I tried to make my heroine realistic by including some flaws. And the flaws I know best are my own.

And I suppose I am a little reactive; a little passive. I tend to let things happen to me, rather than making them happen. I’m an observer, not a mover or a shaker.

That realization helped my writing, and I started to win contests once I realized people don’t want to read about folks like themselves. They want to read about people who are better, stronger, more capable than they are.

That’s why they call them heroines.

Did this new self-awareness help me? Am I more aware of my passive side, and working toward becoming more proactive?

I don’t know. I think I’ll just wait and see.