Tag Archives: publication

Blog Chain – Facing the Keyboard After Rejection

Like all writers I face rejection constantly. It’s as consistent as the bills. The question for those of us who do this is: How do you stay motivated at your most unmotivated?

For me rejection brings to mind torture devices from the darker paths of history. Put me in stocks. Pull out the thumbscrews. Chain me in the tower. Stretch me on the rack. Just don’t make me write when it feels like my dog writes better prose than I do. No offense, Moses.

Motivating myself to write when things are as dark as they can get is beyond difficult. It’s like hunting for a man after a painful divorce. Demeaning, devastating, deplorable. How do you force yourself to sit down to the keyboard after someone rips your work to shreds? The obvious answer is you sit your butt in the chair, and you do it because as a writer you have no other option. For most of us that’s true but it’s also true that each rejection makes it harder to repeat the process. .

It’s not like I enjoy being eviscerated. (And no matter how many times I tell myself it’s not personal, those words are mine and therefore, it’s very personal.) However, I can’t stop the voices in my head, and I can’t stop telling stories just because they aren’t perfect on the page yet or because I haven’t found the right editor or agent to read them yet.

In all honesty, sometimes the blistering criticism is accurate. My work is not done. And I’m not totally surprised by the criticism as some place deep down, I knew something wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew something was wrong. However, some of it is BUNK. A reviewer rushed, skimming rather than reading.  Or makes suggestions that aren’t helpful or fitting to the work at hand.

The issue for a writer before they pull out the thumbscrews is to figure out which criticism is worth pursuing and which can be burned in effigy or placed on the rack and stretched until shredded.

Unfortunately, you have to let go of the pain of the rejection first. Having a support system can help. My critique group provides that. They provide a balance for me. Honestly agreeing with the reviewer when the advice is right and telling me to ignore it when it’s off the mark. But mostly, by acknowledging that this is part of the process, and we all go through it as writers. A form of hazing to find who has the wherewithal to keep going in the face of constant rejection. That is what gets me back behind the keyboard and willing to keep trying.

What keeps you in the game? Check out Natasha’s blog to see what she has to say about rejection.

 

2 Comments

Filed under The Life, Writing

Unhappiness

Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott

A hero of mine, Nancy Pickard, co-authored a book called Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path. I’m reading it for the second time because like most writers I’ve hit a rock in the path, and I need guidance. According to the book, I’m at the unhappiness stage. Little overachiever that I am, I’m taking this one over the top.

I’m not unhappy; I’m flat-out miserable. No good reasons. Unless you count, multiple rejections balanced against only a second place win in a query contest, or my inability in the face of teaching six days a week to produce even the most mundane of drivel. Be thankful, I tell myself that you’re producing anything at all. At least you’re not blocked. Really? The only difference between a blocked writer and me is that they’ve acknowledged it. I’m in full denial and thus, keep plugging away at my drivel.

It’s been several years since I read it so it’s like reading it for the first time. The chapter threw me an epiphany with one line: “Unhappiness, to one degree or another, is where all creativity begins.” My YA novel is in revisions and by that I mean constant revisions, and I’m sick and tired of it. So, I’m taking a break while it is making the rounds and decided to start another one.

Unhappiness and creativity. I’m not quite to the newlywed phase of a work. Currently, it’s just scattered scenes with the characters as I get to know them. Which is why I’m still unhappy. I could stop. Quit. I tell myself that every day. Yet, I don’t. And I don’t perceive a time when I will. Because writing and the misery that accompanies it are as essential to me as eating right and exercising. Of course, when I’m in the zone, I don’t eat right or eat period sometimes. And my exercising becomes manic. I pound the treadmill because it opens up the doors of my creativity.

I highly recommend this book to every writer. Not only because it will validate every stage of the creative process but because it will remind you that for the pain and agony of the hard times, there is a wonderful place you will eventually arrive at. In that place, rejections are just slips of paper, and every word you write is a win.

Are you “unhappy” in your writing?

2 Comments

Filed under The Life, Writing

Transitions

My district ‘transitioned’ this year from a three-year high school to a four-year. This means as a ninth grade teacher my job moved to the high school. We knew this would be complicated as any massive change is. For many of us, it meant a painful pay cut because of supplemental contracts  lost in the move. It has meant tremendous adjustments for everyone; teachers, administrators, students, parents.  This will be an ongoing challenge for the district. What does it have to do with writing?

Transitions are vital in writing and just as challenging. How well a writer does at moving the reader through a story will make a big difference in how successful it is. These shifts must serve a purpose. For our district, the reason was serious overcrowding. Each time a writer decides to transition in a story, she needs to first evaluate the purpose. Are you transitioning from one scene to another, from one chapter to another? Is it action or emotion? Do you want a chapter break in the middle of a scene? This kind of stark break can serve a specific purpose. Maybe you want a subtle transition from one scene to the next and an extra space from one to the next will give you that.

Perhaps a paragraph of narration that offers a hint of back story in the form of mystery will transition beautifully. Maybe action will be better? It’s your story to tell so you decide. But make sure you are asking yourself what best serves the interests of the story and the characters.

What are transitions like for you? Do find them easy to write or are they difficult to navigate?

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Say what??

The beginning of the school year is always chaos, but I knew this year would be worse than usual. We’re transitioning to the high school with our ninth graders, so after fifteen years in one place I packed up and moved across to the high school. I’d forgotten how time-consuming putting a new room together can be. It has left me feeling totally unprepared for the school year.

Adding to that, I’m finally pursuing my dream of teaching at the college level. This semester I’ll be teaching Comp I. I’m in heaven, but it meant all that beginning of school chaos for two different teaching jobs. I literally had lists of things to do for each job, and I was going from early morning until late at night. I say all this to explain my complete loss of writer neuroses this week.

Last Sunday at the encouragement of one of my critique partners, I submitted my YA novel query to a contest for an online conference that we had signed up for. After everything that had happened, I had no time to attend those sessions. Probably because of that I didn’t even remember the conference or the contest until writer’s group met. We were busy getting the anthology we were editing put to bed so when it was mentioned in passing, I immediately forgot it.

Imagine my surprise two days later when I came home to emails from critique buddies congratulating me. I was a bit punch drunk with exhaustion and couldn’t quite make sense of this bit of news. When I found my way to the site, I was astounded to discover that my query had tied for second place in the contest. I’m still pinching myself today. Did it really happen or am I going to wake in the morning to find it was all a great dream? Sigh. Now that my memory’s back so are my writer’s neuroses.

2 Comments

Filed under The Life, Writing

Mind Games

A friend sent me this wonderful link to a website listing journals that are open to new and emerging writers. I was thrilled to see it even though not all of the names on it were new. Each had a brief descriptor giving insight into that particular journal and links to their websites. Perfect, right? My initial excitement should have been followed immediately by my seeking the writer’s guidelines and looking to see what pieces of mine might have fit which of those journals. That’s the way it works.

Not exactly. No, immediately words jumped out at me from each journals descriptors; quality, innovative, imaginative, excellence, publishes only the finest in fiction, writers with exceptional promise, powerful imagery and dynamic prose…okay, I’m going to just stop there because I’m getting physically ill. Suffice it to say the expectations these journals list do not have beginner nor emerging writer anywhere on them. Are we those things? Maybe. Probably. In some cases, absolutely. But seriously, who can see beyond the expectation of that?

I began thinking of my pieces and being my biggest critic, none of those things applied to me or my work. I wasn’t qualified to send these people a fan letter let alone a submission. What the hell made me think two years in an MFA program and a few publications and a novel later, I had the right to submit to a market that wanted only the “finest” in “powerful” fiction?

If you ever questioned why so many writers drank themselves senseless, this is it. Where else do you see people having to live up to these kind of expectations? Certainly not our politicians. Or lawyers for that matter. No offense intended, and all jokes aside, no one ever expects the best from either of those so we’re beyond thrilled when we encounter a good one. And as for the entertainment industry? Most of them move through rehab and prisons as a part of their celebrity internship so expectations aren’t a problem for them.  Expectations are so low there, we get all excited about a movie like Titanic and give it an Oscar. Enough said.

We not only face the rejection that people in entertainment face but we also face unreasonable standards which means we are set up to fail. Write a masterpiece. Still, if you aren’t Stephen King or Jodi Piccoult, you’ll make nothing. And probably not sell enough for a second novel to be picked up by a publisher. I know, totally Negative Nellie. So, you ask – and rightly so – why am I still here, still doing this?

Writers are masochists? I don’t write because I choose to. Lord knows, given a choice I’d do something less taxing. But writing is the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep at night. I feel guilty when I’m not writing. I feel guilty when I’m writing and ignoring everything else. No matter how much guilt I feel though, the words flow through me. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to. And I don’t.

That website? http://www.writehabit.org/journals.html Why am I sharing? Because misery loves company, don’t you know?

4 Comments

Filed under The Life, Uncategorized, Writing

Following the Dream

Writers share a dream. The one that leads to the path to publication. Unfortunately, it’s a rocky, hilly, pot-holed filled, road fraught with a multitude of dangers. And it’s a solitary path. Too often we are alone on a chair in a room isolated from the world and a support system. There we encounter doubts, fears, the unknown. We second guess everything we have believed. Talent? What made us think we had that? We can publish? What made us think that? Amazing how anyone makes it down that path. Amazing how anyone comes out at the end unscathed. Amazing anyone would even want to.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized