What Rejections Teach Us

They say you’re not supposed to blog about rejections.  I agree.  After that kind of a statement you know there’s a but, and this is no exception.

I just received my first rejection for the year!  (The exclamation point is on purpose.)  You might think I’m crazy.  I wouldn’t blame you if you did.  There is a reason for my excitement:  I learned something.

Anytime you have a chance to learn something, even if it is from rejections or your mistakes, take it, own it, and whatever you do –  make the best of it.

The publishing company said (and I’m paraphrasing) that while they enjoyed my piece (They called it interesting and poignant) that it didn’t stick closely enough to the prompt.  They took it a step further and explained that when they offer a prompt they expect it to play a prominent role in the piece (oops!).  They summed up their rejection by saying they liked my writing and hoped I’d submit to them again.

Now that’s a lot of information in a five sentence rejection.

One:  I was ecstatic that it wasn’t a form rejection.

Two:  They said what they liked about my piece and complimented my writing- it’s the first validation I have received that confirms I’m not way out of my league.

Three:  They told me why I was rejected and more importantly what it takes to be published with them.  Stick to the prompt.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Four: And I’m really excited about this one- they want me to submit to them again so I didn’t screw up too badly.

I would have loved to add “Published Author Extraordinaire” to my list of life’s accomplishments. This year I vow to be the submission queen.  I have four completed novels and a number of shorts that need to find homes.  I plan to rack up the rejections and when I find the right agent/publisher I know it will be because…

A:  I will have followed their submission guidelines carefully.

B: My writing is both interesting and poignant.

C: I will never give up.

My original goal this year was to be agented, sell a novel or rack up 100 rejections.  I’m going to change that to – I will never give hope and will do everything in my power to become a published author.

See what a difference 1 rejection can make?

Now it’s your turn, my faithful followers- what have your rejections taught you?

 

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Outlining AFTER you write a novel.

Whether or not you outline before you write a novel, you should consider doing an outline after the novel is finished and before editing.  Why? Because I said so.  Just kidding.  Har me out.

Plot lines bend and they weave all over the place and it’s hard to keep them all straight in a single glance.  You forget small details that make a world of difference in your story.  If there are any parts of the story you found “weak” or “too cluttered,” you need to be able to get a birds-eye view of them.  An outline can help you do that.

Even if you wrote an outline before you started writing, you should revisit it and make sure it has all the crazy plot bunnies that weaved their way in when you were in the zone.

* An outline will show you where your story sags, even if you don’t want to admit it.

* An outline will show you where you “info dumped” and pushed your characters too hard.

* An outline will show you your story arc and flow.

* An outline will make sure you closed up all those crazy plot holes.

* An outline will give you the piece of mind that everything is there and you wont have to do five million drafts.

For some, outlining will take a half hour.  For others it will be a will long adventure.  I promise you it’s time well spent and will save you time in the long run.  If it doesn’t I will give you your money back…

Have you hugged a self published author lately?

This is my blog, which means I get to be brutally honest.  I have read a lot of crap lately.  Whether the stories were from a big publisher, a small one, or the brave people who go it alone, I’m tired of getting two chapters in before my interest wanes.  My bank account reflects my bitter disappointment, having downloaded as many as three books in one day.

I want to read a good book, by a good author, who has done it on their own.

This is where you come in.  If you know of a self published book that will amaze me and reassert my faith in peoples ability to tell a good story, leave a comment.  Tell me about the story.  Tell me why you love it.  Please don’t spam me with your awesomtastic book. Have your friends tell me why your book will keep me turning the pages.  Hug another self published author and tell me about theirs. I have never done a book review on this site, but I will if the indie book(s) suggested to me have me going wow, I will.

I look forward to your recommendations.

The mighty word count

NaNoWriMo makes us take a hard look at the method with write with.  If you are any thing like me you set little goals.  Not just word count, but other goals too so you know you will hit minimum novel length (which for many of us isn’t the 50,000 words NaNo suggests)  One of the things we do is look at chapter length.  It isn’t just during NaNo that we do this.  How long you make your chapters is highly personal.

Mine vary according to which project I’m working on.  Sometimes 2,000-2,500 is a good length.  Sometime I shoot for under three.  There is one novel in particular that I shot for anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 words.  Whatever your word count goal there are times you fall short.  This post is for you.

I have had chapters end at 1000 words or less.  There are many things I can do and so can you.

1.  You can let it.  There is no hard and fast rule about chapter length.  Sometimes a short chapter is exactly what you need to speed up your plot.

2. You can add a scene.  Adding a scene doesn’t mean it has to be at the end.  It can be anywhere within the chapter.  Perhaps you can go into more detail during specific parts. Your character could have an epiphany.  You can interject another character, another problem, a sub plot.

3.  You can combine it with the chapter before or after it.  I’ve done it before and been surprised by how well it fit.

Especially if you are in rough draft mode, you need to just let the story tell itself.  You don’t know what scenes, chapters, or plots will even make the final draft.  Being too strict with yourself can make you write words that only pad a chapter, not add meaning.  You wouldn’t want that.  Write the good stuff.  The weak stuff will sort itself out in a later draft.

Good luck with you word count!

WRITERS ONLY: 10 ways to gain the support of your significant other

The only thing more difficult than being a writer is being married to one. 

Please note:  no husbands were harmed in the making of this post.  This is my observations on a difficult subject:  How to get support from a significant other.  This post won’t save your marriage or get everything you want out of your mate (if it could I could give up my day job and make millions).  These are my opinions and observations.  I’m sure their is a million other topics I don’t cover, and a million ways to fix the ones I did highlight.  Hopefully you will leave your comments and tell me your thoughts on it- even if it is to tell me I am wrong.

Stop for a minute and think about WHY you chose your significant other.  Think about it.  Think about it.  Go give him or her a hug, send them a text, tell them you love them and then get back here! You will be glad you did.

1.  Being an author is a JOB.   I repeat – your dream is for this to be your career or maybe it already is.  Most people got to work from 9-5.  They get dressed.  They drive to their specified location.  They come home and are expected to drop their job related “stuffs” at the door.  You need to find a way to do that.

Your lead, Peggy Sue, not cooperating?  Think of her as your coworker.  Have your mini rant, then back off.  Would you go on and on if Peggy Sue broke the copier for 3rd time this week?  Okay, maybe you would, but your significant other would quietly nod while he/she thought about something else.  Don’t be surprised if he or she does it to you while you ramble on about imaginary things.

2.  You want him/her to treat you like your a professional, be professional.  Know your industry inside and out.  Make time to hone your skills.  Prove to yourself that you have what it takes.  He or she will see that and respond in kind.

3.  Are you a workaholic? A writer’s brain never shuts off.  I get it, but you have to make time for the things that really matter in your life.  You spouse, you boyfriend/girlfriend, your lover…  they matter.  Don’t forget it.  Make them a priority.  Carry a little note pad.  Discretely write notes; don’t just run to the computer while the two of you are interacting.  I’ve done this.  The results were less than ideal.

4.  Talk about the things that will effect your relationship.  Use terms like “I feel”, “I want”, and if it’s really important, “I need”.  Avoid anything staring with “you”.  The second you say, “you,” there is an argument waiting to happen.

Example: “I feel like I don’t have enough time to write.  I want to take a look at our schedule and see if we can set aside time so I can focus on my writing.  I need x amount of hours a week.  Can we look at our schedule?”

Counter Example:  “You don’t support me.  Every time I sit down to write, I can’t accomplish anything because…”

You lost your mate at “you.”

5. Make sure they understand the process.  I couldn’t believe how complicated it is to get published.  Seriously.  You have to write the book.  Hate it.  Edit it.  Edit it some more.  Have some one else edit it.  Edit it again.  Maybe send it off to another and follow it up with another edit.  Just when you think you have a book ready for print, you realize you have to write a synopsis, a query letter and an outline.  That stuff was easy compared to what comes next.  You have to convince someone else, an industry professional, that you aren’t a total newbie and that you have what it takes.  Great.  So now your agented.  Now there is the waiting game for a publisher and then you guessed it…  another round of edits.  While your doing that you have to think about stuff like websites, marketing, cover design, bio’s, and the list seems endless.

If it’s daunting for us, it’s no wonder they think we are crazy!  See it from their point of view.  You’re talking to imaginary people, want to break into an amazingly difficult field AND you want it to monopolize your every waking moment?  Think about it.  I know they have!

6.  Patience only lasts for so long. When we write, being accountable to ourselves is difficult enough.  Being accountable to a significant other can be earth shattering.  Discuss real and obtainable goals.  Go through the paces.  Write. Edit.  Rinse. Repeat.  Query.  Publish.  Yeah! (if only it was that simple.)

7.  Be realistic There are some super stars in the field their first time out, but realistically 1 book published does not a career make.  3 books may not change that.  It may take you months if not years to even be ready for that step.  If you want your significant other to support you, make sure they understand that.  Make sure you know that.

8.  Take an interest in their hobbies and careers. You want them to be interested in yours, right?  Return the favor.

9.Make him feel like she/he is part of your writing world without beating her/him over the head with it.  Warning:  this is not always an easy thing to do.  Writers are an eager breed.  We like to talk about what we do with anyone that will lend us an ear.  Just because our mates are readily available, doesn’t mean they want to be your first line of contact.  If you truly need some help and no one else is available… Be specific.  I need to get character A to figure out a way to cross the river to get to character B.  The bridge is out.  What you think I could do.  They may have the answer and they may even find it fun.  Mostly they will want to just help you.  Helping you means you may like them better.  Talk about a win/win.

10. Talk with others who are perhaps better able or at the very least more willing to talk to you about your book at all hours of the morning. Twitter, face book, writing groups, writing buddies, aspire and inspire and other websites are all great ways to network and get ideas.  Use them as your first line of contact.

BONUS:  Talk. Talk. Talk.  If they don’t know it’s a problem how can they fix it.  Every writer has different needs.  I often hear complaints about not having enough time.   Ask for it.  Set aside time for it.  I hear, “He doesn’t get it!”  Tell him.   Explain to him what you are trying to do and what you need.  “She doesn’t like that I am doing it.  Or she doesn’t believe in me.”  I would be surprised if someone you loved would actually say that to you.  Chances are it is your insecurity.  If not…that’s for someone far more qualified than I am to fix.

The truth of the matter is, your significant other WANTS you to be happy AND successful.  They just need to know how to help you.  Good luck with your relationships and your writing.  Having that number one best seller isn’t any fun without someone to share it with 🙂

Writers block is a witch with two brooms

The first broom is her earth friendly and inexpensive mode of transportation and the second one is for thwaping you upside the head every time you sit down to write.  Enough is enough! You appreciate her hippy ways, but no one gave her permission to steal your words.  It is time to fight back and gain some confidence so you can write that next best seller.  Follow these five simple steps.

1.  take a breath and recognize it’s the creepy witch telling you that writing is less important than all that other stuff.  You know the stuff.  Laundry, cooking, cleaning, showers, hanging out with friends, watching tv, or playing facebook games.

2.  tell yourself it is time to focus and focus on one thing.  WRITING!  set up rules for yourself.  Ten minutes, and hour, a thousand words…you pick it.  Tell yourself I will do that ONE thing and nothing else until it is done.  Hide yourself away, turn off the phone, internet, etc…keep the fire alarms hooked up.  there are somethings worth setting your computer down for.  The point is set a goal. A reasonable one and commit to doing it uninterrupted.

3.  Butt in Chair people. That’s the only way to get it done.  I’m not the first person to tell you this.  I don’t care if it is the most uncomortable chair in the world.  You will sit in it until you have reached your goal.

4.  Pen in hand, fingers to the keys.  Pick your poison and start.  I don’t care if its to write a blog post, a letter to your grandma, or if your lucky your story will be like, “hey lets do this.”  the point is, get your fingers doing what they should.  You have already taken outside factors out of the equation.  Your story will talk to you because you are a trained machine.  It knows that when your but is in the chair and your fingers to the keys that you write stories.  it make take two letters to grandma.  Fine.  grandma will appreciate the effort.

5.  When your story comes to you write it.  It may not be the scene your working on.  It may not be until several chapters later.  Let it come and write it down.  Save it as a separate document if you must.  Books don’t always talk to us in order.  You know the saying two steps forward, one step back.  Writing is a lot like that.  Sometime you need to see what will happen in order to understand where your at.  Your epiphany will come and before you know it, not only will you have reached your goal, but you will have surpassed it.  Ain’t that slick?

How’s NaNo treating you this last week?

 

hells bells, I missed the deadline.

Day late and a buck short.  I swear that saying was made for me.  I heard about this contest at http://www.esquire.com/fiction/short-short-fiction-contest-2011  I should have read all the rules because I didn’t realize until after I sat down to write my 78 word story I missed the dead line.  I’ll share it with you instead.  Post your own 78 word story in comments.

Tall or short.  He never cared what they looked like as long as they knew their duties.

Nurses.  None of them could save him. None of them wanted to.

They thought him mean.  He thought himself practical.  He wanted more time.  Not food, not baths, nor false kindness and their incessant pity.

It was a Friday, no different for any other but for the angels with their harps, the devils with their forks and the nurse’s falling tears.

Your turn.  78 word story – go!

Tightening sentences.

Sometimes it easier than you think.

Mouse, is a soldier in my “A Series of Zobified Events” novel.  He is debating whether or not he should let my main character Levi go from captivity.  (Don’t worry, Levi is perfectly human.  A trick on the soldiers warranted his capture.)  Mouse is talking to another soldier who is afraid that if they let Levi go they will both have a court martial.

This is what the old version was:  “They need every soldier they have.”  Mouse stood up….

What happens next is crutial to the story, but not what I want to talk to you about.

Mouse stood up.  How else is he supposed to stand?  Sure I could pull off a Mouse stood to his full height of six four blocking the view of the other soldier if I wanted to add word count. OR I can realize there is only one one way to stand: up.  Your reader knows this.  Your reader knows that if a person is standing, they are standing up.  The ‘up’ is an extra word and even though it is two tiny letters, it slows your book down.

It’s the same as sat DOWN.  Now were up to four letters.  How many other ways can you delete one word and not lose any of the meaning.

It’s called trust people.  Trust your reader to draw on every day experiences to make sense of your words.

Edit ruthlessly and with purpose.  Purge ever word you can to make you plot lines move faster with added impact.  I know you can.

Liz

A brain divided

I have a rant.  It’s probably one you have had before.  I am elbows deep in a new project.  It is a project I am excited to do.  It is going really well, except…I have another story that keeps talking to me.

If there is anyone reading this who isn’t an author you probably just marked me as a crazy person, but if you are a writer, you understand – you know – what I’m talking about.

The voices inside my head are the lifeblood of my novels.  I consider them friends.  (okay, now even the writers in the crowd think I’m a little nuts.)  The point I’m trying to make is:  I need them.  I can’t write without them.  The fact they are divided, wanting to fix a novel I wrote last year and work on the zombie novel I’m supposed to be writing now, makes it difficult to accomplish much of anything.

Have you ever had this problem and more importantly have you found a way to fix it?

Showing vs telling. Meet James.

James is one of the characters in my WIP which is a zombie apocalypse novel.  His buddy Levi just ticked off the soldiers and is causing a scene.  The book is told from Levi’s POV and this is what he could have seen…

James wasn’t even trying to fight. (old version)

and this is what Levi actually saw…

“It was his idea.”  How James could remain calm while he was eating dirt was a mystery.  He just laid there and took it.  Blood came from his mouth and tears from his eyes, yet he still tried to make them see reason.  “I had nothing to do with it.  It was a stupid idea…a joke…ow!”  Even his ‘ow’ wasn’t desperate; it was more like, an ‘excuse my mister, your standing on my foot’ than a ‘get off me before you break my arm’  which was exactly what it looked like.

To Levi’s astonishment, the soldier holding down his friend let up some… (new version)

Which one do you like better?  How many of those do you have in your book.  Clean em up, show em off and write that next best seller!

I have a bunch of telling to fix.

Liz