Rejection

I started this blog last month after I submitted my first story to The Writers of the Future contest.

I am not published. I have a hard time finishing what I start and over all, am not someone that you should take advice about being a professional from. However, if you’re here because you’re looking to see what it takes to one day GET there, I’m happy to have you around.

My friend who entered with me just got her rejection letter Monday and now I’ve been checking my inbox on a thrice-daily basis just waiting for a response.

My hopes for this contest were not to place first. Not to be negative or to ‘not believe in myself’ but while I feel that my story was the best story I could have submitted at this time, I don’t know if it was really good enough to place. But we can’t just hang onto our stuff forever. We have to start somewhere. My goal and my hope is ‘Honorable Mention’ more than anything else. HM means that I made it past the first round of crit and am stepping in SORT OF the right direction.

Everyone gets rejected. I’m sure that I probably will too, despite my hopes. It’s the act of accepting it and moving on to submit again that makes you a writer. So here is to trucking down the writer road littered with those ‘Sorry, but this story is not what our publication is looking for’ and onto the steps of publication.

On Being Stuck (Or: Another NaNoWriMo Update)

I’m extremely behind on my NaNoWriMo today.

And yesterday.

And the day before that.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve made any significant progress for days. Which is hard because I want to be doing well and I want to be putting those words in, but I am suddenly hitting all those road blocks that hit me every time I try and get through a project like this.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. Other than not writing which is always the wrong option.

My first trip up came with hardware. The tablet that I use to write away from home is called Winston because it, like the great Churchhill for which it was named, has narcolepsy and will shut itself down whenever it wants. This is also a busy time of the year at my day job along with the pressures that comes with the holidays.

I keep telling myself not to give up. Reminding myself that I’ve pulled off bigger wordcounts in less time before. But it, so far hasn’t been great.

It’s very tempting on this blog not to report my struggling. I feel, like Facebook or any other version of social mediums, that it’s best not to air your ‘dirty laundry’

But let’s be honest. All writers have these moments. Moments of sitting where the words won’t come or where we just type at ourselves and make no sense and get frustrated.

I recommend that if you are in this situation that you NOT follow my lead which is binge watching Parks and Recreations on Netflix while playing ‘Bejeweled’ on Zen mode for four hours. Or, as I did today, bake and cook for the entirety of the day. (Though, at least if you’re cooking you get bread, brownies, glazed chicken, as well as a side dish of rice and gravy). I think that’s why I turn to games and cooking when the writing gets hard. It’s a place where I can see tangible results instead of a muddy stream of words.

My plan for tomorrow is dictation. Maybe if I can speak the story and type it out, I can break through the string of no writing days. We shall see.

When you’re going through the muddy middle, don’t sit in the middle. Just keep walking.

Influence and Heroes

I see that a lot of published writers get asked about influence and who inspires them. The answers, just like the authors, are all different. So this week I pondered who my biggest influences were and found the answer to be really eclectic. I was able to break it down into three catagories: Personal, Professional and Creative. (Man I wish I’d come up with another p word. Alliteration is the best.)

We all have those people who influenced us growing up. When it came to writing, I think it was the act of reading that first gave seed to the plant. I’d read tons of stories so the natural course was to write my own. My mom, a poet who used her writing as a type of therapy, always encouraged me. When I got older, I joined with friends who had similar interests and now have a carefully chosen network of fellow writers that are constantly challenging me to push myself beyond where I’ve already reached.

Professionally, I feel that Orson Scott Card, Hilari Bell, Kristine Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have really inspired me. Maybe inspire isn’t the right word. Inspire doesn’t really sum up the kick in the tail that I feel when I read their writing and publishing advice. They are to inspire as a boot camp drill Sargent is to ‘persuade’. While I don’t know any of them past the words that they put out into the net, I never walk away from any of their non-fiction posts without feeling at least like pushing a little harder in my own endeavors.

Finally, Creatively. This category belongs to the books that I’ve read over the years that hit those emotional notes for me. Mercedes Lackey’s understanding of growing up in a world where adults aren’t as smart as they think they are and where young people become the very adults that they once admired. The Lark and the Wren¬†changed my entire world outlook when I was young. If Rune, the illegitimate daughter of a tavern wench could save a country, then so could I. I didn’t have to be the chosen one. I didn’t have to have some magical star over my crib to do great things. Just like Rune, I would work my ass off and get what I wanted. Other books brought technical thought into play. David Edding’s early work gave me a love of the quest in fantasy and introduced me to Arthurian legend as a base for world and story building. Jim Butcher, the best pacer ever in fiction, taught me about building up your climax and making your pay off count. Kresley Cole has taught me the importance of a dynamic character and how relationships can push a story to it’s final conclusion.

In the end, I can’t BE any of these people. As Oscar Wilde is oft quoted, I must ‘be myself for everyone else is already taken.’ Yet I’m proud of these influences. Proud to push forward in my hopes of finishing what I start and to achieve the dreams that keep me walking on this road.

Who influences you?

Poetry V. Prose

Saturday, at my writer’s group, one of our member read a fantastic poem that dealt with the metaphor of child abuse and catching mice. The images were striking, poignant and brought chills to my arms. After we went over her work though, she stated with frustration that she ‘didn’t want to be a poet’ because she was actually working on her novel right now.

Well, to her and to all I say, there is no reason you can’t be both.

The form of Poetry is usually pretty different from prose, yet without the beautiful language that we develop IN poetry, how are we going to give our prose those moments of emotional engagement that they need to survive? Kristine Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith both are fond of pointing out that readers are going to like what they like and the only thing us writers can do is to make what we’re putting out available to them. Yet I find that I want when I am looking for a new book IS that emotional connection, that moment of self-identification in another character. When I read a book, I want to be the one who feels what they are feeling. To write that out, we must communicate the images. What better way to achieve that than to boil it all down in a few sentences and produce the essence of the emotion.

When you cook, you have to add flavoring, or your food will not taste bland. Whether you marinade the food before you cook it or season as you go, there should be some flavor element to the dish or you’ll forget it. The most delicious steak I had this weekend had been seasoned well and cooked to a tender perfection. My favorite chocolate experience was a cake that had been properly iced. I had a potato casserole that was infused with cheesy goodness and without that, the dish would be lacking.

Poetry is how we develop our flavor palettes in writing. It’s how we find our seasonings and how we make those scenes memorable. Don’t be afraid of the poetry and don’t be afraid to use it to make your prose even stronger.

Nano Update Part 4

Well, just like a business has it’s dips and peaks, my NaNo is now officially in what I believe professionals call, “The Swampy Middle.”

My protagonists are struggling to find their purpose and since I am not much of an outline writer, we are having issues staying on top in the composing and drafting process of writing. I have a basic road that I’m following, but as overall structure of my novel is something I am coming up with as I go, I’m running into problems with keeping everything on track. Tangents happen at this stage in writing for me.

I think I’ve used the metaphor of gardener versus architect before and this part is the most apt to compare the two. As I am letting my little seeds sprout and watering them and tending them, they have all decided that they are going to lean to the right at the same time. So I have to figure out a way to get them to straighten up OR make up my mind if right is the way that the story is going to go.

In short, I hate this part.

Writing is fun. It is the process of creating and sharing what is in my head with people who live outside of it. Yet, when I get to the hard parts like this, it’s easy to let the distractions of the outside world interfere more with the creation process. After all, no one is going to tell me that I’m not being productive if I spend my non-writing time cleaning my house or cooking. If I’m focused for an hour on the household budget when I should be digging into the word garden, only I know that I’m procrastinating.

Heads up everyone: I’m procrastinating.

Right now the benchmark for NaNoWriMo should be 16067 and the last I checked, I’m sitting in the 11000s. So, welcome to the land of catching up.

I’d be more worried about it if I knew I had less time. My new goal for writing is to pound out at least 2k a day until I catch up and then TRY and have a day where I have some word slack so I can enjoy the holidays without knowing that my word count is going to kill me. I have had some technical challenges in using a tablet to write instead of a laptop. (Another story…).

How is everyone else doing? If you’re participating in NaNo, please leave a comment and share your woes. We’re all in this mess together after all and it’s ok if you’re also stuck in the trenches of the swampy middle. Just as long as we keep walking, we’ll eventually get out of here.

Routines

Part of my ability to get words down into a word processor comes from Routine.

I used to think that I could only write when the ideas came. That’s why I enjoyed reading books. It seemed to me that writers were magical people that had ideas all the time and had no problem getting them out onto a piece of paper. Maybe, I thought, they just mailed in their great ideas to a Book Maker who immediately realized how wonderful it all was and sent it to press.

My first writing-advice came from the Rivan Codex by David Eddings. In that book, he talks about being a writer in his prologue, speaks about how he developed his fantasy stories. He talks about Editing, something that I wasn’t familiar with in my teens. I remember realizing then as I read that book that there was so much more that went into creating a book than just writing.

In college I learned that you don’t just sit down and create a masterpiece. I mean, of course SOME people do. I know Dean Wesley Smith is a big proponent of not editing your story to death. However when you’re in that beginning phase of learning the craft, you have to throw a lot of pots before you get one that makes it though the kiln without shattering.

The key to that practice is routine. When I was learning Clarinet, I had to put in an hour of practice a day. When I was attempting to learn my multiplication tables, it was repetitive routine. When I am learning skating skills for Roller Derby, it’s focused skating to teach my muscles where they need to gain strength.

Writing is no difference.

My routine, at the moment is as follows:

Alarm goes off at 5:45am. Get up, put on robe and slippers, find glasses. Go to desktop and plop bottom in chair. Turn on music and put on headphones. Open up word processor. Type until 6:30. Get up and go get ready for day job. Come home from day job. Do an hour of making dinner, picking up or whatever small errands need to be attended. At 7, come back to chair and put butt in it. Open up word processor. Work until about 9:30. Go to bed. Rinse. Repeat.

There are days that are challenging. On Monday, I had some afterwork responsibilities. On Thursday I have an event I’m attending with a friend. Both of these things break into the evening word count. On those days, you make up where you can. Sometimes I’m able to get the words in at lunch at work. You just have to find those ‘dead times’ in your day where you wouldn’t normally be doing anything.

I dream that one day when I go full time (Not before 2019 the rate I’m going) I can just work for blocks of time and won’t need to snatch here and there, but even full time writers have to make the time to get things done.¬†Rock those writing routines, y’all. It’s amazing what we can get done in 15-30 minute stretches.

NaNo Updated Part 3

We’ve had a couple write-ins so far and progress is going well.

I’ve added a word count widget on the sidebar of the blog for accountability sakes.

When I started doing my Word Challenge with my friends in March, there weren’t daily goals so much as there was the challenge to see what others were writing and the attempt to keep up the habit of the daily word work. Now, I’m running into the challenge of sticking with one project and only one project. Before I’d hop between two to three projects a month. Sometimes this short story, sometimes edits on that short story and a chapter here or there on a novel in progress. NaNoWriMo is much more intense.

Because I’ve worked on the same project for the last two days and it’s NOT a short story.

Usually, at least for me*, a short story has one to three talking characters with three try-fail/scene-sequel sequences. Then, there is a conclusion. Novels, on the otherhand, I set up more like this long rollercoaster.

Chapters 1-10 are the cranking chapters. I like to lay out my dominoes so that I can knock them over, explode them, or shoot them down in a spectacular manner later. Around chapter 20 or so, I like to dip you down to the lowest part of the story, let my main character hang naked over the volcano of her problems for a while then have her haul herself up, cut her feet out from the ropes with the knife she hid in her hair peice and climb her way back to the top and take out the figurative-marauders that put her in that pickle in the first place.

Well. That’s the idea and the plan. The truth is that I’ve never successfully completed a novel. I usually get the first cranked up chapters and then quit because the writing bogs or gets boring. :/

So here is to a year of breaking through barriers and not quitting. It’s Day 5 of Nano today and hopefully we’re all the word goal of 8335 or at least getting there. Hang with me dearlings, and we’ll ride this challenge out together.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is that of an unpublished writer who is documenting progress as she works towards full time freelancer status. I am not an expert. I just am creating a record of what I do in this business every week so that those who are learning like me have a place to reference or learn from.