Rejection Therapy via Twitter

I’ve been dipping my toe into the very scary world of publishing, because writing is a funny thing.  The more I meet other writers, both online and in person, the more I realize we are all different and all motivated by different things.  (Not shocking, since we are all people, who are inherently different and motivated by different things.)  In my heart of hearts, I put words on paper so other people can experience the stories and worlds I create.  It turns out that other writers are happy to write just for the process of writing.  This I find fascinating, even while I’m a little jealous, and a baffled by their opinion.

For the longest time — going on 3 years folks — this blog has served as a way to get my stuff read, but I’ve always known there were other works I wanted to get out there:  the novel and a half I have moldering in my desk drawer; the four short stories in different phases of editing.  I also know that I have a leaning toward traditional publishing.  Even having heard all the horror stories I am a firm believer in the power of collaboration.  In my dreams, I want an experienced team of publishing people behind me and my books.  (Again, guess what?  Not all writers feel this way.  Some are passionate about publishing independently, and I watch their process eagerly, because as I learn I might change my mind.)

Therefore, to achieve my current goals, I need to build a portfolio of published works.  I need to prove to myself and to editors, agents and publishing houses that what I write is worth reading.  Many of these path-forward insights have come though:

  • Reading books (Stephen King’s On Writing is still my favorite);
  • Agent blogs and twitter feeds (I have learned so much from Mary C. Moore’s blog );
  • Author’s sites and twitter feeds (Represented by Mary and Kimberley Cameron & AssociatesRati Mehrotra has a great WordPress blog and her first novel will be out January of 2018.  I’m loving watching her go through the publishing process  I’ve also learned from her, and have mined her past posts for potential places to target my short stories.)

To build my portfolio, I’ve started submitting my short stories to journals, and I’m starting to amass rejections.  (Four so far.)  I found out about my most recent submission site, PodCastle, through Rati’s blog.  In September they were accepting submissions for their Artemis Rising event which celebrates women identified fantasy writers, so I took a deep breath, did some wordsmithing (my story was 1700 words and they wanted at least 2000) and I submit right before the deadline.

Then Twitter provided me with some really amazing facts, because you see, I follow PodCastle and their parent organization Escape Artists Inc.  Here’s what I learned about the Artemis Rising submission process:

Whoa, I’ve got to say, I love this type of information, and appreciate that Escape Artists provided it.  It’s way easier to look at stats like this and accept that your story might be good, but still be rejected.  Then layer on that for PodCastle, which I submit to, there were over 200 submissions for 4 fantasy slots: data also reported on Twitter. My odds abruptly went down to a less than 2% chance of acceptance. Then four days after I submit, my odds went down to 0% with a rejection.

“It’s an interesting story, but it didn’t quite come together for us and we’ve decided to pass on it.”

But that’s a fair rejection.  I dumped 300 new words into what was a lean and mean story to try and make it meet the word-count requirements of Artemis Rising.  In hindsight —  now that it has been rejected — I wish I hadn’t submitted.  I wish I would have waited until PodCastle opened back up for normal submissions, so I could have submitted the shorter version of the story I worked really hard to tune and tone.  But the twitter thread from Artemis Rising continued.

Isn’t that sweet of them.  They made me proud of me, and inspired me.  And you know what? The rejection note continued too:

“We appreciate your interest in our podcast; thanks again for giving us the chance to look at your story.”

That’s when my epiphany happened. Someone read my story. Sure, they read my story and decided that it wasn’t in the top 2%, but they read it. And if you remember way back at the top, I said, “I put words on paper so other people can experience the stories and worlds I create.” Well, someone experienced my story and said it was interesting. Sure, it wasn’t the most interesting, but that’s okay. My first goal is to get a rejection that has some specific direction to how I can improve my work. My next goal is to get an acceptance. But the only way either of those will happen is if I keep letting people read my stories.  Which is great.  Because I want people to read my stories.  So I’ll keep submitting and editing and hoping my work finds a good fit.

(Of course, I’m not a total Pollyanna.  The rejections hurt, and it would be so much better if I got published, because then even MORE people will get to read my stories, but one step at a time.  This writing stuff is a process, and while I #amwriting, I also #amlearning, and that’s fun too.)

Writing away the soul raisin


Have you read the book Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel?  It is one of my absolute favorites.  I’ve read it, listened to the audio-book, and am now experiencing the joy of studying it in my apocalyptic fiction class.  If you read it, be warned it won’t wow you out of the gate.  It’s a long slow dance of a book, and you won’t even recognize there is music until you are a hundred pages in and the true melody isn’t apparent until over 200 pages in.  But I think the symphony she creates is worth listening to on repeat.

I’m talking about those people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed.  Do you know what I mean?  They’ve done what’s expected of them.  They want to do something different, but it’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they are trapped….

I love the story because it’s an apocalyptic mystery punctuated by eye opening life lessons.  One chapter, in particular, speaks to me in such a way it is literally life changing.  Literally, literally, not like Gwen Stefani in The Voice literally.  (Gwen, your head has never exploded.  Just stop.)

…because I think people like him think work is supposed to be drudgery punctuated by very occasional moments of happiness, but when I say happiness, I mean distraction.  You know what I mean?

Section 4. The Starship.  Chapter 26.  Page 160.  No spoiler alert here, other than the life changing kind of spoiling.  Clark is heading in to do his job.  He conducts assessments of executives who need to improve and then makes a plan for their improvement. In this chapter he’s interviewing someone who works for the unnamed executive.  Her words cut through my soul.

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I have moments when I love my real job.  Moments when I feel important and valued and when I honestly believe I am making the world change for the better.  I love my team and the people I work with completely.  But… but… we work in renewable energy.  We are largely federally funded.  The bottom is falling out of everything.  Our leadership team changed and no longer values managers, like me, but values self-managing PhD’s and I have nothing but a bachelors of science.  I have indirectly been told that I am not qualified and not worthy.  The bureaucracy becomes oppressive and there are days, weeks, months when I can feel my soul shriveling to a tiny soul raisin in my gut.  There is enough good at work to keep the soul raisin from drying up completely, but I don’t want to live with a soul raisin.  I dream of a soul grape or, can you imagine, a big plump soul watermelon that fills my entire body cavity.

…they are like sleepwalkers…and nothing every jolts them awake.

So last week I made a change.  A scary brave change.  I dropped to 32 hours a week.  I gave myself a gift of Thursday, so that I can write.  So I can try to publish that short story that is almost perfect.  So I can write the second draft of that book that calls to me on my 45 minute commute to and from work.  So I can finish that second novel that just recently developed a muse who will not shut up.  She’s throwing books in my way that inspire me.  She’s providing workshop comments from my class that make me want to sob with the joy that somehow my story is pouring out my fingers, onto a page, and translated through reader’s eyes to something even better than I imagined.  Stephen King wasn’t kidding.  It’s magic.

So here I am.  I’m doing it.  I told my boss.  I told my boss’s boss.  I told my team.  I told them I am taking time off to pursue a masters degree – which I will get to – and to write.  (The masters degree makes the whole thing more legitimate to the engineers, and will be relevant to book three.)  I told them there was a novel that needed to be edited and another to finish writing.   And like most big announcements it had grown so much bigger inside me than it actually was outside of me.  People were kind.  They were interested.  They said they were jealous of my passion.

…he had been sleepwalking, Clark realized, moving half-asleep through the motions of his life for awhile now, years; not specifically unhappy, but when had he last found real joy in his work?  What was the last time he’d been truly moved by anything?  When had he last felt awe or inspiration?

So here we go.  I’m promising myself a year.  A year to finish what I have started.  A year to write, edit, submit, get rejected, network, and see where this journey takes me.  And even if at the end I don’t end up with a book anyone else will publish then I will do it myself, and I will do it having grown a grapefruit of a soul.  Because I want to live all of my life and I want it to be filled with awe, joy, and inspiration with a tiny contrast of drudgery.  The drudgery is still important, because if all you know is joy and a watermelon soul you can’t possibly appreciate it, right?

Now, time to write.


Credit for all quotes go to Emily St. John Mandel and her glorious Station Eleven.  Thank you for the amazing book, and for providing words to convey my unhappiness,  which motivated my change.

How do I know my genre?!?!

So, a L-O-N-G time ago I posted about the novel I’d finished writing, and had this super awesome list of things I was going to do next.  Then life happened and the list items didn’t all ticked off.  Sometimes I find I need a deadline or a reason to motivate me, so I signed up for a Writer’s Digest Bootcamp to have my first ten pages and query letter critiqued by an agent.

The first thing I learned, that got my heart pounding, was that I had to define my genre.   This was #6 on my list from August.   Even back then I knew I couldn’t pick an agent until I completed this step, because agents specialize in certain genres, and I needed to pick an agent to review the first 10 pages of my novel and my query letter.  Oh no.

I’d heard lots of advice.  Figure out the genre of comparable novels and that will tell you your genre.  Okay, I’ve got a list of comparable novels, but my google searches of “Dark Tower genre” led to no useful results.  I looked on Amazon, but there are so many words on an Amazon page that I wasn’t sure what the genre was, because there was nothing that said “Hey newbie writer, here’s the genre!”

However, after searching like crazy, and even buying an awesome poster from Pop Chart Lab on “A Plotting of Fiction Genres” and hanging it up in my study – looking gorgeous but not helpful – I finally found a resource that makes sense to me: The Book Country Genre Map.  This is an amazing, AMAZING site.  I was quickly able to drill down into both Science Fiction and Fantasy and see how each genre was defined and what subgenres exist.  I’ve pegged my novel as a contemporary fantasy subgenre (I think), but definitely in the genre of fantasy.  Now, I may be totally wrong, but at least now I have the vocabulary I need so when I look at the Amazon site and see  Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic under The Gunslinger, by Stephen King, I can translate it to Genre: Epic Fantasy.  Sadly, I put this as one of my comparable titles, but I’m not epic fantasy.  Thankfully this boot camp is a chance for me to make mistakes and learn from them so when I go to query agents with a completed novel I’ll know better.

I have to admit, I’m loving this aspect of moving my book to the next stage.  There is so much about this publishing world that I don’t know and it’s fascinating learning the lingo, the rules and the processes.  It’s so different than my day job, but there are really interesting parallels.

Item #6?  Done, and will help me finish #5, #7, and #8!  Now I really need to get motivated to make a big push on the second draft so I can have someone other than me read this thing!

 

 

Finish Something, Again – The Writer’s Digest Version

Here I go again.  I’m sending my short story, The Fisherman, out into the world to see if it can find love and acceptance. I like shooting high, so this time I’m trying for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story competition.  The word count limit is 1500, and I come in with plenty of room to spare at 1247.  I won’t find out until February if it gets accepted, so once this goes out I’ll turn my attention back to the second draft of my novel, which really needs some attention.

I’m amazed at how the story has morphed with each submission.  I like it better this time than I did with the Glimmer Train draft.  It’s more direct, and more intimate and that’s really a better voice for me.  Having already developed callouses from my first rejection, I’m not as excited this time, but I’m feeling more like a real writer.  Oh yeah, I’m just resubmitting to another contest.  I’m getting it out there.  You know how it is with writing.  I’m so blase.  (How do I make the ticky thing over the e in blase?)  Maybe this time I’ll even forget about the day the winners are announced and not go crazy as the day gets closer.  (Yeah, right!  Winners will be notified by mail by February 29th.  I’m sure if I haven’t heard by then I’ll be stalking the poor postman.)

Stay tuned blogging friends.  In a mere 3 months and 15 days I’ll be a crazy person again, but I’m doing what my BFF Neil Gaiman told me to do.  I’m finishing things and getting them out there.

Finish Something: No Glimmer of Hope

Sometime this afternoon the status on my submission to Glimmer Train went from “In Process” to “Complete” which means they aren’t going to publish my story.  Winners were to be notified this week and my hopes were high when I was still “In Process” yesterday.  Sadly, I am not a prognosticator, but just a dreamer.  Am I disappointed?  A little bit, but I have to admit I had a lot of fun the past week imagining the scenarios:  receiving the e-mail telling me that I was actually going to be a real live published writer, telling my friends and family the wonderful news, and seeing my story in print.  Having something to be excited about is fun, even when it doesn’t turn out the way you want.  (Also, a little teeny tiny bit of me is still hoping I make the top 25 list even if they aren’t publishing my story.  I’ll have to wait for November 1st for that list.)

Now that I know, I can move on to submit my short story, The Fisherman, to the next two contests I found: The Master’s Review Fall Fiction Contest and The Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest.  First thing to do?  Fixed my pronoun agreement error in the first paragraph.  Sheesh, what a rookie!

The Master’s Review wants “strange, scary, disturbing and weird” from emerging writers.  The Fisherman nudges into all of these categories, so is a good fit.  However, they accept up to 7,000 words and at 1,242 words my story is a sliver of the length limit.  That said, finalists will be announced November 15th, so I’ll immediately have something to be excited about again.  Yippee!

Writer’s Digest wants a short short story with a limit of 1,500 words.  I make that cut off length with ease.  It’s an open competition though, so it’s me versus the world of published and established writers.  They award through twenty-fifth place.  This closes November 16th, so I’ll have one day after the Master’s Review deadline to submit here.  The Master’s Review accepts simultaneous submissions, but I don’t think Writer’s Digest does.  (I’m not sure, because Writer’s Digest has a lots of pages of rules.)

I’ve got a plan!  I hope someday I write another short story that I feel is a fit for Glimmer Train.  I enjoy reading the stories they publish and would love to be able to say I was featured on their pages.  Someday…