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Posts tagged ‘Writer’s Zen’

Celebrating the Yes’s and the No’s #ISWG

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. This month we were asked, ‘When rejections feel overwhelming, what do you do to get yourself out of this negative funk?’

Oh no! This morning I wrote my October ISWG blog from a question I’d printed out September 20th. The event page had this question – which I wrote to.

October 4th – IWSG Blog Day — Optional Question: When rejections feel overwhelming, what do you do to get yourself out of this negative funk?

After the blog was written and scheduled, I saw another ISWG blog where that was written to a far different question. Going to the blog hop page, I saw this question – October 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

I know all is good. We don’t have to strictly follow the question of the month. But I wanted to clarify so if you read this and see the question I was writing to and then you go visit other blogs on the blog hop and see something totally different – that is why. (And by the way, the answer to the 2nd question is ‘Oh my, YES! But that’s a whole other blog post, so we’ll save that for another time.)

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Celebrating the Yes’s and the No’s

What I did then and what I do now are vastly different. I’d hope so. I would certainly wish that over the past few years I’ve grown as a writer, developed a thicker skin, and also grown in my personal and spiritual life. Which ultimately means if I’ve grown, I’ve also changed in the way I respond to many various life issues, only one of which is how I respond to rejections.

rejectedWhen I began freelancing several years ago, a single rejection wouldn’t devastate me. I knew it was part of the process – part of a writer’s life. But when I got several – okay, many – rejections in a week, and I think three within 24-hours, I crumbled. I laid on the bed and sobbed until I didn’t have a tear left. I took it personally. That many rejections all at one time meant I probably wasn’t going to pay the bills that month. I felt like a failure. For a week I wallowed in self-doubt and self-pity.

Fast forward a few years and now I’m not derailed like before. Occasionally I’ll still get waylaid for a day or two if the rejection I got was a publication that I greatly desired. But for most of them now, I shrug my shoulders, vow to send out another – or two or three – and I go on about the business of writing.

To keep my spirits up, sometimes I’ll do a search for popular writer’s rejections.

For a few instances, Authors.me, on their post Award-Winning, Best-Selling Authors Who Were Rejected, reported on these popular authors:

Zane Grey’s first experience getting paid for what he scribbled came when he sold a short story for ten dollars in 1902. His first novel, written the following winter, was not as successful, and when every publisher he submitted to rejected the work, his wife paid to have it published. The book did not turn a profit. If Grey was discouraged by this, he luckily got over the discouragement enough to become a prolific and widely-read author. The sales of his 90 or so books have exceeded 40 million copies.

Stephen King sounds downright proud of the number of times he was rejected as a young writer. In his On Writing, he says he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he continues, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

Robert M. Pirsig weathered an amazing 121 rejections before selling Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book now considered an American cultural icon.

Kathryn Stockett was turned down by 60 literary agents before she found someone willing to represent The Help. “Three weeks later,” she says, “we sold the book.” The Help later spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

H.G. Wells received a note in which the editor predicted, “I think the verdict would be, ‘Oh, don’t read that horrid book.’” Nevertheless, The War of the Worlds was published in 1898 and has not since gone out of print.

Still not convinced? Here’s a list of 50 authors who received repeated rejections, some over a lengthy period of many years, before they went on to become household names.

It puts it all in perspective. If they got rejections too, then I’m in good company. One little rejection – or two, or ten – doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer. What I submitted or queried simply doesn’t meet their needs for an array of possibilities.

Coincidentally – or serendipitously, as I don’t believe in accidents – I received an email this morning from WOW! Women on Writing. The subject was submissions and rejections. It referenced a column by Chelsey Clammer, and contained links to some of her columns:

Submit ‘Til You Make It, What My Submissions Spreadsheet Teaches Me, Hard-Working Writer Seeks Widely-Read Journal, Rejection Acceptance, Find or Fling? Figuring Out Where to Submit, Caring About Cover Letters, and How to Hold Your Horses, Breathe and Proceed, and Writing Contests: You Have Nothing to Lose.

I didn’t go read all of these yet – after all, I have a blog post to write and post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! But I did check out one that intrigued me the most – Rejection Acceptance. Chelsey interviewed author Jac Jemc, who has posted regular blogs since 2008 about her rejections and acceptances. Rejection Collection is a humorous, lighthearted approach to dealing with the downside that exists, whether writing is our career or our hobby.

Jac told Chelsey, “Posting the rejections on the blog really feels like a way of closing the door on the negative responses. Once I make the post, I’ll archive the email or file the letter, and that’s that. I look for a new place to send that story. Keeping the blog has really allowed the progress to become the focus rather than the rejection.”

Now that’s an attitude I endorse.

I may have to borrow her idea and tweak it for my own inspiration. But…hmmm…then I’d have to go back to my spreadsheet and actually count those pesky little critters. We’ll see. But for now, I’m off to read some more posts about how other writers handle rejections – something we all get.

Check out more Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts here.

 

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Don’t Leave Me Hanging! #IWSG

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The Insecure Writers Support Group hosts a blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. We’re encouraged to “Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.” The group offers an optional question each month to write about. For August, the question is:

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

To check out some of the other great writers sharing their thoughts, check them out here.

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Don’t leave me hanging!

This is really the only thing I could think of that bothers me when I saw the question prompt for this month. I can’t think of anything I’d feel strongly enough about to call it a pet peeve. I don’t know if there are things that irritate me that I simply don’t think about when I’m not running across that annoying trait. Or, am I simply harder on myself than I am on others? That does seem to be one trait that many of us who relate to the ‘insecure’ part of this group have in common. Many of us tend to beat ourselves up worse than we do others.

When I began musing about what could be a pet peeve, one book, in particular, jumped to mind. I finished reading it two or three months ago. It was set in the post-Civil War days when the country was still in the throes of uncertainty and chaos. It’s a time period I enjoy reading. And the book itself was good. But the author threw in so many problems that never got resolved, it bothered me. Now, I understand the need to add conflict throughout the story. But one issue was repeated several times. Something about an errant uncle and finding gold. Because it was repeated, I felt it was important, and kept waiting to see how it was going to be resolved.

And the next thing I knew…the ladies were riding off into the sunset, so to speak. Maybe not the sunset, but they rode off in a wagon…still without any news about the uncle or the gold or if it was going to help them out.

The End.

That was it.

And I was disappointed. I felt like the author had tried to set the book up for a series. Which is possible. But my proverbial nose was so out of joint I didn’t even go see if there were any books that came after. Most books I keep and pass on to my sister and mom. This one I didn’t. It went straight in the bag that went to the thrift store. I wasn’t going to pass the book along for another reader to end up frustrated at the end, waiting for a resolution that never came to be.

Maybe I have a pet peeve after all.

What I Should be Doing Today

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After a pathetic January, devoid of almost all written word, this is what I should be doing today. Instead i alternate between looking at my massive ‘To-Do’ list sitting on the desk beside my mouse and gazing out the window, as if my thoughts will bring about a warmer day.

All right – I talked myself into it. I’ll wallow in the depths of no writing for the rest of the day. Then tomorrow, bright and early, it’s back to business!

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#Nanowrimo #Nano Fun

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Writing Humor

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I’m not sure who to credit for this, other than SJS. Thank you for the laugh!

Guest Post: The Charm and the Challenge of Writing a Series, by C. Hope Clark

I first discovered C. Hope Clark through her Funds for Writer’s weekly newsletter. Soon I began looking forward to Friday afternoons, waiting for the newsletter to appear in my inbox, full of markets to peruse and advice about making money from writing.

After waffling back and forth for several months, I broke down and ordered her book, The Shy Writer Reborn. It is still my favorite writing go-to guide several years later. The poor volume is dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and hasn’t been shown any respect. It’s a book I learn from each time I open it up.

And then, I read Edisto Jinx, and fell in love with Hope’s Edisto Island Mystery series. Like the gift that keeps giving, Hope is the author that keeps delivering, be it writing that draws you right into the pages of the story, or through her wise words of wisdom about how to develop and market our world of words.

To celebrate the release of her newest book, Echoes of Edisto, Hope is our guest blogger today, sharing her thoughts about the charm and challenges of writing a series. This  guest post originally ran on Trisha Faye earlier this month. To reach out to those interested in writing, we’re reposting today on Writer’s Zen.

Enjoy these nuggets from one of my favorite authors, C. Hope Clark.

The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series

By C. Hope Clark

hope_echoes of edisto            A good mystery series grips me as reader, reeling me in to devour every book the author’s released . . . and to buy every pre-order often months ahead of release. As an author, molding a series carries a similar sense of charm and magnetism. I love sitting down to the desk with characters who feel like family.

Authors spend a tremendous number of days, weeks, even months, sculpting the world of a series. The place, the time period, the main characters and those sidekicks and secondary players that give this recurring world depth and flavor all add to this compilation that will hopefully maintain readers itching to buy book two, three, or like Janet Evanovich, 23 books in the Stephanie Plum mystery series.

First, let’s consider why readers love series. What is the magic formula that returns them to the same characters time after time?

Familiarity: Everyone loves to return to a place where they are remembered. To some it’s like coming home. To others, it’s more of revisiting a comfortable setting full of people we already know . . . people we understand, somewhat predict, and can let down our guard with. Instead of walking into a strange place full of the unfamiliar, we fall right back to where we left off, understanding the jokes, weather, buildings, traffic and community.

Ease of choice: With too many books to sort through for our next read, readers will leap toward the next in a series rather than a new author. Reading a series reduces the frustration of choosing something new that might not be worth the investment of time and money.

Accomplishment: While silly to some, readers find a sense of achievement in keeping up with a series. Not only do they feel they understand the players more intensely, but they also feel closer to the author. Becoming an expert in a series makes a reader feel a kinship with the creator.

Momentum: We live in a time of bingeing. Video games, television series on Netflix, movies sequels. Watching all the Lord of the Rings in one day sort of bingeing. A thrill shoots through readers when they discover an author with multiple books already published, and that thrill deepens when those books are a series. We like sliding from the end of one book to the start of another.

But from another angle, what drives an author to stick to one world and write about the same characters? The same feelings as readers do, maybe with a different spin.

hope_beach.jpgFamiliarity: Having a world already created enables stories to build upon the previous releases. The author already knows the behaviors, settings, clothing styles and weather. There’s a comfortable use of assumption that isn’t allowed in a stand-alone novel or the first in a group.

Ease of choice: Many characters return, giving the story a foundation from the opening page. Authors can more quickly select characters to make decisions because they can base action and reaction upon established behavior and past experiences. There is a sense of ease to writing in a world already designed, tried, and tested.

Accomplishment: A satisfying delight comes from writing book four, five, eight, or ten in a series. While an author can write the same number of stand-alones, the fact they’ve perpetuated the same package for so long, with readers following and begging for more, carries a serious feeling of accomplishment. Sue Grafton could have written 24 different books with 24 different characters, but instead she wrote 24 books about Kinsey Millhone. Which is more memorable?

Momentum: A story jumpstarts quicker for an author when the setting and players are already waiting for their marching orders. A book has a story and a character arc, with both changing over the course of the tale. A successful series has not only individual book arcs, but also a series arc, where the characters deepen, grow, learn, and change . . . maybe even the setting shifts as the series propels itself further. Each book is a stepping stone. When arcs quit occurring in a series, when the characters stop evolving, the series falls flat.

But there is a writing challenge in continuing a series. At first blush, a series appears simpler since, after all, a lot of the work has been done in the earlier books. However, series carry their own difficulties for the author.

hope_seashellsOriginality: The reader knows the world you’ve built. While they want more of the same, they also want fresh material. How do you take the familiar and infuse novelty into it without undermining the foundation?

Evolution: The reader enjoys this series’ universe, but they don’t appreciate it remaining static. Where is it going? How is it growing? What occurs in book four versus book three that changes the experience for entertainment’s sake, but also without disturbing enough of the old that keeps your reader coming back?

Character Growth: The protagonist in the first book isn’t quite the one in book six. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge, and each experience in each plot has changed that person. Novels cover life-altering, mind-bending events. Upheaval and confrontation make human beings adapt to circumstances as part of an evolutionary process instilled into our DNA. We try not to make the same mistakes, and we try to learn lessons that will make our futures easier, safer, and brighter. The difficulty for the writer is to continue these changes from book to book, piling on the education, while keeping the character likeable and familiar enough for the reader to still love.

Series have their charms and challenges. They remain keenly appealing to reader and author alike. It’s human nature to return to the familiar. However, sometimes the author has to shake that series up a bit to keep it crisp and spunky. And the reader, whether they know it or not, don’t want that world to be so familiar that it’s no fun to return to.

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BIO: Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

ECHOES OF EDISTO on Amazon

Guest Blog: Defending My Genre, Carmen Welsh

Carmen Welsh, a multi-talented writer and artist, is a guest blogger today at Writer’s Zen. This post originally ran on Trisha Faye and we’re reposting today at Writer’s Zen. Join her as she tells about an experience she had during her MFA program. Defending your genre may be an issue that other writers encounter. See how she handled the dilemma facing her and how she defended her genre with strength and professionalism.

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Defending My Genre

In the MFA program, before each semester, we must submit a 25-page manuscript. The reason for this is so we can, during the then days on the university campus, workshop that particular piece.

In the entire MFA student body, all three genres are usually represented: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Many come from other states as well as other nations. Most of the student body stayed in hotels or university-sanctioned inns during the ten days. Our workshop classes consisted of four to six students on average. Each class taught by a mentor according to the workshop students’ genre.

In this third semester, we were all female, including our mentor. As somebody who started out in childhood with mostly male friends, because many female peers weren’t into comics, video games, and/or drawing super-heroes/super-sheroes if one was in art class. I remember classmates during grade school who often acted mean to me or any girl that did not fit a certain mold.

However, as an adult, I have since ended up with friends nearly split down the middle, gender-wise. I went along with the sisterhood hype of my graduate school friends and workshop buddies.

Perhaps it would be a good thing for once to be in an all-female group, I thought the first week.

The first few days involved discussing what we each had written/submitted by email and feedback we received from each classmate. Most of my feedback made sense, sounded intuitive, and, during the feedback sessions when the writer must remain silent, I took a lot of notes. I made many changes to the writing.

It was probably by the second week I began to get a sense the mentor wasn’t exactly on board with my story. Not with its ideas, just the overall existence of it. I can’t say what those social cues were because they ran as an undercurrent within her feedback and constructive criticism.

One of my classmates, who didn’t know me well at the time, seemed to side with the mentor. Two of my classmates that did know me and knew my writing beforehand because they both read my blog, defended the draft.

Each day in workshop, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t even the nervousness of work-shopping my prose baby, it was an inkling of disapproval. As if I shouldn’t be using such a literary device.

Eventually, I didn’t feel confident in approaching the mentor. I seemed to receive a sense she wouldn’t listen even if I wanted to discuss my concerns. I panicked because I was in my third term, a pun-intended critical time as this would be when all third-semester students worked on a Critical Essay, a precursor to writing one’s thesis. I wondered if I might have to drop out this term. I couldn’t picture this mentor assisting me on such a crucial paper, not with the way she reacted to what would become my Master Thesis. My confidence in the mentor fell each time her comments about my draft meant more on changing it completely rather than fixing it. I wondered if I might have to take an extra term to graduate.

I went to the program director and asked if I could speak with him. At the end of the day, back in my hotel room, I emailed him a professional rant. The next day, right after morning seminar, I approached the director and he took me aside. He explained that he must get the mentor’s side of the story, which was fair. He also explained that because we were all writers (the entire faculty are professional authors in different genres), we tended to overreact when it came to criticism. His friendly and teasing manner put me at ease but I still worried about the mentor’s reaction.

During workshop, my insides felt in knots and crumbled pieces. When workshop finished for lunch, the mentor asked me to stay behind. My friend from our first semester together, looked back at me with worry. I thought, and I think she did too, that this felt a lot like detention. I made sure I remained as calm as I could.

The mentor lit into me. She was annoyed I actually ‘went behind her back to speak to the director when I should have come to her first’. I was angered. I am almost forty. I was done being talked down to. She continued her tirade that if I couldn’t handle constructive criticism, how far would I go as a writer? That’s when I stopped her and explained that I have a number of publications to my belt and have attended writing workshops since the late 90’s. I understood the model, how it worked, and that many of those classes had taught me plenty about the business of writing.

Those early ideas to take my writing seriously were given to me first by a caring English professor who directed me to my first Creative Writing professor. I never thought it could become a career choice. I didn’t even know that “furry” was a genre!

The mentor wanted me to change everyone in my story to human, including my male protagonist, but to keep only my female protagonist as a canine! She also explained that from the dog’s POV, she could observe human behavior from a distance. I told the mentor that wouldn’t work because there was supposed t\ be a romantic involvement between both protagonists and how would that look if she remained a dog and he was now a human? I told her I didn’t write those things and I didn’t want to be known as THAT kind of writer.

“But you won’t find an audience unless you change it! People will think this story is for children!”
“Not true. I thought of my stories as a hobby. But a professor changed my thinking when she encouraged me to continue to write these kinds of stories and to find the markets for it.”

“And did you find that market?” she asked.

“I did! Because rejection after rejection, I finally found my first publisher in September 1999.”

I told the mentor that once I began to navigate freelance writing did I learn there was a market, a genre called “Anthro” or Furry. Because of this market, I found a fandom that would embrace my writings. That would respond to my art work.

“There is an adult audience for this genre!” I said. “And I’ve worked with editors. I know how to take criticism. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be published!”

“But I just wanted you to change the premise to science fiction!”

“I love SF and Fantasy. I love the film The Secret of NIMH and read the book it’s based on: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I also watched several versions of The Island of Dr. Moreau. I tried having humans and dogs coexist within this story and though that might work for my other stories, it didn’t work in this one. Believe me, that was the first draft! I tried and the story just wouldn’t work. Once I removed the humans is when the story hit its stride for the first time.”

I gave her the abridged version about this novel as an idea I came up with back in sixth grade summer school. If after all those years, I have been working on this project on and off, don’t you think I have tried different ways and writing styles to tell this story? The more the mentor asked questions and the more I explained my position did I see her expression change from anger to disappointment to realization to understanding.

I also told the mentor that not only did I learn about a genre and fandom I didn’t know existed, but, I also joined a writer’s guild where all the members write in this genre (Shameless plug for the Furry Writers’ Guild) and that I have been a member for almost five years.

“You’re part of a guild?” she asked.

“Yep.”

Her face changed. “Every writer needs a community.”

“And I found mine.” I said.

Lunchtime was an hour and my mentor now showed a renewed interest in my story. We went to lunch together. The more I explained why I wanted my story in the historical genre is when she began to ask me the right questions and give me the right feedback. We discussed what book lists I should annotate.

The program director later told me in private, “I see you two made up. See? You were overreacting.”

When I presented my idea for a critical essay about Aesop influencing anthropomorphism, the mentor approved the topic.

But when friends in the program (many I later graduated with in 2015) asked what happened, they became angrier than I felt. They understood the mentor’s earlier ideas would have undone the entire premise for my thesis. My family was also angry, as well as coworkers and my supervisor, all of whom had read chapters here and there from the fledgling draft and were familiar with my body of work.

Upon finishing the ten days and returning to my job, my supervisor wanted me to tell her the whole story. Her expression agog, she said, “I don’t think I could’ve been as calm as you. Oh my G*d, you went Julia Sugarbaker on her!” I laughed at the Designing Women reference.

UPDATE: A chapter from the manuscript has been published as the short story “Night Sounds” in the literary journal Prick of the Spindle Issue # 9. It’s available not only on its official website but on Amazon.com in print and as an e-book. Carmen Welsh plans to polish the completed manuscript this year.

Carmen Welsh holds an AA in Art Education, a BSc in Web Design, and a MFA in Creative Writing. She’s published short stories, illustrations, essays, and articles in fanzines, e-zines, online journals, and in print journals. She’s an official member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) as well as the Furry Writers’ Guild. Four out-of-print stories became podcasts or reprinted. Her latest short story is “Night Sounds” published in Prick of the Spindle.

Her official website is http://TabbertheRed.com. Carmen’s publication’s list is on http://TheAngryGoblin.wordpress.com. Her art portfolio is “CopperSphinx” on DeviantArt.

Prick of the Spindle – Kindle edition

Prick of the Spindle – print edition

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