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Achievement Unlocked?

Beginning Writer Achievement Unlocked: first rejection letter!

I hadn’t really expected to reach this milestone so soon; in my head, I’d always assumed I wouldn’t be sending things out to get rejected until my novel manuscript was ready. A glorious fit of optimism overcame me, though, when Women Destroy Fantasy! was announced, and I set aside the novel long enough to write a short story I could submit. I was actually fairly pleased with the results, even after beating my head against the desk during the revision process.

In the end, about 4900 words stared at me and politely suggested I send them on to their intended destination. I fidgeted and fussed over the cover letter and finally gave in, sending my little darling off into the æther. I told myself it had a newt’s chance in a supernova of being accepted, and tried to maintain a healthy balance between cautious optimism and callous realism.

It still hurt when the rejection came.

I suppose now I can consider myself a bona fide writer; I’ve not only put words on paper (well… electrons), but I’ve sent them out to an actual publisher and had them summarily dismissed. It’s a rite of passage for every writer, right? I know there’s more to come, and I need to get used to it. It’ll only get worse before it gets better—and the only way for it to get better is to keep at it.

So now I have a short story that needs a home. I’ll need to collect a list of other possible venues for it, and start sending out more submissions. I’ve heard that the only reason anyone doesn’t get published is that they give up. Maybe this story will never see the light of day, but it will serve a purpose nonetheless. I’ve got to build up the emotional calluses necessary to keep putting my work out there time and again, right?

Well, the first abrasions against my tender psyche have initiated the process. Only about a million more to go.

Needz Moar Cowbell

Having finished my short story as much as possible before getting feedback, I’ve moved back to the revisions on the last couple of chapters of the novel. On the up side, I can tell I’ve grown as a writer since I first wrote these chapters. On the down side… Damn.

Because of the revisions to earlier sections of the plot, by the time I got back to the ending, several things obviously had to be adjusted. The chapter I finished reworking yesterday had to be ripped apart, and stitched back together Frankenstein-style. Certain chunks remained, though often in quite different sequence from before, and many others had to be added in from whole cloth.

That proved a grueling exercise, though I got something mostly useable by the end. Once I moved onto today’s chapter (Ch X), though, it was a different story.

Ch X is, by and large, still viable as written in terms of plot. However, there’s little or no tension in the text. As I read through it to re-familiarize myself with it and determine what needs revision, I realized the climax—the bit that the entire rest of the book leads to—had been utterly glossed over in a couple of sentences. There’s no sense of effort, of the protagonist’s struggle to accomplish this huge deed. Just “Voop! There ya go!” and it’s all over but the exposition.

Obviously, that needs to change. Who wants to read “voop!” at the end of all that other stuff? There needs to be a payoff for whatever emotional investment the reader has made. I count myself lucky that I figured that out before handing it off to my CPs; as I said above, it’s proof of my growth.

So, note to self: needz moar cowbell. Get on that.

Creature of Habit

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth; it just feels like it.

I have learned that I am absolutely a creature of habit when it comes to my writing. I need large blocks of time during which to focus, even if I don’t spend the whole span directly working on whatever’s on my plate that day. So when “circumstances beyond my control” (CBMCs) interfere, I can kiss my productivity goodbye.

Recently, for example, I took some time off to go to a convention. It was great fun, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. However, the fact that I’m an introvert meant that spending five days away from home among crowds of people, adding near-daily posts to my other blog expended all my energies (creative and otherwise) without the opportunity to recharge.

Then I came home to a sick kid. Before she even got back to school, we had (very welcome) company. By the time things got back to a more normal schedule this week, then, I was a bit of a mess.

But then I could return to my habits. I recharged. I relaxed. And I made progress.

At the end of last year, I made a plan about where I wanted my revisions to be by the end of this month. I’m nowhere near that mark, thanks a multitude of CBMCs these last two months. But I’m moving ahead again—the end of this Round of Revisions is in sight.

My new, interstitial chapter was remarkably well received by my CPs, given this is the first time the chapter’s been workshopped, and the following chapter is even closer to ready. I finally feel like I’m getting traction again for the first time this year. So keep your fingers crossed for me; a single month of normalcy could get me nearly there.

~draft dance~

Woo hoo! I just finished Draft Zero of Chapter Interstitial! It’s ugly and clunky and barely makes sense, but it’s a draft! Halle-effin-lujah!

~does happy dance~

The #MSWL Blues

According to my sources (that would be a Twitter hashtag), in about three weeks’ time, there will be another #MSWL Twitter event. For those unfamiliar with it, the letters stand for ManuScript Wish List, and from time to time, agents and editors will designate a day to tweet details of what they would like to show up their slush piles (though some tweet whenever they feel the urge, throughout the year).

Writers who follow the hashtag throughout the day can see if anyone is looking for the kind of manuscript (ms) they’re writing, and the tweeting agents and editors have a much higher probability of snagging a ms that hits their sweet spot. Everybody wins! Unless, like me, you’re not ready to query.

For those of us who haven’t quite got our mss up to snuff, #MSWL day can be agonizing. On the one hand, how can you look away—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You’ll want to know who that agent or editor is so you can query when the ms is polished! On the other hand, how can you watch—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You can’t query that agent or editor until your ms is polished!

It’s not like I have any illusions about my current ms. Much as I like my story, I’ve no idea if it will actually appeal to an audience wider than my closest friends and family. And all sorts of folks will tell you they had to write something like a dozen novels (and query ten of them) before even getting an agent, let alone a book deal. So I know the odds of getting this sucker onto the shelves are about as good as those of winning the lottery. But I want desperately to try anyway.

So come 26 February (the next “official” #MSWL day), I’ll be watching the tweets roll in, pondering my own simple, single-item manuscript wish list: get it finished!