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Mocha Nihilism strikes back

I woke up this morning to find a peculiar email in my inbox. I frowned at the title, terribly confused, before clicking through to find a second rejection for the novella I submitted months ago. It had a full request back then and I got a lovely personal rejection as well.

And yet there I was, reading a second rejection for the very same novella, despite not having submitted it again, or even giving it a thought for the last several months now.

Anyways… OH MY GOODNESS it was an amazing rejection. I don’t mind getting double negatives if they feel this good. This came from a different editor at the same publishing company, and he said that I’m “a strong writer with an engaging voice”, and he hopes I’ll submit other pieces. The premise didn’t hook him (totally relate. It was flawed and I knew that before I submitted), but in my mind, that just means I need the right story, the right characters, premise, etc.

This rejection came at the perfect time for me, as I begin rewriting TCM. It’s given me a lovely boost of confidence and a bit more belief in myself as a writer. I can do this, I just have to keep working at it.

Now if only there were more hours in the day…

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Testing the Theory

Months ago, I trunked Mocha Nihilism. I had very valid reasons for doing so, half of which was because I simply don’t want a career writing romance, and half because there are some flaws with the story – flaws which I wasn’t sure how to fix, and frankly didn’t think it was worth expending the time and energy to make it right (being that I don’t want to be a romance writer).

Still, when one makes a decision like this, there is always that niggle in the back of your head about whether it was the right choice. So when a publisher I follow put out a call for contemporary romance novellas (what are the chances!) I figured that I had nothing to lose by sending Mocha out into the fray.

I put together my submission package and sent it off – this was a huge rush and got me really excited about the idea of having a novel to send out one day – and then waited patiently. Just two weeks later they requested the full.

At which point I started to freak out.

THAT WASN’T PART OF THE PLAN. The plan was that they would politely reject it, and confirm for me that it was the right choice I had made to trunk it. Yes, well…

Anyway, I got my ass into gear and made the changes I had planned and sent it back quick smart. Yesterday I got a reply.

What do you think it said?? lol

I got a rejection. A lovely rejection which said really positive things about my writing and which completely confirmed my personal thoughts about why I should trunk Mocha.

And I felt relieved. I let out the breath I felt like I had been holding for two weeks and I smiled. I didn’t have to worry about getting pegged as a romance writer, after all. I could get back to work on the kinds of things I really wanted to be writing. And more importantly, most wonderfully – I was right all along, and they had just confirmed that for me.

I know for sure now that I can trust my gut instincts about what is wrong or right with a story. I am not too hard on myself, or too soft. There was far more value, for me, in getting that rejection than in getting an acceptance. I feel really empowered and like I have a new confidence in myself as a writer. It was such a fabulous experience, and I can’t wait to have something that is truly ready to be sent out. Hopefully within the next year I’ll have this novel in shape and be on my merry way. I know that I can do this 🙂 And I love knowing that.

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Nothing quite like it

I’ve been submitting stories to publishers/zines/etc for awhile now, and have become an old hand at it – finding a market no longer takes me days, and putting together the emails takes far less time too. Every market is different, but I know enough about what’s expected that I no longer make rookie mistakes (and it was only ONE time that I forgot to attach the MS 😉 lol).

A lot of my submissions this year have been a case of rinse and repeat – sending out stories that have had previous rejections, trying to find the right home for them.

During October I had the pleasure of sending something new into the world. A virgin MS. Unsullied by rejection, full of hope and wonder. After putting together the email and hitting send I had the most amazing rush. I was filled with a sense of joy and of possibility – the potential that the MS held was limitless. OMG who knew? Maybe they would say yes, and wouldn’t that be exciting? It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that, and I had forgotten just how amazing it is. I think it would probably slot in just under an acceptance as my favourite part of the submission process.

I enjoy sending my stories out, but something new? That’s a ticket to a head rush. There is no negativity attached to the story, no feelings of insecurity and worry, just pure exhilaration at having hit ‘send’.

It makes me want to write more, so that I can send more virgin MS’s into the world. Sure, they won’t all get accepted, but if I don’t keep writing new stories, I can’t capture that feeling again. Now that’s a good incentive!

Back to work I go 😉

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Familiarity and comfort zones

I was having coffee with a friend a few days ago and she asked how my writing was going. She knew I’d been working hard on Mocha, and was checking in. I said to her that it was out with readers at the moment, but that I was hoping to do a final revise and polish in August and then send it out.

It wasn’t until that moment that I felt a little bit nervous about the whole thing. I mean, normal swings have happened – it’s wonderful, it’s rubbish, it should totally find a home, no-one will ever want to publish it – but I realized for the first time that the thought of ACTUALLY getting an acceptance is kind of out of my comfort zone.

I’ve had a couple short stories accepted. That was wonderful. I’ve done revisions and edits and checked proofs etc, so in some small way, I’ve had experience of what can potentially happen when you have a piece of your work accepted for publication. But the world of publishing longer things? It’s all new and kind of scary and for the the first time I’m actually going to be submitting something I truly think is ready (compared to when I was submitting Lifelines to agents and I had a feeling that neither my novel, or myself, were ready for bigger publication). Or at least, it will be ready by the time I submit.

And I am ready, I think, to have something longer in the world – whether that happens via a publisher, or whether I put it out myself. I’m actually ready. Nervous, yes, but excited. Scared, yes, but wanting to push ahead anyway. I’m familiar with rejection. I know it so very well. It’s time to kick down the walls of this comfortable nook though and extend myself.

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Flip. Flop.

That’s the sound of my thoughts when it comes to the good old ‘traditional’ vs ‘self-publishing’ thing. Every time I think I’m decided that yes, I want to self publish, someone makes a passing comment to me.

“It’s too good to self publish.”. “You should at least send it to a couple of places.”. “I really think you could find somewhere for it.” 

But the thing is, I wouldn’t self publish it if I didn’t feel like it was good enough to be traditionally published. What would be the point of that? I certainly don’t want to add more crappy writing to the world. Self published authors already have an uphill struggle when it comes to the number of writers putting substandard work out into the world. The perceptions are there for a reason – there are a lot of badly written, under edited, novels around.

I guess when it comes down to it though, even after doing all the numbers, and loving the idea of creative freedom and control over my own work – I still want to get published traditionally. Even though it seems nigh on impossible at times, even though I will most likely never make a full time living out of it. I still want to give it a go.

I didn’t want to be one of those authors who self-published only because they hadn’t found a publisher who wanted their work. I guess I thought it would feel better if I just went that way straight of the bat, knowing the reasons why, loving that I could have my say in all parts of the process and do things the way I wanted.

Self-publishing is incredibly exciting. It really is. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m a rookie when it comes to some things involved in the process. None of the steps are things I can’t learn, given the time. I’m fairly sure I will soak up all the information I need at the time, and learn as I go with ease, it’s something I am good at.

But the bottom line is that I want to submit my novella places. I think that if I don’t, I will always wonder whether maybe, someone might have accepted it. I don’t have a need for validation but I am incredibly curious as to whether I *could* get a publishing contract. And if I’m curious, then I should give it a go. I have nothing to lose; I can always self publish. I don’t want to have regrets, or forever be wondering whether I made the right choice.

So there we have it. I guess I’m submitting this novella (well, when it’s ready, and when I have a new title for it). I would rather try, and fail, than forever wonder.

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It’s not fair!!!

All around me fellow writers are getting things published, getting acceptances letters, having partials and fulls requested, hearing fantastic, amazing, inspiring and motivational things back from beta readers. And what am I getting? Nothing but rejections.

R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N-S. Lots of them, because I’ve been a busy critter, sending out stories left right and centre. Regrouping when I get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and submitting them again.

And I’m not bitter about this. It’s just how things go sometimes. I’m setting my sights high – I know very well I could target lesser markets and get stories printed, but I’m working my way down the food chain. You just never know when you might get lucky.

However, I am feeling a little left behind. I can feel this thing inside me. Growing, stretching, pushing against my skin. It’s not an idea or a story, a plot or character. It’s that want to be where the others are. The desire for a novel. For a great novel. One that’s at least through it’s first draft stage, but still shiny and holding so much potential that I almost can’t breathe.

It’s not jealousy though folks. I am thrilled for all of these writer friends. They deserve to be getting the feedback they’re receiving. I WANT them to succeed. I just wish that I was in that place too, sharing in the buzz instead of sitting here, wanting it.

I know one day I’ll have the time to get back into a novel. I’ll have that great idea, that rush, that drive. Just not today.

However, I am going to eat some easter chocolate and get to work on the third scene of the novella. It may not be as big and bright and shiny as a novel, but it’s pretty darn fun place to hang out 😉

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Why (some) rejection rocks

I got a new rejection this week, with some solid feedback on the piece. At first I wasn’t phased by it – I knew could take the advice on board, and rework the story a little, then send it out to another market – but then I went back to trying to work on my new short story and hit a wall.

I was going about telling it in the same way that earned me my rejection. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the way I have told some other stories in the past and while I know that it’s a technique I’ve seen used by others, I just couldn’t do it again. I ended up frozen, unable to see how I should write the story, and constantly repeating the phrase in my head about what I couldn’t do.

ARG!

Anyway, after some mulling, and wailing about how much I suck, I left it alone for a little while, and as always, the answer came and hit me in the face. The scene I had written was the end of the story. Not the beginning. I mean, lots happens after that scene but the really interesting stuff, the real meat of the story, was before then and in order not to fall back on ‘static backfill’ I should start the story earlier, and end with the scene I had already written. Though of course now it needs rewriting – something I can easily do.

I love it when good feedback is provided. It gives me the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. I am pretty sure that I could simply submit this story elsewhere and have it accepted, but I want to make it the best I can, which requires a little more thought and work. And I want to do that, I want to put out stories that are great, not just okay.

Feedback is subjective – not all of it should be applied, all the time. Editors all have different opinions, and they may not agree about what makes a story good. In this case, I can see that the feedback is widely applicable, and I can make my stories stronger by taking it on board.

Happy writing everyone! I will hopefully have time to get this first draft out over the weekend. The concept is really exciting me, and I’m trying to push it as far as I can.

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Eeek!

I feel like I’ve lost the last week, though I’m sure that it’s not been that long since I blogged. I feel like I must say it a lot, but I really don’t know where the time is going.

Tomorrow marks the start of NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, and I am nowhere near as prepared as I had planned to be! That’s okay though, I have a few posts up my sleeves and will just have to write the rest of them on the fly 😉 Is there anything you’d like to hear about in particular? Feel free to make requests/ask questions, and I’ll do the best I can to cover them over the week.

I’m getting closer to being finished the current short story. It’s been hard not to start a new one, or switch to a different one, but I am determined to finish it off first. My list of things to complete really needs to be shortened. When I have a few minutes here and there I am still adding to the novel though, so it means I am getting writing done most days even if it doesn’t feel a lot like progress.

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago that made me laugh, and then made me think. It wasn’t funny, exactly, more that I had obviously misinterpreted what the website was looking for. They said my story was far too depressing! I had never considered it depressing, so it made me giggle. I’m coming to realize that a lot of what I write IS a little dark and disturbing, while not often falling into the horror genre, which can make it hard to find a home for. Ah well. I find it amusing because in general I am a pretty happy, optimistic person. One might not think so from some of the stories I write 😉

Anyways, signing off for now. This was just a quite pre blogging week update. I shall be back tomorrow with a post about… well, I’m not sure yet! I’ll think of something though.

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Being the kind of writer I want to be

I had a rejection yesterday, one which initially made me go ‘Ug, I’m just going to ignore this story for a bit, rejection sucks’. It’s a very natural reaction to hearing that someone doesn’t want your story. (note I did not say or think that this means my story sucks, or that I suck, just that rejection does).

And then I read the rejection again, and realized that the publisher was giving me an opportunity. One which I could either take up or not, one which either way did not matter to him but I realized mattered to me. This wasn’t about the story, or whether it got published or not, it was about the kind of writer I wanted to be.

Basically the rejection said something along the lines of ‘gonna have to pass on it for now. Over all it’s a good story but I think it still needs some work. If you want to take into consideration my comments, you’re welcome to resubmit.’

And I almost didn’t work on it.

I thought to myself ‘it will probably feel worse to be rejected a second time for the same story by the same publisher’.

And then I realized that wasn’t the point. The point was that I had an opportunity to define myself as a writer and the kind of writer I really want to be is one who TRIES. One who takes critique on board, listens to those in the editorial process and adapts herself to the situation.

So I reworked the story. I made changes along the lines of what he suggested. I cut about 600 words out of 4,300ish and I feel good about how the story looks right now. Even if it gets rejected again I’m happy, because I’m NOT the girl who gives up at the first sign of failure, and I am NOT the girl who lets a rejection get her down. I will resubmit it, but I have a different mind frame this time around.

If I am completely honest with myself (and I was in this process, it was part of the learning curve) this story was never one I wrote to get published. This is a somewhat self indulgent story in that it pays some homage to the horror stories I loved as a child and teenager. I wrote it for me, not for anyone else. Since publication was never it’s purpose I don’t really have a right to get upset when someone turns it down – I only submitted on the off chance that maybe it would make it. Right now, the story fulfills the needs I have of it: I enjoy it, and I feel good about having written it.

So, in the event it gets a second rejection, I don’t think I’ll be feeling glum at all. As a result of this rejection and the comments received the story is now tighter and I feel better about it. It was a great way to test my newfound belief that you have nothing to lose by getting rejected, and I am so pleased that it’s proven true! I feel like I have gained a lot – not only a stronger story, but a stronger idea about what kind of writer I want to be.

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Another day, another thing complete

After the really terrible nights sleep I had last night, I was pretty uncertain that I was going to get anything done at all today. I was so tired, frustrated and well, miserable (picture me vacuuming, in tears, while my almost 5 year old asks me if I need to go lie down and cuddle my blanket for a bit, which of course was only going to make me cry even harder due to the pride I felt at my compassionate wee girl).

But I pushed on, did all the cleaning, I even got some washing out on the line, and then finally got the baby to sleep and lunch made for Ivy, at which point, knowing that I would have no time to myself that afternoon, I opened Birth Rights again (I’d made some changes to it last night before bed), and tweaked things until I was happy.

And I was happy. I am happy. I think it’s better, despite my initial worries that the subtle changes I was making weren’t connecting in the ways I wanted them too. I even decided to actually send it into the Au Contraire short story competition after all because quite frankly, the end of the month is rapidly approaching, and I’m not feeling like I can do better before then.

It’s really struck me over the last few days that I have nothing to lose by sending stories places. A rejection is not a loss, it’s just an indicator that for any number of reasons the story wasn’t right for the place. There is no need to take that personally. In any case, a rejection can be a gain in the event that you get some helpful feedback.

So, nothing to lose.

Not sure what comes next, though it’s nice to see my list shortened by two stories in as many days. Nothing is really grabbing me, but I have a feeling that if I have the energy tomorrow, something will.

Happy writing folks.