The next chapter: August 2016 update

Let me tell you a story 🙂

Dark season

Over the last couple of years, August has been a bad month for me, emotionally speaking.

I’ve been down. Living with depression, if you do it consciously, means that you can see the signs and take action, or not, whatever is most appropriate for your mental health at the time. Trying to barge through rarely works. For me, anyway.

Last year, I was away from home, delivering training, for two and a half weeks in August. I thought London was a lovely city, and I did enjoy myself to the extent I could—I even went shopping (!) and if you know me, you know I hate shopping of any kind with a passion—but it was too far away for me to go home on the weekends, and I had discovered earlier in the year how much more difficult it was for me to write or blog while travelling. So except for curation, I gave over.

Writing on the road isn’t undoable, and I have put on my big girl panties and done it since (I started NaNoWriMo while travelling last year), but, at the time, I was at a low ebb, and sometimes you have to be kind to yourself.

This year, I went to Kansas City for WorldCon and stayed an extra day or so to visit with a friend who’d moved down there several years ago. More on WorldCon in a bit. The bottom line is that health issues and my introvert nature (exacerbated by my emotional low) conspired to rob the trip of some of its joy.

Remembering what had happened last year, I had even planned for the dog-day doldrums. I figured I’d have the first run-through of all my drafted novels done by August (and I did) and that I would need a little break (and I did).

My plan to turn to other projects, though, didn’t work out as well as I’d thought. I worked on some short fiction, made a few submissions (a rejection from one of which was returned within a week), but I never touched the poetry collection or the non-speculative short fiction collection. I just didn’t have the heart.

I journalled, trying to work out what my plan for the rest of the year would look like and trying to find my way back to what is, for me, normal. I also participated in a Nelson Literary Agency workshop on first pages with Angie Hodapp.

Though the initial review of my first five pages wasn’t horrible, I wanted to try something completely different for the revision, see if the advice of the readers would work. It was a spectacular failure, but I learned a lot from the experience.

You really do have to fail to learn, even if it’s painful 🙂

I’m now delving back into Initiate of Stone, working long hand in a notebook. Sometimes you just have to write it out. I find that writing long hand helps give me the time to examine the words and sentences, and get a fresh perspective.

I can now also disclose that I did not succeed with my application to #PitchWars. Reality Bomb was the project I chose for that experience. I didn’t expect to get in this first year of applying, but one pair of mentors, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt, was very supportive. They asked for additional materials, a synopsis and first 50 pages.

Our email exchanges in that first week or so were productive and illuminating for me. I now have some great ideas to return to that manuscript with. So, ultimately, #PitchWars was a win.

This brings me to another realization of why this year has been a difficult one for me.

Last year was the year of almost. I got on several long and short lists in contests, had my work set aside for second readings for anthologies, and while it didn’t result in any publications, the nature of the responses was reassuring. I also had a couple of stories accepted into the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which should be coming out this fall.

This year, with the exception of #PitchWars, has been the year of no. Form rejections all around, whether from querying or from short fiction submissions. Though I have, to some extent, found a way to turn rejection into a positive, when so many pile up, it becomes disheartening.

You begin to question your worth and skill as a writer, to doubt the kind things that have been said about your work (because there are so few of them, relatively speaking, that they must be the flukes, you reason). You begin to look for those opportunities to confirm your negative bias, blow small faux pas into huge incidents. Reasonable lapses in communication become the occasion for self-blame and recrimination.

Fortunately, since my return from Kansas City, I’ve been coming across the most wonderful articles and posts that have given me the encouragement I’ve needed, some of which you’ll see in this week’s curation. Between that, and the long hand work I’ve been doing on IoS, I’m making my way back to the page.

WorldCon

I’d left with the best of intentions and wanted to practice Gabriela Pereira’s method of networking with a number of authors I’d only ever seen online. In the moment, though, I was so nervous, I basically blathered.

I did get to meet and have a couple of nice, brief chats with Mary Robinette Kowal, met Cat Cambo and Foz Meadows at their Literary Beer sessions (informal chats), but otherwise, I just did my usual and took notes in panel discussions.

I was within three feet of George R.R. Martin, but as he was just coming out of the second of two autographing sessions in which fans lined up for the better part of an hour to see him, I just couldn’t bring myself to be that fan. Instead, I smiled, nodded, and moved on without harassing the poor man.

I had gone to the Tor Party with the intention of meeting John Scalzi, but several people seemed to be running interference and by the time I was able to politely make my excuses, Mr. Scalzi was monopolized by other Tor authors and friends. After that, he turned his attention to his beautiful wife and, again, I could not bring myself to interrupt just to say “hi, and thank you for writing wonderful books.”

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, or an introvert, or both, but I just couldn’t.

I’m also a total newb and have no clue with regard to what’s appropriate and what’s not in which context.

The Hugo Awards Ceremonies were wonderful, though, and the sad puppies were soundly trounced.

N.K. Jemesin won best novel for The Fifth Season, Nnedi Okorafor won best novella for Binti, Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu (translator) won best novelette for Folding Beijing, and Neil Gaiman (who wasn’t there in person) had a special message for the sad puppies when he won best graphic story for The Sandman: Overture.

Really, you can just go to the Hugo Awards site and check out all the winners. Diversity was the word of the evening.

It was a great event, but at the end, I felt like I needed a vacation to get over my vacation 🙂

I returned home with a whopping case of imposter’s syndrome, though. I’d met and seen and learned from all of these authors, many of whom I read and respect. Who am I, with my two publications in what the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) considers “token” markets, to think that I can get a traditional deal in a market that’s more competitive than ever?

When I confided my doubts to Phil, his response was that print publishing was on its way to extinction and why would I want that, anyway? So not what I needed to hear, but I forgave him instantly. Though he is very supportive of me and my creative calling, he, like most non-writers, will never understand what it’s like to be in my neurotic wee skull.

But, as I said, I’m surfacing now. I have no further conventions I’ve committed to (having used up my budget for such things) and the only challenge I’ve set for myself is to get through another revision of IoS and Apprentice of Wind before I tackle the third novel in the series for NaNoWriMo.

I still want to get back to the poetry collection and the non-speculative short fiction collection, but neither is a big priority for me at the moment.

I’m taking my time with the short fiction. Some of my stories are actually the seeds of novels. I have to set those aside in their own project folders for the future, and then get on with revising and submitting what I have. Who knows? I may even surprise myself and write some more new stories. It has been known to happen.

In the meantime, I’ve applied for my winter leave at work and am crossing my fingers.

Persistent payroll issues may affect my application for another leave with income averaging. Until things are sorted out, the powers that be may recommend against such special considerations. I may have to defer again until next year.

It won’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened, but Phil and I are ready to look for another furry dependent. I need the five weeks for acclimatization and training. We’d rather it be sooner than later, but we’ll be patient if we must.

Having a new puppy in the spring would probably be more convenient (she says, mentally willing leave approval).

And then there are the renovations to consider, but that’s another post. Probably several 😉

The month in writing

August was sparse as far as writing goes. Aside from the blog, from which I took a vacation for WorldCon, the only writing I did was to finish off the one short story I was working on.

AugustProgress

6,451 words on the blog and 901 words on the short story. 7,362 altogether. That’s literally all she wrote.

I didn’t revise a thing. Fortunately, because I met or exceeded my revision goals in every other month so far this year, I’m not that far behind.

I didn’t count the minor revisions I did to the stories I submitted, or any of the journalling or long hand writing I did.

Besides, I wasn’t anticipating (until part way through the year) that I’d return to IoS, so I don’t have a column for that on my spreadsheet. I could make one. I have the skill, but I don’t want to take the time to do it now. Yes. I know. Lazy Mellie.

I’m getting my mojo back. The writing’s the thing.

Science fiction is the literature of ideas. It is the great “what if?” that leads us into the future. Fantasy is the literature of (im)possibility. It longingly wonders “If only . . .” and whispers in our dreams. I write both and I think I’m pretty damned lucky.

And that’s it until next month.

I hope you’re all experiencing great creative breakthroughs and are satisfied with what you’ve done. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Be well!

The Next Chapter

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Ad Astra 2016, day 2: A guide to submitting your short stories

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Bob Boyczuk, Gregory A. Wilson, Nicole Levigne, Kate Heartfield

NL: Read the submissions guidelines of the publications. Read the publication to get a feel for the kind of story they publish.

GAW: Don’t undersell or oversell your story. Don’t lie. What’s really important is the excellence of the work. Would you overlook stories just because they haven’t followed guidelines?

NL: We read everything. We give feedback, even if it’s just one sentence. One query that got to me used parenthetical snark. After noting that he’d conformed to the guidelines, he went on, in parentheses, to say that he didn’t understand why his story had to formatted in any particular way given today’s technology.

GAW: Someone who goes on and on about their experience may be an asshat. If you receive any feedback, it’s a win. You don’t have to follow the advice unless you see a pattern forming, though.

NL: Rejection often speaks more to fit versus quality of the story or the writing.

GAW: Don’t argue with the editor.

KH: You don’t have to respond to the rejection, even if it’s a nice one.

BB: You can use it if you meet in person, though. “You gave me some encouraging advice. Thank you.”

KH: If you talk to other writers, you learn that rejection is the default. Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) gets over 1,000 submissions a month.

GAW: Don’t overlook anthology calls. Most of my publications have been in anthologies. The idea that anthologies don’t make a lot of money isn’t accurate. It depends on how it’s launched and the audience.

NL: For Second Contacts, the theme was 50 years after first contact. That’s not a theme you’d see in a magazine.

GAW: Athena’s Daughters was an all-female effort. Authors and editors were all women. Apollo’s Daughters was pro-feminist and had women editors, but the writers were men.

Q: How do you find anthologies?

GAW: Duotrope, Ralan, and Submission Grinder are your main resources.

NL: Duotrope is a for-pay service, but they tweet, so follow them on Twitter.

Q: Do you always get a response?

KH: Yes.

NL: If they don’t, it will be stated in the guidelines.

KH: Some editors will let you know you’ve made it to a second round. This is awesome news.

NL: For magazines and anthologies that use Submittable, you can track your submissions, which is useful. If you submit to Lightspeed, just watch your email. They respond at light speed, too.

GAW: It depends on the magazine’s internal process.

NL: Simultaneous submissions are fine for most publications. Read the guidelines, though. They may specify otherwise. Never send multiple submissions (that’s more than one story at once to one publication). Don’t resubmit, or submit another story unless you are asked to do so.

GAW: If you get a request to revise and resend, take advantage of it.

NL: There’s no guarantee they’ll accept it, even if you do, though.

KH: We should talk a bit about contracts, at least in the high level sense. A contract follows acceptance. They’ll usually ask for first North American rights for print or online, whatever format the publication is in. There will be a reversion clause to specify when rights will revert to the author. Payment conditions will also be specified. Check to see how long the publication has exclusivity.

NL: Have a writer friend read it over.

GAW: Check out the Writer Beware web site for fraudulent publishers.

And that was time.

There’s only one more Ad Astra session for me to report on and then I’m moving on to sessions from the Canadian Writer’s Summit 🙂

See y’all on Tipsday!

Have a fabulous weekend!

The next chapter: September 2015 update

What can I say about September? First, I’m back on track. Second, I finished drafting Marushka and am well on my way to having a finished draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Marushka ended up at a tidy 73,961 words altogether, or 97% of my 75k goal. As it’s a YA fantasy, I’m quite happy with that.

I’m going to set my sights a little lower with GatL than my original 50k goal. I think 40k should be enough. With revision and editing, It will likely settle somewhere around 45k, which is pretty perfect for a middle grade (MG) novel.

I did some more work on my query letter and am now preparing my next batch. To make up for missing August and September, I’m going to send out in batches of 10 queries for the next two months. I might do this in batches of five every couple of weeks. We’ll see.

I’m also making good progress on my outline for Reality Bomb (working title), which should be complete in time for its drafting in NaNoWriMo 2015. I’m on chapter 21 of 36, so I think I’m in a good place. I should note that as I’m writing this outline in a notebook, by hand, in my own, rather chaotic, cursive, that I’m not counting these words on my spreadsheet.

As far as the short fiction is concerned, I continue to revise and submit, but I haven’t had any positive response recently.

September's progress

Here’s how things broke down in September:

  • The blog has once again taken over as my most productive medium with 6,466 words;
  • In second place is GatL with 5,691 words;
  • Marushka clocked in at 1,776 words;
  • My query rewrites totalled 116 words; and
  • I revised 79 words of short fiction.

Total words generated in September: 14,128.

September's summary

There were only four days where I didn’t record any word count, but those days, I was likely working on my outline.

I’m settling into the writing life again after all my trials and tribulations this year. It feels good. It feels freaking fantastic.

And now, I’m going to try to get a few words in for October 3rd before Doctor Who 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

And we’ll see you again on Tuesday for more Writerly Goodness.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: August 2015 update

Ok. Let’s just get this out of the way. August sucked for writing.

I had every intention of writing when I was down in London, but I should have kept in mind the lesson I learned back in the spring. Mel + travel to deliver training = no writing.

Well, it wasn’t absolutely zero writing. I revised a short story and submitted it, and I revised my query letter based on feedback from Kristen Nelson (more on this in a bit), but that amounted to very few words.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, delivering training, though I’m good at it, drains introvert me something fierce. Add that to travel, not feeling well for most of my time away, not being around home to help Mom with her first cataract surgery, and not being around my support system, and you have the perfect storm of non-productivity.

Plus, it was two and a half weeks away. That was a fair chunk of the month. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Here’s how the month broke down (pun intended):

August progress

I drafted another 2,206 words on Marushka, but am still not quite at the end. I hope this month will see the end of the draft (at last). I am 95% toward my 75k word total goal for the draft, so that’s something.

I revised 62 words on short stories, only 8 of those while I was down in London. I sent two stories out and received two rejections.

I blogged 3,801 words, and I decided not to blog on the weekends while I was away. Ostensibly, this was to make it easier to write, but I’ve already mentioned how that went.

Total words for the month: 6,069. That’s my lowest monthly total all year.

August Summary

Other stuff I did in August:

When Roz Morris shared HodderScape’s open submission period, I had to submit Initiate of Stone. I’ve had no word, but I’ll definitely fill you in on the results.

Last year, I missed out on Kristin Nelson’s query letter intensive. It was that whole work thing, again. So, this year, I signed up, hoping against hope that my manager would find someone else to go to London in my place. It was not to be.

So I emailed NLA and advised that I would not be able to join the webinar. And Kristin offered to meet with me one-on-one when I got home.

That meeting took place this past Thursday and Kristin gave me some excellent direction.

Kristin was great, and though I think I was still a little fan girlish, I tried to make the most of the opportunity.

Yeah, I get star struck by agents. That’s the kind of geek I am.

So that’s it for my very unproductive month.

Rest assured, I’m back on track and aiming high.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: July 2015 update

July was a weird month.

I got off to a decent start, determined to finish off Marushka. I revised and submitted a short story to an anthology call. I received a rejection for another story a few days later.

Then, Nuala’s kidneys shut down and we had to make that anguished, final visit to the vet.

While I kept up the blogging, mostly because I had my curation posts already composed, I couldn’t face the page for a few days.

I got back to Marushka slowly on the 14th, and that weekend, I set out my second round of queries for Initiate of Stone. I also revised another story and sent it off.

Since then, I’ve received a rejection on the story and two more rejections—polite though they may have been—from agents regarding Initiate of Stone.

I’ve just today revised my query, signed up for a query workshop with Kristin Nelson, and booked my hotel for Can-Con in October.

So it’s been a busy month, and a productive one, considering, but I’m just on the cusp of my pre-revision tracking best.

July's writing progress

Here’s how the numbers break down

Short fiction: 92 words

Marushka: 7,217 words (And no, I’m not quite done with the draft, yet. I’m at 87% of goal right now. I might make my 40k word goal. This is, of course, in addition to the 30k I generated during NaNoWriMo last year.)

Blog: 9,116 words

Total: 16,425 words

July's Summary

Moving forward, I will continue to revise and submit my short stories wherever I can place them, but, as I mentioned last month, I haven’t been bitten by the short fiction bug recently and will not be drafting new stories for the foreseeable.

Several of my shorts may actually be novels in disguise, so, once I exhaust the available venues, I might see about expanding one and see how that works, but I’ve a way to go before I get there with some of my lovelies.

I’m going to finish Marushka this month (damn it!). I’m only about 5k words from ‘the end’ on this one, and it’s been so long in coming that I really want to put it to bed.

Then, it’s back to Gerod and the Lions. Once that draft is finished, I’ll turn to revision again, but NaNo will probably pop up in the middle of those efforts.

I’m starting to outline this year’s NaNo project. It’s a tasty one.

The blogging will probably simmer down for a while without the convention reportage, so we may see a reduction in word count there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Work-wise, I’m heading out of town for the day job from August 10-26 and then I’ll be taking on another acting Consultant position. This one promises to be less stressful than the last couple I’ve had, but we’ll see.

Other than that, there’s not much else to report.

I’m keeping on, keeping on.

You do the same.

Until next month!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: June 2015 update

As expected, with the revisions of Initiate of Stone complete(ish—I’m still getting the final sections from outstanding beta readers), query letter and synopsis written, and the query process started, my productivity is back to normal.

June 2015 progress

The 709 words written in the IoS column represents my third and final (for now) stab at the synopsis.

I’ve already received my first “not for me” response from my first batch of queries. In typical Canadian fashion, I seriously considered writing the agent back and thanking her for such a prompt response. LOL!

You’ll notice on the summary (below) that I’ve now written/revised 110% of my goal on IoS.

On the short fiction front, the story I’d sent out in May was rejected, and the two stories I sent out in June have also been rejected (just found out about the second of those yesterday). I’m persistent, though, and I’ve turned around and sent in another story to the anthology that is still open to submissions.

The one thing I’ve discovered is that, with each rejection, they are getting easier to handle. You get desensitized after a while. It is very much a part of the business of writing, but it’s only experience that takes the sting out of it. I barely blink now. I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing . . .

First time rejectees can rarely expect to receive negative feedback with such equanimity.

No story is submitted without some form of revision and/or editing, however.

So, though the short fiction word count was only 20 words, that number represents the revisions on two short stories.

I drafted another 3,890 words on Marushka and expect that I will finish up in July (yay!). I’m at 71% of my goal. I might make 60K on the draft yet 🙂

And now the blog has resumed its place as my primary new word generator at 9,272 words.

My total word count for June is a modest 13,891. It’s pretty much where I figured I’d be, though, so I’m good with that.

June 2015 summary

I’m going to start actively revising, editing, and submitting my short fiction until all of my existing pieces find homes. I haven’t really had any further ideas that fit the short story format and until I do, I’m going to stay focused on my novels.

After I finish up my draft of Marushka, I’m going to return to Gerod and the Lions and finish up that draft. Once GatL is finished, I’m moving on to Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series. I don’t know how far into that I’ll be when NaNoWriMo rolls around again, but then I’m going to be moving forward with Reality Bomb (working title for my NaNo 2015 project).

My goal in NaNo will be to write more words on the project than I managed last year. Since I will once again be attempting NaNo while working, and I already know I’ll be out of town for a full week in November for training, it’s going to be a tough goal to reach.

I think that will take me through to the end of the year rather nicely 😉

So that’s been my month in writing.

How about all of you? Achieve your goals? Fall short? Acceptances or rejections? One way or the other, it’s all Writerly Goodness. Share yours in the comments 🙂

The Next Chapter

This is what we do: On gatekeepers, rejection, and resilience

Once again, a writer friend has inspired this week’s post. So indebted. Many thanks.

Gatekeepers

I’m using gatekeeper in the Campbellian/Hero’s Journey sense, here: the Threshold Guardian archetype. At the point where the hero/ine stands at the threshold, ready to cross and gain the object of her or his quest, someone or something pops up and prevents the hero/ine from passing.

These gatekeepers must be defeated or circumvented, removed or converted to allies.

Mel’s note: To find out more, please read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey, or all of them.

Every writer I know has at least one.

It might be a teacher who tried to shape either the young writer or her work in an inappropriate way. It might be the friend or friends who ridiculed the young writer out of jealousy. It might be the mentor who is not equipped to truly help the writer and rather than admitting his gap in knowledge or ability discourages the writer from pursuing his calling.

More insidious is the above mentioned variety of mentor who continues to encourage the writer, praises the writer’s work, but sympathetically explains that the writer’s work will never find a market. They do this as a kindness, to spare the hapless writer the agony of further rejection.

It could be an editor who likes nothing the writer submits for review. It could even be someone who sets herself up as an expert but only misguides the writer to justify the fee the writer has been charged.

This is not an exhaustive list. Explore your past and you will discover your gatekeepers.

If you’ve had to face them before you were truly prepared, you may have failed to pass the challenge and reach the threshold.

Don’t despair. You haven’t lost your chance. The door remains. The gatekeeper leaves. Another may take her place, but on the next attempt, armed with your experience, you have a better chance of succeeding.

I was turned away repeatedly as a young writer and because of my introverted nature, it took me a long time to understand the ultimate lesson of the gatekeeper.

Mel’s note: If you want to find out more about my struggles, you can read my posts under the category, My history as a so-called writer. If you go back to the earliest post, Three Blind Mice, and read forward, it will all make much more sense 😉

What is the ultimate lesson of the gatekeeper? I’m so glad you asked.

The gatekeeper only has the power we give to them. If you do as I did and internalize the lessons of the gatekeepers in your life, you become your own worst enemy, your own biggest, baddest gatekeeper.

Don’t let that happen.

Even if you retreat from the gatekeeper at the time of your confrontation, keep your eyes on your goal and the reasons it is important for you to achieve it. Yes, you’re allowed to hurt, to grieve, to lick your wounds if you need to, but don’t lose sight of your dream.

Find a true friend, you know, the kind of person who would tell you if you have spinach stuck between your teeth, or if the outfit you chose to wear was absolutely hideous? Find your person (and yes, that’s a Grey’s Anatomy reference). Tell them about your struggle and the reasons it hurts so much to have backed down.

Then, tell your person about your dream and the reasons why it’s so important to you.

Even if they just listen, you will feel so much better afterward, but you will have reminded yourself, in telling your true friend, exactly why you write in the first place and exactly why you can’t give up.

Then you pick up the pieces and try again. Because that’s what we do.

Rejection sucks

There’s no way around it. Rejection sucks.

Rejection, particularly when it arrives as a form letter, is just a specific example of a non-human form of gatekeeper. Yes, there’s a human on the other end of that letter, but you don’t know them, and they don’t know you (most of the time).

That rejection has kept you from being published or winning a contest.

And it hurts.

Another writer friend, Nina Munteanu, has just completed a two-part post on the subject of rejection. In part one, she discusses how to accept rejection, and in part two, she discusses how we can learn from rejection.

In fact, a lot of writers have posted about it. Just Google it. You’ll see. A number of them counsel the writer to develop thick skin.

I’d like to call shenanigans on that.

No offence.

Resilience, not rhino-hide

Suck it up, buttercup, they say. Really?

If it was that simple, we’d all just grow ourselves a fine second skin of rhino-hide and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune would mean nothing. Less.

Telling someone, anyone, to toughen up after suffering a loss (no matter how insignificant it might seem to others) is telling that person to shut down their feelings. That’s not a good thing. As writers, we kind of need those. Hell, as human beings we need our emotions.

We have to learn to acknowledge our feelings, to accept them, and process them. We can’t deny them. That way lies madness. Literally. It’s called depression. I know what I’m talking about here.

We have to figure out why it hurts, what’s at the root of the problem. Once we understand that, we can work, through reason and by respecting our emotional well-being, to heal the wound.

Rejection, as many writers have pointed out, isn’t personal. It’s a matter of subjectivity and timing.

Usually a rejection means not right for the publisher, for the project, for the theme of the anthology or issue, for the other stories that have already been accepted. And it means not right now. It doesn’t mean never.

Timing and subjectivity.

It’s not personal.

Why does it hurt then?

Because of how we react to it. Because of the insecurities and doubts we harbour about our ability, our craft.

The good news is this: we can control the way we react to rejection. Not right away, but with time and practice, by understanding and honouring our emotional response to rejection, it gets easier to process.

More good news: if the reason we get rejected is because our craft and skills are not at the level they need to be, we can control that too. We keep practicing, we keep learning, we keep moving forward.

That’s the real danger of rejection: that you let it stop you.

You have to continually connect with who you are as a writer and the reasons you write. You have to, at the core, be completely okay with not getting published. It’s kind of Zen. Let go of your desire.

Write because you’re a writer. Commit to being the best writer you can be. And yes, the work is hard, but you can do it if you’re a writer. You can’t not do it.

So the key is to develop, not rhino-hide, but resilience, the ability to bounce back. It’s something you can learn to do.

This might help. Or not.

This is going to sound like cheese. Like some really old, smelly cheese, like Limburger, or Roquefort.

Writing is like falling in love.

See, the biggest risk of falling in love is that you open yourself up and you become vulnerable. You risk getting hurt. But that’s the only way to love is with your whole heart plastered on your sleeve. It’s the only way love becomes anything lasting or good or true.

Writing’s like that.

Writing is that.

So just like you know that any relationship requires work, and sacrifice, and time, know that the thing you love to do requires the same.

You’ll get your heart broken, sure, but breaks heal.

The other great thing is that every great protagonist is wounded. Pour your learned experience into your writing. It will be amazing.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~~Hemingway.

Weirdmaste (the weirdo in me recognizes the weirdo in you), writing geeks.

Now go hug your words. Get romantic with your words. Create beautiful bouncing baby words.

Because this is what we do.

Muse-inks

Bits and pieces

A.K.A. catching up on a bunch of stuff.

First of all, happy Valentine’s Day, to all of you lovely people out there!

Work

They say you’re not learning unless you’re failing. I must be learning BIG TIME at work these days.

That’s all I’m going to day about that.

Spirit

On February 1st, St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, I attended Wooing the Soul, a day-long workshop and storytelling session intended to help women connect with their inner goddess. I enjoyed the storytelling, which was based on The Wooing of Etain. We danced, we sang, we invoked the spirit of Brigid, saint and goddess, and we shared food and experience.

I reconnected with a few friends whose circles I’ve moved away from in the past years.

While it was a good day, I found it was a bit long. I kept finding myself thinking, I could be writing, which is, incidentally, how I connect with my inner goddess. It’s a problem I have. Instead of talking about something, or listening to others talk about it, I’d rather be doing it 😛

I won’t write more about the day because others have done a better job than I could, namely, my friend Kim Fahner on her Republic of Poetry blog, and the facilitator herself, Ann Kathleen McLaughlin, on her blog, SophiAwakens.

Training of a different sort

On February 3rd, I delivered a workshop on getting published for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) as part of their Arts Intensive art education week.

I haven’t delivered a creative workshop in some time and I was looking forward to it. I’d love the opportunity to do more of these in the future. *hint, hint, universe*

I was far more nervous than I usually am before a training gig, which is to say I was a bit of a wreck, but the class was an intimate group.

The workshop was only two hours, and I had trouble keeping things on track, because the training I deliver for work is rarely less than a day. It wasn’t too bad, however, as the class was largely not at the querying stage yet, so the fact that I wasn’t able to discuss that aspect of getting published at length wasn’t a huge issue.

I also shared my notes and PowerPoint after the class, so everyone received all the bits I wasn’t able to discuss at length in the class.

I’m quite happy with how things turned out.

There are always lessons learned attached to any learning event, though, and I’ve got those tucked away for next time 🙂

The writing life

In writing news, I received my second rejection of a short story this year. I try to take the view that I am one more rejection closer to ‘yes,’ but honestly, things that been going so poorly in general of late that it’s been a little difficult to maintain a positive outlook.

Still, I continue to forge ahead with writing, revising, and submitting. It’s what we writers do.

Pupdate

Nuala had another glucose curve back in January and the result is that we increased her insulin by four units a day and tried reducing her prednisone.

The former is working well (we think) but we had to resume her previous dosage of pred as her ears were beginning to close up again.

Otherwise, our pup-child is doing well and we’ll return to the vet in March for another glucose curve and general checkup.

A clarification on the dream thing

I just wanted to be clear that I have ‘normal’ dreams, too.

The other night, for example, I dreamed that my sister-in-law invited herself over to our house for a sleepover, which was to take place, at her request, in the storage area of our unfinished basement, which barely has room for us to stand or move around in, let alone three adults and camping gear—oh, didn’t I mention, the sleepover was actually a camp-out, in the middle of one of the coldest winters we’ve had recently, in an uninsulated basement with a drafty window . . .

I’ve also had work-related dreams in which the office has moved into a shopping mall and I’m there, after hours, with Phil, moving my own office furniture. I’m wearing a power suit, have short, dark hair, and I’m skinny in that way only women who spend several hours a day working out are skinny. But I’m still me. No one else is there.

Or, I’ve dreamed that my boss gets a promotion, and she invites me along for the ride, literally, as she’s boarding a Lear jet and I’ve been summoned to the runway on the assumption that, of course, I’ll want to drop everything and go.

Inside the jet, she lounges like Cleopatra, a platoon of virile, young military men seeing to her every desire. I wish her well and get the heck out of Dodge, happy to have escaped the ‘trap.’ Oh yes. Hellish trap, that would be . . .

I’ve had stress dreams, falling dreams, chase dreams, abandonment dreams, and nightmares I’m not going to repeat, because, while they are all perfectly clear in my memory, I don’t want to feed those particular beasts.

It’s just those rare few per year that are well developed stories in their own rights that have little, if anything, to do with my waking life.

Just so you know. I’m mostly normal. Mostly (she says in a voice like Newt’s in Aliens).

So that’s it for this week. My mom’s coming over for supper in a bit, and then I’m going to throw my hat in the ring of another writing contest.

Break a pencil in all of your creative endeavours this week!

Muse-inks

The next chapter: January 2015 update

Technically, I could have written this post last Saturday, but I was still writing into the evening and I count everything up until go to sleep on the last day of the month. As is often the case, better late than never, right?

January 2015 progress

As you can see, I’ve continued to work on Marushka, the project I started for NaNoWriMo 2014. I had indicated in last month’s next chapter post that I wanted to work away at finishing my first draft of Marushka (total goal 75k words) and figured I’d manage this at about 5k words a month.

Well colour me blown away, I wrote almost 10k new words in January alone (!)

I continued to blog, but have stuck to my weekly curation posts and posting on Saturdays. I like this amount of output and time dedicated to the blog. It’s reasonable.

I also restarted my final pass on Initiate of Stone. It’s interesting. Back in December (I think), I shared a post in Tipsday by another writer who uses Jamie Raintree’s Excel worksheet. He had some excellent suggestions for tracking revisions.

One of them was that two words of revision = one word on the worksheet. I’ve implemented this, but in a way, it feels like cheating. In any given chapter I revise, I might, at most, change 500 words.

For example, I one chapter I revised, I cut out a page and a half to two pages of a battle scene that was a little long in the tooth, plus a few words here and there, tightening things up, etc. The chapter was over 3,800 words, however, and so when I entered my 1,950 words in the IoS column for that day’s revisions, it felt to me like I hadn’t done the work to earn that entry.

I’m still struggling with the idea, but revisions and editing are their own beasts. There has to be some way I can recognize the effort without artificially inflating my word count. I think the two-for-one word scheme is the closest I can come to doing that for now. We’ll see how that works out as the year progresses.

I also revised one short story for submission to an anthology call.

Totals for January:

  • IoS: 7,789 words
  • Marushka: 9,462 words 😀
  • Short stories: 34 words
  • Blog: 8,432 words
  • Grand total: 25,717 words (17,928 without IoS revisions)

Even without considering my revisions, it’s one of my best months outside November since I started tracking my word count. I’m amazed.

Progress summary as of Feb 7

This is something new that Jamie added to the 2015 worksheet that was not in last year’s: a place to put goals and track overall progress. I think it’s cool.

With IoS, I halved the total current word count of the last draft and entered that number as my goal in the drafting progress table (as per the two-for-one word scheme). This table pulls data from the monthly sheets, so I kind of had to do that in order for the table to make any sense.

I did the same thing for Apprentice of Wind and Figments. I do intend to proceed to those revisions after I’ve settled IoS. Because Marushka and Gerod and the Lions are still in the drafting process, I subtracted the word count as of the end of 2014 from my goal word count and entered that in the table.

I intend to write a few new short stories this year in addition to revising my existing ones for submission, so I figured 5k would be a good number of new words to aim for. NaNo is and always will be 50k.

Seeing how many words went into my blog last year, I thought 100k would be a good, round number to aim for there.

There is also a separate table for tracking revisions, specifically, this in pages. This table does not pull data from the monthly sheets. So I’ve entered the number of pages revised and the total number of pages manually. I’ll only be tracking IoS, AoW, and Figments in this way.

Because the table pulls data from the monthly sheets, the following progress reflects everything I’ve done up until today, not including this blog post.

  • IoS: 10,145 words/72 pages, or 16% of goal
  • Marushka: 10,522 of 40,192 or 26% of goal
  • Short stories: 46 words, or 1% of goal 😛
  • Blog: 9,078 words, or 9% of goal

That’s pretty awesome.

In other writerly news

January saw the publication of “Downtime,” the short story On Spec purchased back in 2013. And, yes, I’m going to put that sexy Skeksis in your way again. As they say in one of my associations, I’m chuffed.

On Spec Fall 2014

Days afterward, I received a rejection of another short story, which, despite my best efforts, took the wind out of my sails. I know I should cultivate rhino-skin, but I’ve tried and I don’t think the goal possible. For me. At this time.

I missed one deadline for a special speculative issue of another magazine. It kind of blew right past me.

I did get my story submitted to Tesseracts 19, and I’ll be waiting on tenterhooks to see if this time will be the charm. I’ve been submitting to the anthology since 14, and I keep trying.

It’s what you have to do as a writer, keep writing, and keep trying.

And otherwise

Work has been a bit of a grind and it does not show signs of slowing up. For February, anyway.

I signed up for a five-session yoga class, and finished the last one this past Thursday. I enjoy yoga, but not the expense, or the time it takes from my already hectic life. So this is the only treat I’ve given my poor old body for now. I may well join up for the summer, if they offer the discounted membership again.

But life is good, overall. I’m making greater progress toward my goals that I thought I would, especially with the work hell.

Today, after I post this lovely thing, I’m progressing to IoS revisions, more Marushka, and perhaps working on one of those brand new short stories I told you about. Plus, the new season of Bitten (based on Kelley Armstrong’s series of novels) starts tonight, and I may fit in an episode or two of Log Horizon.

Tomorrow, another meeting of my writing/critique circle will take place, and I’ll be writing some more.

I’ll say it again. Life is good.

And so the chapter closes. See you next month!

The Next Chapter

Heck month and everwinter are almost over

This has been a demanding month for me. I’ve been out of town training for three out of the four weeks in March.

The one week I didn’t travel was technically a week off, but I scheduled it full of appointments that I’d had to put off because of work. It didn’t feel very much like a week off.

Of the four internal postings I’ve applied for in the past several months, I learned that I’ve been screened out of all of them, even the new posting for the consultant position that I actually performed for sixteen months. I’ve requested a couple of “informal discussions” about my exclusion, and I’ve applied for another position that was posted both internally and externally. We’ll see what comes of all that.

Rejection is disheartening, though. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but I do. Like most large organizations, my employer’s hiring process leaves many things to be desired. In some ways, I wish for the days when I didn’t think advancement was possible, when I was content in my position making my own, somewhat subversive, way in the corporate world.

Add to the day-job concerns a writing workshop, a month-long creative promotion on Google plus, and my decision to start curating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Mellie’s a bit tired. That seems to be the way of things, though. If you want to pursue what makes you passionate about life, you have to make sacrifices.

Fortunately, it looks like I’m going to be staying close to home, work-wise, for the foreseeable. I’ll still be training, monitoring new trainees, and overseeing a customized monitoring plan, but I’ll be working from my home office. I think I’ll be able to recover.

The sun has just set here, and though it’s been snowing and miserable forever (it seems) I have hope that the weather will improve. It’s not uncommon for us to have snow into April or even May, but this winter has been such a consistently snowy one, and freezing cold when it hasn’t been snowing, that it’s difficult to be optimistic.

Usually, we have some form of a break, a green Christmas, January thaw, or the sight of green in March, but this year it’s only been snow and cold. We haven’t had it as bad as some areas, but I think northern Ontario, heck, North America, is probably ready to say goodbye to this everwinter.

This is Writerly Goodness, shaking off the winter blahs.

snow can be pretty

It can be pretty, but I’m ready for it to melt 😉

Tomorrow will be another day.