writing

Homegrown

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It’s a weird, little tale combining real estate, and stem cells.

Definitely not for everyone. But it turns out there are people out there who are as strange as I am. It’s just a matter of looking ’til you find them.

It’s also another reminder to never give up. No matter who you are or what you do, persistence pays. One of my favorite quotes from an unknown source is: “There is nothing for push and persistence like a cat’s nose.” Or in this case, a Cat’s submission process.

Flapping about in an emotive display of artistic angst can be an understandable, occasional release. It can even be fun. But when the storm has passed, pick up your flag and keep waving it.

Someone will find you.

Someone like the speculative fiction magazine, WiFiles…

http://thewifiles.com/?p=607

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writing

Sell vs. Savor

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Writing is a gift.

Not necessarily for the literary efforts produced, but for the satisfaction of the process itself. I believe everyone who commits to it, knows that inner groan of pleasure when brain and keystroke join in a seamless act of creation. Which brings to mind one of the writer’s quandaries.

Do you write to sell, or to savor?

As you work your way up the rejection ladder, getting more and more substantive feedback, at some point a choice will begin to materialize on the edges of your awareness. It begins to shimmer its way into existence when the rejection asks you to submit more material; when it terms your writing ‘intriguing’ or ‘exceptional’ or ‘delightful.’ BUT…(there’s always a ‘but’)…your style doesn’t blend with the publication’s. Or maybe your subject matter needs tweaking before you’ll be awarded the brass ring of being published.

You’ve been diligent about researching to whom you submit. You’ve targeted publications that seem likely to want work like yours. But with the carrot dangling before you…so, so close…you take a longer, harder look at them…and at yourself. You’re willing to edit and rewrite and do it again and again, as long as the core of the work remains true.

Do you continue to please yourself, being faithful to what springs from your soul and hope to find a compatible outlet? Or do you pull that spark of what feels like your essence out, and write what you’re told as best you can, ignoring the deep, inner voice that whispers ‘This isn’t me…it’s not what I meant…’?

There are multiple arguments for both sides. There are varying perspectives from which to view each. There is no right answer.

What there is, is ego and that selfish side of the craft that drives you to write in the first place. If these things tip the scales for you, then you’ll resist compromise and say ‘I’m being true to myself.’

If the lure of being published has the greater weight, you’ll do whatever you have to to get something in print. The satisfaction of being published will silence any voice that queries ‘Did I sell out?’

Luckily, there is also the inevitability of change, of maturation and growth. And that’s the saving grace that can lead to a place where the pleasure of savoring the process and the rush of seeing yourself in print can meet, merge, and become magical. That essential internal spark is always changing. So is your work. So is the marketplace. The longer you persist, the better your chances of finding the niche you were meant to fill.

Write for someone else, or for yourself? Sell or savor?

Do both. Strive for that magical moment of overlap.

Just don’t ever stop.

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writing

Cooking Up a Story

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Comparisons between creating on the keyboard, and creating in the kitchen keep popping up.

Unusual, since I’m more likely to use my oven for storage than food prep. Nonetheless…

A good chef will tell you, ‘If you can’t be proud of it, don’t serve it.’  That philosophy has been behind many a late dinner service. But the end result is that all is forgiven once the diner digs into his perfectly produced, delicious repast. He’ll likely deem the meal worth the wait.

The “If it isn’t ready, don’t offer it” philosophy becomes more problematic when applied to writing. Our hungry, hopeful patron may be the editor or publisher, but we have to contend with an intractable extra ingredient.

The deadline.

For most of us who are submitting to calls that will draw hundreds or thousands of entries, we can’t expect to deliver the goods late and justify our tardiness by pointing out how it’s worth the wait. The diner at our table won’t bother sampling. There are no extensions in our kitchen.

Getting a manuscript in on time is a perfectly legitimate, understandable expectation.

But then, you stumble across the call for submissions that stills your world because it seems tailor-made for you. Right up your alley. Posted with your name all over it…

…and it ends in an hour.

So. Do you rush to pound something out with no time for anything other than a quick proofread, and shoot it off to this perfect destination where you just know you belong?

Maybe. It’s a gamble. It’s taking a chance on leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth. Maybe it would be wiser to let them go dinner-less.

The deadline is an ingredient in the writer’s world that can trump all the other lovely things on the plate. It looms and we are under its gun.

I don’t think chefs suffer that fate quite as stringently. But I could be wrong. After all, my oven is used for storage.

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writing

The Relative Levels of Rejection, Part III

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We all know the form rejection is a necessary evil.

It’s impossible for an agent or editor who fields submissions numbering in the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, to give each one a thoughtful, individual response. Hence, the form.

But the form is a widely varied species that includes some real standouts. One is the It’s-Not-You-It’s-Me rejection. It’s the equivalent of your date saying he had an ‘interesting’ evening. Not a good-night kiss. Rather, the kiss of death. You feel as though you’re being dumped at the front door after a disastrous outing. You appreciate the intention to let you down easy, but the grain of truth that wants to irritate itself into a lump, like sand in an oyster, tells you it’s NOT them. It’s definitely you.

“You create wonderful worlds. Your writing is very atmospheric. But we’re not sure how to market you…”

Yeah, well…I’m pretty sure if the work was really outstanding, they’d find a way to market it. The truth is, it’s not a matter of how to market; it’s a matter of no market. Time to step back and consider some major rewrites.

Still, there are some very nice variations on the It’s-Not-You-It’s-Me that, in my opinion, make them the Miss Popularities of the reject pageant.

“This doesn’t quite fit with us, but you show great potential.”

In other words…back to the drawing board. If this particular submission had real potential, you’d have been asked to rewrite and resubmit. But it’s a nice rejection, and, depending on your frame of mind, you can actually savor it a little, telling yourself you’re an undiscovered talent. You just need some more time to grow.

But my absolute, hands-down, scream-from-the-rooftops fave rejection of all time is the short, sweet “This isn’t right for us, but we’d be interested to see anything else you have.”

That makes it all worthwhile. It’s not acceptance. It’s still a rejection. But it offers that one ingredient without which a writer cannot continue to shout his words into the void in solitary defiance of the odds. It dangles that little thing that has the power to change your view of the world and your place in it. It can make you forge ahead with renewed vigor and determination.

It’s hope.

And it’s beautiful.

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writing

The Relative Levels of Rejection, Part II

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We’ve looked at the silence residing at the base of the rejection pyramid in the publishing world. Now let’s drag ourselves up a step and see what other forms of discouragement are waiting to greet submissions.

I used to think the form rejection was a sad comment in and of itself, but then I discovered its extraordinary, toxic cousin. I call it the Drunk-With-Power rejection. Now, I’ve only received one of these, and only heard of a couple of others that found their way to writer-friends, but, boy-howdy, do they stick out. Here…you’ll see what I mean:

“Thank you for thinking of ***** Publishing. I only accept the very best. Lots of writers send me their work, but they have to be really good for me to consider associating my name with them…”

And then:

“I’m sure there are other agents who’ll want this, but I only work with writers I believe will make it big. Really big.”

Now, serious writers do their homework when contacting agents. I make it a point to visit websites, Google client lists, read bios. Your aim is to find the best fit, the most receptive ear for your voice. Failing that, you hope to find the best possible slush pile that will give your work a soft landing when it skitters its anonymous way onto the heap. You also send submissions out in batches, so the details of your research probably don’t reside in your long-term memory. They’re overwritten by subsequent searches.

But I just had to go back and retrace the path that led to the producer of this particular rejection.

As I tapped away on my humble keyboard, expectations blossomed in my mind. Surely this pundit of the publishing industry would have a client list of luminaries that included those worthy of sharing shelf-space with the likes of Hemingway, Steinbeck…Shakespeare, for God’s sake! What I found staring back at me was someone who looked as though she still shopped in the junior section for her wardrobe using Mommy’s credit card.

Someone who had been working as an agent for a grand total of two months.

Someone who I had selected, because she described herself as eager to build a client list of up-and-coming writers who worked with speculative fiction and the darker side of fantasy.

Someone who, today, is no longer with that publishing company. Or any other as far as I know.

Hmmmmm…I wonder why….

So on my ladder, one step up from silence, is the rejection that kicks you to the curb as it strokes the agent’s ego. Drunk-With-Power.

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Next time, the many faces of the form rejection….Ooh, yippee!

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writing

The Relative Levels of Rejection, Part I

thumbsdownEvery hopeful writer knows about the special rejection spawned by the literary world.

It’s not a big deal after a while. It’s an undercurrent flowing through your creative life, but one that’s relegated to its own ignominious cesspool. So when I see people tweeting and blogging and otherwise digitally whining about how undeserved or unkind rejection is, I have to stop and analyze my own reaction to its various faces. Bear in mind, this isn’t necessarily reality…only my interpretation of it. And since it makes me happy, I’m loathe to abandon it.

The fact is, rejection occurs on many different levels when it comes from publishers and agents; somewhat akin to Dante’s levels of Hell. Let’s reflect on the path to success by  investigating failure…beginning at the bottom and clawing our way upwards. Today, we visit the dregs, the bottom, the base of the rejection pyramid.

A low point in rejection is silence. No reaction at all. Inside your head a tiny, malevolent voice squeaks, “See? Your work is completely negligible.”

Then it goes for the coup de grace. “YOU’RE completely negligible.”

If you enjoy wallowing in a moment of self-pity, go ahead. Sometimes a little inner angst can be fun. You can use it for the next tortured character you write. But then, kick that little voice in the nuts…realize it has none…and recognize it for what it is: a nothing that could mean anything.

Maybe your submission got lost in the mail, or was eaten by internet gremlins.

Maybe the recipient was sidelined by salmonella, or a vacation, or death. Depending on your proclivity for anger, revenge, or forgiveness, take a moment to imagine whichever fate restores your equanimity.

Or maybe…just maybe…you didn’t follow the submission guidelines.

Or maybe…just maybe…your query was so out there, it’s now making the rounds of the recipient’s water cooler crowd, which today means any of the proliferation of social networks, garnering raised eyebrows and vicariously embarrassed giggles.

Choose one of the above possibilities. Go back. Investigate. Rework. Try again. Because this particular rejection isn’t failure. It’s a wakeup call to develop professional skills like discipline, attention to detail, and persistence.

As someone once said: “There’s a word for writers who don’t give up…PUBLISHED.”

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Next time, let’s look at what other delightful genres of rejection await one step up from silence. Oh, goody…

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Submission: Act & Attitude

You pour blood, sweat, tears, and whatever else your life exudes for months on end, into your manuscript. If it survives, it’ll be your first published novel.

You’ve edited. You’ve polished. You’ve re-re-re-polished. Finally, finally, you’re ready to begin the submission process. (Although the polishing will never stop; you’ll be prodding and poking at it with relentless obsession until either success or defeat pry you away from the keyboard and slam you against the wall.)

Every writer who’s walked the walk of submission knows the tortured steps.

First, the dreaded query letter looms. You must distill your story down to a couple hundred words, turning it into a literary sphincter that grips the reader with strength and persistence, forcing him to cry out for the release of knowing more. You must also hit just the right balance of confidence and supplication. You’re luring, baiting, enticing. And then gripping! Gripping HARD!

Everything must be targeted. Your manuscript must fit a genre, and you better know which one it is. The agent you choose to entreat must be a proponent of said genre, and you better know his background, too.

Many potential agents require a synopsis. Think of it as a query on steroids. Longer. Bigger. But it must retain that sphincter-like quality that sucks the reader in. It must be emotional and immediate, demanding a right to exist.

Many publishers also require you have a website; someplace where they can browse your personality, your ‘voice,’ to greater depth. Or maybe they just want a good laugh while eating a tuna sandwich at their desk, about who’s out there banging on their door.

All of this is well and good for the most part. It puts you through your paces, forcing you to see your work from different angles. Sometimes it leads to a moment of revelation, resulting in a great, big, fat rewrite. Sometimes it just makes you calm down enough to abandon the idea of grabbing agents by the lapels and shaking them because they don’t see what a terrific find you are.

But the part of submission that hits me like a sea-change, is the attitude adjustment.

All this time you’ve been The Creator. The Sole Authority. The one gifted with divine inspiration to tell your story as no other can.

And now, with the click of a key and the flip of a switch…you’re a beggar. A supplicant.

And you realize that submission isn’t only the act of presenting your work. It’s the act of bending your knee and bowing your head and hoping someone will hear the squeak of your voice that was once a roar as it crafted words into marvels of imagination.

This is submission. Expose your belly.

Welcome to Hell.

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