It’s almost tamale making time so I’ll be deep into making various traditional and vegan tamales with the family. But before that happens, I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope you are enjoying your time with your loved ones and continuing or making new traditions.
The time between Christmas Day and New Years Day is a perfect time to read a new book, journal, or decide your writing goals for the new year.
I’ve collected a few posts on writing that I hope you find helpful:
Rejection letters can knock you on your butt. And that’s okay, it happens, stuff hurts, rejection sucks. But you can’t stay on the floor, rubbing your a**.
1. Get your butt off the floor and go do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, draw, watch a comedy, play with your kids or pet. This includes eating or drinking-5 minute limit. Put on the timer.
After 30+ ‘thank you, but no thank you’ emails on one manuscript and going on 20 for another, I’ve numbed out when I begin reading text that begins with “Dear Author.” (As I type, I swear another ‘Dear Author’ email blurb popped up on my screen).
2. Don’t stuff your feelings. I usually say, “Ah, crap,” or “Pftttt.” Sometimes I whine, “I’m never going to get published….” You can ‘wau-wau’ ‘boo-boo,’ but only for five minutes-again, put on the timer.
3. Think of the ‘no thank you,’ like James Lee Burke (his novels have been made into films):
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
—James Lee Burke
I’ve also had many more emails that begin with my actual name and say some nice things before the ‘NO’ comes. The agent tries to soften the blow. Bless his/her little heart.
4. With each rejection, I file the email in my little folder and then I either re-read the MS, or ask my writing sisters for more critique. Keep trying.
Twice, out of 50+ times, I’ve had what felt like B-12 shots to the heart.
“I’d love to read more, please send the entire manuscript…”
Six weeks later I get another type of shot, one in the butt.
“After careful consideration….Uh, no.” Well that’s not entirely true. One rejection felt like that while the other was thoughtful.
5. If someone gives you specific criticism, regard it as a gift. Let them know you appreciate their comments.
This agent took the time to explain why she didn’t accept the MS. She supplied some examples, some suggestions, all in a couple of paragraphs. I felt respected, overjoyed, and then grateful.
I shared the agents comments with my writing sisters. They were happy for me. Why? Because I know, we know, that I am much farther along the road to getting an acceptance than I once thought. I’m going to work on those weak areas for the next month or until I get it right.
“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.”
Rejection letters are part of the process of writing. That’s just the way it is, for writers, for everybody. It takes a strong woman/man, a bien chingona to keep writing pass the hill of rejection letters.
6. Turn your rejection around and see what you can gain. Go get the timer again. Shut off your computer. Now, write out your feelings, huff and puff, or boo-hoo on paper. Rip it to shreds if you want. Slam dunk it into the wastebasket. Or put it away for when you need that kind of emotion in one of your stories or poems.
7. Keep growing. Attend a critique group. Enroll in online or offline classes. Keep reading. Attend at least one conference a year. Spend more time on your writing work than on social media. (You can devote more time to that area after you’re published).
Writing, like old age, is not for wusses. It takes patience, resilience, strength, and a little bit of crazy to keep on keeping on with your stories. It takes a whole lot of crazy, and love, to participate and finish NaNoWriMo. This year 303, 754 people signed up for NNWM. Stay out of their way until December.
Are you all sufficiently tired, stressed and behind on your NNWM goals. I’m not participating this year, made up my own thing-but back to this later.
In November 2011, I participated in NaNoWriMo. I remember clearly how I went through the roller coaster of excitement, joined a NaNo support group, rah-rah when word count met, and satisfaction.
Cool ride until mini emergencies happened, then I plummeted when I couldn’t make the time. I talked bad about myself. Did all that, ‘I’m not a writer,’ what the hell am I getting carpal tunnel for, who cares, waa-waa.
The next day I put on the big girl chones and rode again. Up, up until I broke through my own NaNo glass ceiling.
Again, I slide further below my word count. Now I didn’t want to make time. I threw out word count goals for the day, tried to relax and wrote when I felt like it (but I made myself feel like it six times a week). Sometimes I wrote for 10 minutes, other times for three hours.
I got it done. Got the badge and everything. I spent a couple of months in 2012 completing the story and then I let the manuscript sit for two more months.
Time passed while I got busy revising a previous manuscript, creating queries, and struggling through writing the synopsis for two manuscripts. I parked the NaNo manuscript in a folder on my desktop-until last month.
This year I created my own writing challenge. I did NaNo Revision Month or NaNoReMo. The ms word count is 65,000 so I divided that number by 26 days (no work on Sundays). My goal is to revise 2,500 words each working day. So far, so good.
This infographic is very helpful. You can find a printable list to use as a checklist when you decide to do your own NaNoReMo.
Writers know that revisions come in rounds, like a boxing match, a heavyweight one. Someone I find extremely helpful is Holly Lisle. She has a bunch of information on revising your manuscript. She calls it the One Pass Manuscript Revision. I found it challenging but helpful.
Good luck to all you NaNo’s and keep writing. You can catch up on sleep in December.
After a short birthday break in beautiful San Diego, California, I’m back to my writer’s world, feeling a little down.
Like many writers one gets discouraged after a couple of years or five. I’m most happy when I’m writing stories, following the character on a journey, ending up in places I hadn’t intended. I have to confess that I like revision too. At least I’m still with my characters, in the story.
Right now I’m in the close to blah place: sending out queries, reading rejection letters and submitting poetry and short pieces to small journals.
What perks me up is blogging. I can write, post, maybe a few readers or fellow writers like the subject, and I feel a connection to the comments. Someone hears me, someone is talking with me. It feels like community. This helps motivate me to keep on keeping on.
Today, I want to continue with what I learned at the A Room of Her Own (AROHO) writer’s retreat last month.
Agents. Ack! FInding one is like searching for the Holy Grail. They don’t drop out of the sky or come knocking at your door. A writer hopes their query letter grabs and holds them until they finish reading the darn letter, jot down your name, and call you. It could happen. Or not.
Truth is Literary Agents are working people. They have to make a living. If they take a gamble on a writer, the odds better be in their favor.
I’ve noticed that in the last three years, conferences invite Agents and writers to participate in an Agent/Writer speed dating event. The writer has 90 seconds to 3 minutes to make their pitch before the bell rings and the writer moves on. Nerve-wracking, mind boggling, exhausting (but that’s just my opinion).
For those of you who don’t chose to pay and involve yourself with the speed dating scene (at least for now), here’s some advice and wisdom from an agent I had the pleasure to hear speak at AROHO 2013.
Joy Harris established the Harris Literary Agency. She is most interested in literary fiction and narrative non-fiction. Her interest is in working directly with writers to help guide their careers, negotiate on their behalf, and protect their work. At the AROHO retreat she presented a short workshop on
“What I Wish Writer’s Knew.”
“Who is going to read my book.” Writers should have a good idea of their audience. Tip: “Everyone,” is not the answer. Think age range, educational level, personal or professional, and interests. Communicate this to an agent.
Your MS has to excite the agent, right away from that first sentence of the first paragraph. Editors and Agents have less time and the pile of manuscripts (MS) is higher.
Find avenues to get your shorter works published. Research journals and small presses. Get your work out there. (I subscribe to Poets and Writers magazine and they have an online search for writing contests and journals).
Approach an Agent Appropriately. Find out which agents represent books in your genre. Read the submission rules and follow them. Keep your query letter short-one page. Be prepared to make your pitch short and sweet. (Rachelle Gardner has a fill in the blank pitch).
Short stories and memoirs are not selling as well as before, but are much easier to publish if the short stories/memoir is your second or third book.
Self-publishing and E-Book publishing are difficult. Be prepared to be the agent, writer, publisher and marketer.
Publishers want writers with a platform whether it is celebrity, social media, or professional connections.
Publishers want writers to have publishing credits: work in journals, magazines, awards, contest winners or honorable mentions.
Contracts: Don’t sign a contract that ties you to an agent for “…all future works.” It should have a 30 day notice of termination.
Bottom line is there is no easy road to publishing, but we can prepare ourselves with up-to-date maps, rest stops, and visits along the way to make the cross country journey a little easier.
Inner strength, patience, humor, and community helps. So does coffee, dark chocolate and good wine.