05/17/16

Rejection Turned Writing Break

 

d6dabc193499b1e8baaaf0884a759743I am currently shopping When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal to literary agents. I have been rejected 63 times already. The last rejection was the first one that provided me any feedback. Its feedback included some of  what my beta readers tried to hit on but, didn’t quite. But, I’m not sure I can rework anything now with this project that started its infancy — rough outline and lots of thinking about it — back in 2009 and I did the final rewrite and typed The End in November of 2015. In January, I started looking for literary representation.

Sixty-three rejections may seem like a lot. It is. However, I had determined that I wouldn’t quit until at least 122 no-thank-yous filled my email, giving me one more rejection than what it took Robert M. Pirsig to get Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance accepted for publication. In my efforts, last week’s feedback from one agent willing to take just an extra minute and explain their thoughts on my work, although good  – drilling down to the core of why this manuscript is unique and a hard sell, created a feeling of futility in me. I felt like I should just quit. It didn’t matter that this one agent said I was a good writer. I’ll be 50 years old in November and the traditionally published novel evades me. I wrote my first “book” at 8 years old. By 18, and hundreds of short stories and essays later,  I had written my first full-length novel. Today I have probably 30 novels in various states of completion.

However, When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal was the one that felt like professional-caliber stuff, my magnum opus, if you will. This was the story I needed the world to see. But rejection #63 about killed any energy and motivation I had, even given that it was the nicest of the entire haul of rejections.

In a way, I have quit. Allow me to elaborate. Last week, I lamented in my Sno Valley Writes! blog that I was at that cusp of quitting, and needed some encouragement, advice, what have you, from my fellow writers to keep my writer’s sanity. Truly, I was as close to quitting writing as I have ever come. Many an artist friend responded and told me to not give up. My ever-supportive spouse said to keep fighting. But, none of that was helping.

Then, a good friend of mine, fellow writer, and Sno Valley Writes! member, Sheri J. Kennedy, suggested I take a break. No writing, no editing, no forced morning pages. Just say goodbye to my butt-in-chair attitude on my writing life. She firmly, but lovingly told me to do this until I was rested, rejuvenated, and willing to get back into it. She even gave a nod to that fact that #LifewithAutism has been extremely trying on my patience bandwidth. She keyed in that I needed to give myself permission to take a break. Much like I urged all my fellow writers back in 2008 with the creation of Sno Valley Writes! to give themselves permission to be writers, I needed to give myself permission to not write.Creative-Cycle

But not doing anything as a writer has never been a part of my life. The creative cycle always includes a marker of self-doubt, and angst. I normally acknowledge it, feel pissy about it for a few hours (yes, just hours) and fly right through to loving my writing again. This time has been different. I am at the six-day mark. No writing. No pitching. No editing. No journaling. And until this particular post, no blogging. When that voice said I should be working on The Perthshire Gargoyles, or pitching, or editing Wilderness Rim, I just pulled a Nancy Reagan and said, “No.”

Given that I’ve written this blog post, a seeming necessary step to acknowledging my writing sabbatical, I may be slowly coming out of the writing funk I’ve been in. The key word is slowly. Being a writer in a society that puts little value on art and stories seems a fool’s journey. However, as another fellow writer, Bill Reynolds, said to me, “Writing is not a habit. It’s an identity.” I have identified as a writer for as long as I can remember.

Bill also said, “I once read, ‘we are all writers.’ In the sense that those of us literate enough to write, do write, we are indeed all writers. But we all do not say I am a playwright, an essayist, a novelist, or even a ghostwriter. We may all read, and many of us will say that we are readers, or avid readers. But only a select few of us will identify as editors. Writers will often critique or review the writing of others. In that role, we may say we are critics. One who does art may, or may not, identify as an artist. If they do, they may further qualify as a painter, sketch artist, sculptor, potter, actor, glass artist, illustrator, dramatist, director, or writer. I am a writer, a novice in the fictional and creative art of writing, still-in-all, I identify as a writer regardless of the acceptance or opinion of others simply because that is what I do. It has nothing to do with being published, what I write, how good or skilled I am, what anyone thinks of my writing, my grammar or spelling. The only thing that currently matters is that I write. It is what I am. If you write….”

Bill is correct. I am a writer. I’ll come back to it, eventually. However, the break right now is needed. You can’t write for an entire lifetime nonstop without taking a break. We’re Human. Breaks are part of the deal, whether it’s a night’s sleep, a vacation, even an afternoon nap. You have to rest. That’s where I am right now: Writing Rest.

See you again when I’m done taking a writing rest.

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01/26/16

Inkster Dispatch: 2016 Con Attendance

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Con Logo via Twitter

Conventions for a writer are a great avenue for networking, learning, and inspiration. Each year I try to go to at least one.

Last year I did WorldCon — likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When I left Spokane in August, my goal was to go to Iceland and Dublin and wherever else they decided to have it. But now I may be going to Scotland as part of a research trip for my current Work In Progress (WIP) this year, which means I’d miss out on 2016’s World Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention. However, I am not con-less for 2016. I’ll likely swing by NORWESCON 39 in March; however, I’m really looking forward to a new upstart con: WE ARE ALL SF. It’s inaugural convention will be in Ocean Shores, Washington in November. I registered today. I also got signed up for the writer’s workshop for it. There’s some really cool folks and authors that will be a part of this, so I’m excited. November will be here before I know it.

How about you? What conventions are you attending this year? What am I maybe missing that I need to consider?

10/28/15

To NaNoWriMo or Not

enhanced-buzz-30688-1383087383-0I’m staring at my editing desk, my draft in process of the final revision (dear universe, I hope!), and fighting to free write on a new story, one that I have been wrestling for space in my creative mind for more than a month now, the first ideas of which trickled into my brain about a year ago. However, I am still in the throes of editing a work in progress. A work in progress that has taken me too long to write, edit, and revise. I had hoped to be done before November 1 so that I might join the lovely writers of SnoValley Writes!, the writing community I founded back in 2008, and the Snoqualmie Valley Region for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I didn’t NaNo last year because I was working on this book and trying to get short stories published. Here it is a year later and I am doing the same.

In today’s author market, this means I’m moving too slow and may need NaNo to re-teach me how to get faster, work better with deadlines, and generally write harder.

I always loved the community of NaNo time. However, I have a writing originalcommunity here. We gather weekly. We workshop monthly. This isn’t anything new for me, I haven’t been in the solitary writing wastelands without the nod of another pen monkey. We hang in the local cafes whispering or shouting about sentence structure, tropes, and why science fiction fans are so (insert your own adjective). If I need fresh blood, I can scoot on over to The Richard Hugo House and get classes, more authorly camaraderie. My word-whore community is large and strong. NaNo won’t give me more. If anything, it might overwhelm me.

I have, I estimate, about another 40 hours work on this book before it will be done, done, done. I don’t have 40 hours of time between working on clients’ work, taking care of my special-needs son, and my other household and urban homestead responsibilities. Hell, last night I had great full moon energy and instead opted to read in bed instead of continue to edit (reading is just a much a part of being a writer as writing is).

crazy-nanoThe first time I did NaNoWriMo it was 2005. I didn’t “win” that year because I ended up having emergency spinal surgery (old Army injuries coming to roost). But, it taught me much about the kind of writer I am, that a community is important, and that all those other novels in my writing trunk were like my son hitting the batting cages during baseball season – it’s practice and helps to only further your skills, game, and passion. I was a Municipal Liaison for my region from 2008 until 2011. That taught me about time management, encouragement, and the joy of sharing a nerdom with other people.

My decision this year is do I need any of that, or do I need to finish WHEN A RAVEN PECKS OUT YOUR NORMAL for good? The new story brewing in me may not be ready for even a zero draft. It may deter me away from the prize of shopping the current WIP. Or maybe I can pull a NaNo-like marathon and finish the draft and hit NaNo with all the joyful bliss of a newbie to it come November 1st. I can see the pros and cons of both.

nanoIt will likely be a game-day decision for me.

Are you doing NaNo? Why? What advice would you give to this veteran and struggling writer?

 

 

 

 

02/6/15

Free-Range Fiction: I’ll Take Monday

If you’re here, you’re here because you are linking back from Chuck Wendig’s site and his Flash Fiction Challenge as of Feb. 6, 2015, The Four-Part Story (Part I). Okay, you might be here because you read my blog regularly. If so, thank you and keep checking back for the progress of this challenge, as it will not be complete for a few weeks. 

My “entry” for this challenge is a piece I started so long ago. I’m famous for starting stuff that pops in my head and then abandoning it. Rather, life makes me abandon it. This challenge was perfect for me to bring it out and dust it off again.  It was only two paragraphs when I first opened it up. The rest of the words were started today. Herr Wendig gave us 1,000 words for the first part. This is creeping in at 858. I wanted to give folks some wiggle room for the middle. I always need more words in the middle. At any rate, really curious to see where another writer is going to take this. 

By the way, whomever picks this up to go for part II, I can very much share this with you in google docs if you prefer. Super simple. Ahh, modern technology makes being a writer so much easier. Because, you know, it’s not hard at all. 

In all seriousness….Read Word Nerds:

I’ll Take Monday

Thursday was out to get me. Most people hate Mondays and call it their worst day of the week. However, mine was always Thursday. This Thursday was already a beast and it wasn’t even 6:45 a.m. My neighbor woke me with his bag pipe playing. When I yelled at him, he apologized and said the mused has attacked him and he couldn’t resist. I would mind being awoken by the sounds of two geese committing Hari-kiri much less, truly, if he could play something other than Brian Boru March and actually played it well. But badly was my neighbor’s playing style.

He continued to play even though I yelled at him. I tried to pretend it was a soundtrack for my shower. Not very sexy or invigorating.

Looking in the bathroom mirror, I found a pimple in the middle of my forehead. Strange desires to take my razor and shave off the zit hit me. I honestly couldn’t stop myself. Blood ran everywhere. The hand towel looks like it was tie-dyed in blood. Not attractive in the least. Eventually I got it to stop bleeding and put one of those stupid-looking circle bandages over where a simple blemish had been. At that point I was late to catch the bus to work. I needed coffee and shoes. I dashed to grab a travel tumbler of coffee and felt my stocking feet ooze into something wet and sticky. I looked down. Cat puke.  I love Mr. Waffle, but he truly is a cocksucker sometimes.

Ten minutes later, I was finally out the door. At the bus stop, I was alone. The next bus didn’t arrive for another fifteen minutes or so. However, I felt like I was safer leaving the house than staying. I was deep into a puzzle app on my phone when I smelled something foul. I looked up and a few feet away stood a woman. She was just barely a senior citizen, I reckoned. She didn’t look at me, but only at the zit on my forehead, or rather the bandage that covered it up. I hoped she wouldn’t’ ask me about it. The fact that she hadn’t showered in quite some time was assaulting my nose. I tried to covertly stick my nose deep into my shirt. This, I remember, is why Europeans where scarves all the time. I put my phone away and tried to make a mental note of everything I had to get done at work that day.  Ugh. I still hadn’t gotten in my weekly report to my supervisor and she was going to be all over my ass as soon as I walked in the door.

The bus arrived and I took to my normal seat, although because I’d  missed the earlier bus, this bus was less crowded. The seating options were plentiful. But, I’m a creature of habit – about a third of the way back in the bus on the right-hand side, against the window. The stinky lady took her sweet time getting on the bus and then scanned around. She took a moment longer to look at the seat next to me. Shit. I put my bag on the aisle seat that was vacant. It didn’t work. Stinky lady sat down right next to me. She’d nearly sat on my bag, but I ninja’d it back into my lap before her noxious gas was on my bag, too. There were more than a dozen other seats she could have sat in. I would have gotten off at the next stop if I wasn’t already late for work, so I had to ride all the way into downtown, nearly gagging all the way there.

In the elevator at work people looked at me funny, and when the mailroom guy, Toby, got on at one of the stops towards my floor, he flat out told me, “Killian, You stink!” I stammered about a hobo lady sitting next to me on the bus, but nobody listened.

This is why so many people keep a spare set of clothes at the office.

At my desk I sprayed air freshener hoping it would eat the stink fumes I’d inherited on the bus. I made the guy in the cubicle next to me cough.

“Sorry,” I meekly offered.

The message light on my phone was blinking. It made me feel annoyed. First message was from my boss:  weekly reports. I deleted it. Second message was from my friend, Frannie. “Killian, you have to call me right now, it’s an emergency!” Her last emergency was trying to decide between a Main Coon or a Scottish Fold cat.

Frannie’s likely non-emergency or my boss?

I let my computer warm up and just sat there a moment. Just being. Doing nothing.

When I could justify no more “downtime,” regardless of Bag Pipe Alarm Clock, I opened my email.

My mother had sent me an email and the subject line read YOU NEED TO CALL ME RIGHT AWAY. My mother still did not understand that all caps meant you were yelling.

Boss, Frannie, or Mom?

Then I opened up the spreadsheet to populate the report.

I was just about to export the data and the phone rang.

(Here’s the rest of the tale:  http://tonij.net/2015/03/ill-take-monday-parts-1-4/ written by electrcrngr and ToniJ).

 

 

01/5/15

Inkster Dispatch:  She’s a hot mess, but there’s still good news

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I have just spent the last 30 minutes searching for a notebook where I had done an idea exercise. I generated about 50 ideas for my blog to tackle this year.

Can I find said notebook?

Nope. I tore apart all the usual places and then some. I can’t find the notebook anywhere. This is another example of how I’ve been loath to completely organize my write life electronically.  But in this instance, I have no excuses. Real life experience is smacking me in the face and saying, “Wake Up, Inkster! The digital age requires your presence.”

My hesitancy is obviously control. But when I think about spending 30 minutes searching for a notebook, can I really say I am in control? Not even.

Therefore, from now on there will be an idea folder in my hard drive, on the back-up thumb drive, and hoisted up on Google Drive.

Speaking of Google Drive, I’m anxiously awaiting the next email from a publisher who accepted my first serious essay. This email will hold a link to a shared Google Drive box for some editorial improvement. More evidence that electronic organization is industry standard anymore and I’ve got to stop being so lazy. Oh, wait. Yeah. I got a piece accepted. The ink is not dry on the contract, so I can’t give any details away, except that I got a really serious essay accepted.

//Happy Dance//

With increased traffic in my write-life, I need to stay organized. I’m getting the message loud and clear. However, it does make me nervous. To have all my ideas stuck in just an electronic file. So, maybe…

No. Don’t do it.

But, why not?

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Why not have a notebook dedicated for my ideas? It can be stored in a file in my desk, clearly labeled “idea notebook,” and then transcribed to an electronic file and then backed up? There’s no reason, save my ability to be disciplined. There’s that word again. I talked a lot about that in my last blog post regarding my write life’s goals and plans for 2015. Yes, friends, organization saves you precious time and it only takes a moment’s effort more to do what needs to be done.

I once read that truly disciplined people are spotted by simply seeing how their shoes are organized.  If they are neat and dress-right-dress in their closet, they are organized. As always, there are always exceptions to the rule, like my friend in college, whose shoes were in clear boxes labeled and color coded, and very much dress-right-dress. But the rest of her place was disorganized and frequently downright messy.  I’m not that exception or the rule.  I kick off my shoes in the general direction of my closet. I didn’t used to be like that. I used to be dress-right-dress, both before and after I got out of the Army. But, once I embraced the artistic lifestyle, there are some things I felt were “unnecessary.” Do you know how long I took to find the mate to one of my shoes the other morning? Another 10 minutes that could have been spent in artistic pursuits. I can write 250 words in 10 minutes. Every minute is lost words.

So in order to be truly disciplined, I know I have to embrace total digital organization. I will, however, have a hard copy. You know, just in case the zombie apocalypse hits us and I’m holed up with nothing else to do but fill notebooks with stories.

Screw it. Just made a new idea notebook.

Screw it. Just made a new idea notebook.

Stay tuned for news about where that piece of mine will be published. Oh, by the way, I need to end this post with a shout out to Herr Chuck Wendig, who told me last year during a Goodreads conversation that I needed to just begin storing up stories – you know like a Penmonkey Prepper. His advice was dead on the bull’s-eye. The compounding of writing things and piling them up to send out is upping my numbers game. If things keep up this way, I’ll have something published each month this year.

It’s a numbers game, friends. Write. Revise. Polish. Send it Out. Rinse. Repeat. Oh, and stay organized.