Friday, May 17, 2013
So remember that manuscript submission contest I was chosen for? Well, let's just say I received the first rejection I've gotten in a long time. Ah, the form letter rejection...how I've missed thee!
I can't say this was unexpected. Even as I pitched Lost, I had a feeling it wouldn't be for this publisher. It was so much darker than their other titles. I still think that, as an exercise, the experience of putting everything else in my life aside in order to get that book polished and ready to send was very worthwhile. I'm glad I did it, form letter notwithstanding.
I'm even a little relieved, because although that manuscript isn't doing me any favors sitting in my figurative closet, I want to do right by it. And the more I learned about the publisher, the more I suspected they weren't the best way to go about introducing Lost to the masses. It's an old book, but one I still care deeply about. It's not that this publisher isn't great--they've done very good things for an online writing friend of mine. They just don't tend to publish the type of books I write, at least as far as I can see. So they're just not that into me...cool. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Except....
Have you ever noticed that the not-so-great stuff always seems to happen at once? This has been a rough week. I had a nasty, pointless fight with a good friend that left us both in tears. A deadline got moved up so I now have to work through the long weekend. A big bad penny turned up again. I was put in the middle of a scuffle between two clients. I came down with the cold from hell. I found out one of my favorite clients in the world is retiring. And now, the rejection of my book to top it off. There are lots of worse things that could happen to a person, I know. But as far as weeks go, this one hasn't been too stellar.
I promised myself that if I was going to share the journey with you, I would really share the journey: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Behind every best-seller is a lot of tears, teeth-gnashing and plain old fashioned angst.
For those of you who've never seen a form rejection (you lucky folks), they go something like this:
Thank you for participating in our first Query Blast contest. We have reviewed your submission of Lost, and I am sorry to say we have decided not to pursue it for publication.
We wish you the best of luck in your writing career and hope you will consider us for your future projects.
How do you handle rejection, Dear Readers? And how was your week?
Posted by Story Teller at 2:56 AM
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Happy Hump Day, Dear Readers.
I come from a long line of stubborn people. Even when she could barely breathe and was carting an oxygen tank along, my grandmother still insisted on taking care of her farm by herself. Is it any surprise I struggle with letting someone carry a bag for me?
Still, I acknowledge that there are times when it just makes sense to ask for help. As much as I'd like to live on an island, I'm not one of them, and if figuring things out for myself doesn't work, it's time to go to an expert. An expert doesn't have to have fancy credentials, in my opinion. I'm sure you're surrounded by awesome people who are experts in many things, and if you're smart, you learn what you can from each of them.
One of my favorite bloggers of all time is Kyla Roma. Kyla never fails to inspire me because she was brave enough to leave an unfulfilling day job to achieve her creative dreams (sound familiar?). And even though she's working full-time on her own design business now, she's still striving to find other ways of being creative. I make a point of reading all of her posts, and I always discover something new.
Her last post included an offer from a life coach. I've never considered working with a "life coach" before...I'm not sure why. But lately I've been restless and searching for something. While I love working for myself and am grateful every single day that I've made this move, it's not perfect (of course not). I see the potential to get completely absorbed by my day-to-day freelance assignments and never work on my fiction writing, which was the whole point of striking off on my own. And even though I work from home, I still feel like I'm always behind the eight ball. There's so much more that I want to accomplish that never seems to get done, from the extraordinary to the mundane ('call doctor' has been on my to-do list now for over two months).
Can I figure out the problem on my own? Some of it is attributable to that all-consuming distraction, Facebook. That much I know. But I'm very excited to begin working with Ashley of Super Awesome Life this coming Monday. I've never had an objective, completely invested person take a hard look at my goals, my responsibilities, and my daily schedule with an eye to seeing where the problems lie. I'm a bit skeptical but also hugely optimistic about the potential. I know where I want to go--I just need a little help finding the right path.
Have you ever worked with a life coach? If so, what was your experience like? What were the results? Would you do it again?
I'll keep you posted on how the process works for me. Happy Wednesday!
Posted by Story Teller at 9:51 AM
Thursday, May 2, 2013
When I first started this blog, I had a plan. I wanted to start writing again and I wanted to take my love of kickboxing to the next level by fighting in the ring. I did both, but it took me longer and I encountered more challenges along the way than I ever would have thought possible.
Along the way I learned some very important things about myself. For starters, it is nearly impossible for me to remain completely immersed (The Boy would say "obsessed") about more than one thing at a time. As much as I'd like to believe that I can be immersed in the writing world AND the martial arts world simultaneously, it hasn't worked in practice. I think that's because I don't do either halfheartedly. When I was training to fight, I was training for hours six days a week, and then there was the meal-planning, the stretching, the visualizing, making sure I got enough sleep, etc. It really was a full-time job.
The same goes for writing. Writing isn't just the act itself, but all the things that must come along with it--the thinking, reading, goal-setting, and marketing. Just like martial arts, it has a community, and the more serious you get about writing, the more apt you are to reach out to like-minded souls. Both writing and kickboxing can be very isolating pursuits. As you walk into the ring alone, so you go into your writing room alone. If you're at all a social animal, as I am, you need to form certain bonds and alliances with colleagues or you'll go stark-raving mad.
Where I am going with this? Well, after much thought, I have decided this blog needs to be refocused if it is going to survive. While I would like to go back to kickboxing, as I miss it very much and I've definitely suffered from a lack of physical fitness, I doubt I will fight again. I can't say never...I am very tempted to repeat the experience, especially since I'm not satisfied with how the first one went. But I am under no delusions at this point of my life that I will be a full-time professional kickboxer. My goal is very much to be a full-time novelist. So everything else is merely a distraction, and while it's important for me to be of sound mind and body, I don't need to put in the hours required to maintain fighting shape (which would definitely refocus my attention on all things muay thai again). Physical fitness is something I need to incorporate into my writing life, instead of the other way around.
The way I see it, time is running out to focus seriously on my writing. Sometime in the year 2015, which is not too far away, I am packing up and moving to a tropical destination (more on that later). This is not some pie-in-the-sky, maybe it will happen or maybe it won't kind of dream--it is, as much as anything in life can be, a sure thing. And I plan to make my life on that island possible by writing. Stranger things have happened.
I hope you'll bear with me and join me on the journey as I dedicate myself fully to my writing and take the necessary steps to leave a place where it is winter ten months of the year. And I hope you'll share your own journeys with me. No one likes to write in a vacuum.
Posted by Story Teller at 11:55 AM
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Early Wednesday morning (3 am, to be exact), I saw a request for one of my manuscripts from a publisher.
The manuscript was pretty much ready to go, but since I hadn't looked at it in years, I couldn't send it to a publisher without a quick read-through for errors, typos, and other glitches. But as anyone who's ever spent some time editing knows, reading something with a critical eye is never a quick process.
For the rest of the week, every free moment was spent working on that manuscript. I moved appointments and shuffled freelance assignments in order to give it everything I had. Sleep has definitely been sacrificed, as were my plans to return to kickboxing this week and for The Boy and I to start going on regular date nights.
And while I can't always put my life on hold to focus on a manuscript this intently, I got to thinking that this is exactly how it should be.
I know everyone who's ever written or wanted to write says this, but I've been writing books since I was five years old. (Back then they were mostly tales of a fish family who lived in terror of a bear that somehow stalked them under the ocean.)
When I was a teenager, writing novels and stories was my main form of entertainment. That and reading. I wasn't into sports and I wasn't much for TV.
As a young adult and then a college student, I spent my summers working on manuscripts. I never felt deprived. I LOVED it! Living in my imaginary worlds was where I was the happiest, even though those worlds were usually very dark.
But at some point, things changed. Probably when I started writing for a living. I began to procrastinate, dreading the thought of more hours spent at the computer (although spending those hours writing lengthy emails was never a problem...hmm...).
It got to the point where suddenly my writing was the thing to be sacrificed. I've been consumed by relationships, jobs, kickboxing, freelance work, cooking, even gardening...but I can't remember the last time I truly gave my written world every thing I had.
Clearly it's healthier to have balance. I can't spend my life in a bathrobe, consuming endless amounts of caffeine and eating only what's easy and readily available, peering at my laptop in a darkened room until I can barely focus. But this exercise retaught me what I first learned when I was a kid:
Writing is not just what I do. It's who I am. And if I hope to succeed at it, it has to occupy a significant portion of my life. It can't just be pushed into the scraps of time I have left after everything else.
I have a strong suspicion that my manuscript won't be what this publisher is looking for. It seems much darker than their other books. But that's okay. In writing, as in life, it's all about the journey. I'm glad I took the time to focus on what's important again.
In this case, the exercise was its own reward.
Posted by Story Teller at 2:16 PM
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I've always believed that fortune favors the bold. Unfortunately, for too many years I was afraid to be one of them. I was stuck in a great big rut.
With the full support of a pretty amazing partner, I finally took a very bold step last December. I left the security of a stable pay cheque and the prestige of being a director in order to be my own boss and focus on my own writing. Whenever people hear what I was getting paid in my last position, they are shocked that I would make such a dramatic move. To them I say:
Money isn't everything.
In fact, some of my colleagues suspect I must have had another job lined up, but for the first time I leapt into thin air, trusting that the net would appear. And you know what? It did.
I have been continually amazed by the vast quantity and quality of the freelance work I've received since I left my full-time office job. It truly astounds me and humbles me. Some months I have earned the same amount I took home from my director gig, but it's not the money that makes me happy. It's the freedom, the personal satisfaction, and knowing that I call the shots and make the decisions in my career and in my life. The people I'm working with now only care that the work is done. They don't care how I do it, when I do it, or what I'm wearing when I do it. And with very rare exceptions, there are absolutely no meetings.
There is a very good chance I'll never see the inside of a boardroom again, and that alone makes me happy.
Early Tuesday morning I received some REALLY good news...a publisher requested my full manuscript. This was a request for Lost, which I was planning to self-publish and which many of you have seen the cover for. I thought, "if someone wants to handle some of the marketing and distribution for this book, why not?"
There are no guarantees, of course. The publishers may not like Lost. Or they may not feel it's right for their list. No matter. The request itself is a win--a sign that I absolutely, definitively did the right thing when I walked away from my job and struck out on my own.
Some people tell me I'm living their dream. To them I say: if this is your dream, do it. It takes some planning, but even with planning it will be scary as hell. You'll have to deal with a whole whack of insecurities you didn't know you had. But it's worth it. And it works out in the end.
So far, I'm living proof of that.
I'd like to thank all my friends who supported me along this journey, as well as everyone who voted for me in the Rhemalda Publishing contest. I am so grateful to have such a strong network of people who want me to succeed, and I'll spend every day striving to live up to your faith in me. Thank you. xoxo
Posted by Story Teller at 12:22 PM
Thursday, March 28, 2013
I've been so frustrated with the process of rewriting that I decided to head on over to Dean Wesley Smith's page to see what he's talking about these days. He had a number of posts about rewriting, so of course I was drawn to them like a lamb to the slaughter.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that good ol' Dean says that all the hell I've been putting myself through isn't necessary. In fact, it might even hurt my book and my chances of getting published.
Of course, as the man himself would be quick to say, all writers are different. But all I have to do is look at how unhappy rewriting makes me, how much I dread it, and how much I procrastinate to suspect I'm one of the writers he's talking about.
His point is simply this: when we write a first draft, we're using the creative side of our minds. And when we rewrite--unless we're really, really experienced writers--we're using the critical side. Here I am, killing myself rewriting the first chapter, and why? Because another writer told me it was too "light". Because her agent told me the voice wasn't strong enough.
What if they were the only two people in the world who felt that way? What if there were tons of people who liked it the way it was? What if I'm actually making it worse by trying to add more voice and darkness?
I do think I have some work to do on my novel. I need to flesh out my protagonist and not be lazy. I need to add more to the setting without turning it into the modern-day version of a Dostoevsky novel, because that's not what I write.
But somehow, I need to tune out all the well-meaning voices that worry my protagonist isn't likable when she says this, or that ending is too fluffy, or the voice isn't strong enough in the beginning.
How can you tell if rewriting is hurting you? Dean had a good suggestion. If your rewritten work isn't selling, send out a first draft--checked for typos and factual errors only. See what happens. You may get your answer. This is how I write all of my journalism articles, and I make a good living that way.
I think how I approach my writing is going to change a lot with future books. We don't learn to be a better writer by rewriting--we learn by telling stories. After all, as Dean says, we really are the worst judges of our own work, so going over it ad nauseum isn't doing us any favours.
And that I believe.
Posted by Story Teller at 6:00 AM
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I love advice, don't you?
Not the unsolicited kind, when people tell you the obvious, like how you should really stop drinking Diet Pepsi and clean up your office. I already know that stuff...I just choose to ignore it.
I'm talking about all the blogs and books that promise to solve your problems for you. I'm guessing I'm not the only writer who reads anything that vows to increase your productivity, get you out of a slump, or inspire, motivate, and encourage.
The problem is, I don't think I've found one scrap of wisdom in everything I've read that has actually helped. I've had slumps, off days, and periods of inactivity in all aspects of my life that mean anything to me: writing, exercise, even gardening...by late summer or early fall, I'm just plain tired of weeding and my yard becomes an overgrown mess.
Yet, I've always broken out of those slumps and managed to get back to work again. I wish there was some great secret I could share with you. I've desperately tried to figure out what turns the red light green again, but the only thing I can pinpoint is: I just decided it was time.
A blogger I like recently wrote a series of posts about how to make your day more productive when working from home. It's been a long time since I've been my own boss, and I'm struggling with that myself. So I eagerly read the entire series, hoping for some tips on battling procrastination. But I'm sorry, and with all due respect, keeping a fancy online calendar and lighting some incense will not do it for me. The calendar would just be another way to procrastinate.
A fellow author suggested that if you never feel the urge to write, you shouldn't be doing it. This is exactly the kind of advice I can't stand. If you're a writer and you've ever taken a break from writing, you know how hard it is to get back to. You might never exactly "feel" like it when you can hang out with friends, surf the Net, read great books, enjoy the outdoors, be consumed with tasks that pay the bills, etc. When you're a writer and you're not writing, the most common feeling--as far as I can tell, from my own experience--is a nagging sensation of guilt, like you're not living up to your full potential or making the most of your time. Sure, you get moments when you're really inspired to write, but unless you act on those urges immediately, it's easy to do a Garfield and lie down until the feeling goes away.
And creating something new and exciting is one thing...what about when you have another boring-ass rewrite to struggle through, which is what I'm facing right now?
I know all the tricks. I'm a journalist who never misses a deadline if I can help it, so yes, I can make my own deadlines. But then I made them--I know they're fake.
There is no incense, no fancy calendar, no fake deadline that will make me get down to business. All I've ever found that works is to literally force myself until, eventually, it starts to get easier again and I start to enjoy what I'm doing. Some days, all you can do is not give up.
But I'm always open to advice. Got any for me?
Posted by Story Teller at 12:39 PM