Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I've talked about Carolyn J. Rose, my instructor for "Novel Writing Bootcamp." The first time I took her class I had about 100 pages written on a book and when I got done with the class I'd had to edit out all but fourteen pages. It was all backstory, scene setting, worthless prose, etc. After I read a page aloud in class one evening, Carolyn's fists began to open and close, her pupils dilated and foam formed in the corners of her mouth. "Gee," she said, "I'd love to take a red pen to that."
Coping with Rejection
By Carolyn J. Rose
It’s as much a part of my writing life as carpal tunnel syndrome, brain cramps, and a butt that looks best in a bathrobe.
Being rejected cuts as deep as not being asked to the prom or being stood up on your wedding day. (Although, for the record, I had a darn good time not going to the prom, and have been guilty once or twice—in the midst of a discussion that wasn’t going my way—of wishing there’d been nobody waiting at the end of that aisle.)
Just as there are stages of grief, there are also stages of rejection—in fact, the first few stages are almost identical.
Shock and Denial. Check. I find myself staring at a rejection notice confident that if I look long enough I’ll see someone else’s name at the top or that the “not” will disappear and I’ll see that an agent is “interested.”
Pain and Guilt. Check. I feel I failed my story by not saying the right things in that query letter, by not writing a better first sentence for the first chapter, or by not being worthy to tell the tale.
Anger and Bargaining. Been there, done that. I’m guilty of crumpling rejections and hurling them against walls, and guilty of promising to drive within the speed limit, be nicer to those with too many items in the express line, and eat more fruit and vegetables if only . . .
Depression and loneliness. Oh yeah. Writing can be a lonely experience at the best of times, and loneliness can be a slippery slope into the depths of What’s the Point? Canyon.
So, unless you’re one of those rare writers who lands a publisher with the first toss of the query net, you might want to have a coping strategy—or several coping strategies—to get you through these early stages of rejection. And you might want to be aware of the potential cost of each course of action.
Here are some of the strategies I’ve employed in the past and the benefits and drawbacks I’ve discovered:
Imagining that agents are the dirt beneath the beater bar, I charge around the house sucking them up. On the plus side, I discover the carpet has a pattern. On the minus side, I pinch a nerve in my shoulder and wear out the carpet attachment. Dirt returns and brings along its close friends, dust and pet dander. I put away the vacuum and start
Taking long walks
Going with the theory that a tired writer is a less angry writer, I set out to see my neighborhood. I raise my metabolic rate, strengthen my heart, and lose a few pounds. But I develop planters fasciitis, suffer excruciating pain in my heels, and have to fork out $400 for special orthotic devices that make it feel like I’m standing on a pipe. I give up walking in favor of
Telling myself that others will suffer more from the sight of me in a bathing suit than I do, I hit the pool six days a week, strap on a flotation belt, and start building something I never knew I had—core muscles. Within two weeks, I’m doing the cross-country ski maneuver and tuck jumping jacks with the best of them. Within three weeks I develop dry skin, split fingernails, and things on my neck that look a lot like gills. I cut back on water aerobics and substitute
Pretending that weeds are agents, I uproot them by the dozen and trim back shrubs with a vengeance. The lack of weeds and overhanging branches reveals numerous bare places. I spend a small fortune on bulbs and plantings to fill them. My dog eats several and digs up more. Others are attacked by grubs and bugs devour most of the rest. I retreat to the deck and the strategy of
Catching up on the TBR pile
I inhale some great literature and feel energized, then come across some not-so-great literature and contemplate unfairness of life. Feeling sorry for myself once more, I resort to
Whining to friends
On the first day I collect 10 “poor baby” responses. On day two, I rake in 6 “poor babies” and 4 “I’ve got a call on the other line.” On day three I get two “poor babies” and 8 message machines. On day 4, no one answers. With one foot sliding down that slippery slope I mentioned earlier, I sulk to the bottle-filled cabinet in the buffet and begin on my new strategy of
Indulging in chilled adult beverages
Determined to numb myself to the pain of rejection, I drink too fast and get a stabbing headache. After self-medicating to treat that headache, I wake up the next day experiencing hangover Armageddon. Furious at myself, I hit on a new strategy
Writing another novel
“I’ll show them,” I chortle. “They haven’t seen the last of me. I will learn more about plotting, characterization, scene structure, subtext, and backstory. I will never quit. I will never give up. They’ll have to pry this keyboard from my cold, dead fingers.” Finally, a strategy that combines time-consuming, distracting reaction to failure with time-consuming, distracting forward action.
To my surprise I found that, for the wrong reasons (spite and revenge), I did the right thing—burned off the negative energy and faced up to the realities of writing for publication. The next step was to accept those realities and the fact that I couldn’t change them. That enabled me to move on, to reconstruct myself, to practice discipline, to nurture others. Over the years, I published a number of mysteries through small presses and recently landed a contract with Five Star for
Reviews so far have been positive and with each one I tell myself, “You wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t stopped arguing, avoiding, indulging, and whining.”
Like writing itself, I found coping with rejection was a journey during which I learned much about myself. I’m not the same person I was when I got my first rejection slip. I think that’s a good thing. I think my friends—who now take my calls again—would agree.
Monday, July 19, 2010
After having a car for eleven years, and being completely happy with said car, having to look for another one is tedious. I went to Forest Grove this weekend and paid attention to the cars I saw there and I think I've narrowed down my choices to three easy-to-find-in-parking-lot cars.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Have you ever had a feeling something was wrong with a passage, a scene, a chapter you are writing, but could not put your finger on it? Have you rationalized or ignored that uncomfortable feeling and plunged on? But when you read it aloud to your critique group, they gave you a sympathetic, yet firm glare? And then it happens, what you were dreading.
I’m not talking about the various critiques where suggestions are made and you can accept or reject the advice. I’m talking about the times when you just know they are absolutely, positively correct on every point. The scene must be revised, or deleted and you must weave the one important point into another scene. It is work. It means lots of time and thought, trial and error, but somewhere inside you there is excitement. Just as you knew something was wrong, now you know something is going to be right. You know when you are finished, the scene will be spellbinding.
That happened to me this week, only this time it wasn’t my critique group’s feedback. An agent’s assistant sent me a fabulous rejection, taking the time to kindly outline in detail what needed to be revised. And I knew. I knew she was right on every single point. Instead of feeling rejected, the letter instilled excitement. Some of the points will be an easy—though time consuming--fix. Some issues I wasn’t sure how to address and wanted input.
I sent out a call to authors, Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton (the husband and wife team who taught the “Novel Writing Boot Camp” I attended (twice). Carolyn and Mike dropped everything and agreed to meet me for a drink. Crit friends The First Carol and Sharon Axeline also came running. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the word "margarita.")
“Absolutely. You can do this. It is going to take some work, but you can do it.” Carolyn and Mike affirmed. The five of us tossed around ideas while we sat in the dry heat on the patio of a Mexican restaurant and sipped margaritas. Mike and Carolyn threw out one idea that caught my imagination. I sent them that vacant, far-away smile, when your fictional mind is off and running and Mike said, "I can see you've got something."
I’m starting the next phase of writing. I’m following the advice of the agent’s assistant. Thanks to her I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it. Now I just need to develop the back-story in my own head and weave it into the book. It is like sewing white, puffy clouds together in an azure summer sky, forming interesting shapes as they float slowly across the vast expanse. It will take some time, but I can do it. I will do it. And it will be spellbinding.
I’m so excited.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sometimes social media astounds me. One of the people to respond for my plea for help on the Help-Melanie-Write-A-One-Line-Pitch-Twitter-Style was the famous and esteemed Winslow Eliot. She not only left comments on my blog, but sent additional ideas on direct message via twitter. Is that sweet, or what?
Interestingly, neuroscientists describe our brain as having two separate ‘networks’: an administrative network, which we use when we’re busy accomplishing a task, and a default network, which is the one that we automatically revert to when we’re at rest or not concentrating on something. In other words, the default network ‘switches off’ when we need to focus. And when one network is ‘lit up,’ the other is not.However, when we daydream, both networks are lit up at the same time."
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to 8 bloggers* who you have recently discovered and who think you are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.
1.Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and her/his blog.
2. Pass the award to 8 other blogs* that you've newly discovered.
3. Contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
So, I'm going to award both awards to the following eight terrific bloggers. Most are new to me, but a couple of them I find so fun, that I've named them for these awards too.
1. Rashelle Workman at A no.2 pencil stat! who had a fun "First Sentence" Blogfest
2. Rebecca Thompson at Sonshine Thoughts who has a fun blog on Wednesdays (well it is fun every day, but I like the Wednesday one) and graciously allowed me to give her a heart attack.
3. Sharon Axline at Preposterous ponderings who is a fabulous writer and has two of the cutest little dogs, ever!
4. SingleDatingMommy at Adventures in Dating who is enormously funny, and writes very well, but doesn't even realize how well she writes.
5. Taffy Lovell at Taffy's Candy who has an awesome first line to her book. Makes me want to read more.
6. Vicki Rocho at Rambles & Randomness who is running an interesting Matchy-Match Contest on her blog. Check it out.
7. Elizabeth Mueller at Elizabeth Mueller Blog who is keeping the faith and being a writer at the same time. Nice blog.
8. VR Barkowski at VR BArkowski Writer's Blog. Besides being a great blog to get information, it just LOOKS nice.
*Okay, I have said the rules are to present the awards to eight bloggers. Originally the rules were to present to fifteen people. I changed it to suit my purposes and really, I'm not sorry about it either (namely the amount of time it takes to do this) and I welcome these recipients to do the same or return to the original fifteen.