This is the post where I titillate you with hints of a Secret Project. Yes, I have secrets. In between flash fictions and short stories I have been working on something… bigger. Longer. And secret.
I think 9/10 of our good news energy as writers is spent keeping it entirely to ourselves. Acceptances we can’t talk about until the magazine makes their announcement, wins we must keep under our hats until everyone has been notified, and of course Secret Projects.
We’re getting close to reveal time and my excitement is building. Soon. SOON! *lightning crashes into my frankensecret while I cackle into the stormclouds*
I promised myself I’d write a midweek post more regularly than I have been but January’s been a beast. I’ve written one and two half-stories this month and little else, which would be fine if I didn’t have several large, pterodactyl-like stories flapping around inside my head demanding to be freed. So what’s the problem?
Laziness, and that’s about it. December, fresh from NaNoWriMo, is a busy, busy month. I am not the sort of person who likes busy, so I let my writing ease off as a form of self-care and I let this happen without guilt because I worked hard in November. January is not a busy month, but my brain, sneaky as a seven-year-old trying to sneak in an extra episode of baby Yoda before bedtime, has tried to stay in self-care mode.
I realized it a few days ago. “Well, brain, best be getting some writing done.” To which my brain sighed deeply (because it has lungs for our imaginary conversations), pouted (also lips), and tried to convince me that after a long day of what-have-you, it deserved a rest and maybe an episode of the Mandalorian. Or read, yeah, we could read something.
And I fell for this, for weeks. Which has the nasty side-affect of taking away the benefits of these activities as self-care AND made my writing muscles lazy. I still wrote something everyday, but it was a paragraph, maybe two, before my brain convinced me it was tired, and would write better after some rest (which never happened). Inevitably, writing started feeling like a chore, like something I was nagging myself to do, which made me push it further and further away.
Until I realized how lazy I’d become and forced myself past that two-paragraph wall of fatigue. Just keep writing, brain. I’m in charge here.
It hurt. My brain wept. Okay, not really, that’s not physically possible. But it fought me. And then the muscles remembered. After an excruciating page I got into it. It wasn’t so bad. Maybe even pleasant. Holy crap, I forgot how fun this was! How deeply satisfying it was to edit out this passage and replace it with that one, cackling like an unstable scientist as their unholy creation zapped to life.
And then I wondered how I could have forgotten how much fun I have when I’m writing. How? Brains are tricky when they want one more episode. Hopefully, next time, I’ll remember this blog post I wrote once upon a time and I can come back here to remind myself. Feel free to do the same. In the meantime, I’ve a got a few more stories to get out of my head and onto the page.
My writing goal for 2019 was to get one hundred rejections. Because what writer wouldn’t want to get rejected that many time, amirite? A few writers recommended this to me as a means of putting my work out there. To get that many rejections, you have to submit a lot of stories, and along the way, some of them are going to find homes. The goal also gets you studying markets more closely and watching for more opportunities. No market is too small or too strange.
I pulled in 106 rejections with 10 acceptances over 122 submissions. In the unseen shadows of those numbers, I had four stories held for consideration at a handful of my dream markets. This was a major boost for me, even if they ultimately wound up in the rejection pile. In the end, 2019 was my best year, acceptance-wise, yet so I’ve decided to make this an annual goal.
Now, I do recommend trying this if you’re making a move to take yourself seriously as a short fiction (or novel writer, for that matter), but… you should be prepared. There are approximately 365 days in a year, so you can reasonable expect to receive a rejection every 3.65 days. That’s a lot rejections, but hey, that’s doable, right?
Because it doesn’t go like this at all. All those editors and slush readers get together, probably with some sort of booze or I don’t know, psychedelics made from writer’s tears, and pick a single day to just reject the heck out of you. And you can bet they’re giggling while they do it. There are long stretches of nothing, which always get your hopes up because a late response could mean that they’re thinking about your story. At this point you’re probably clicking stats on The Grinder every hour, deep in the pit of rejectomancy. Then…
You get four rejections in a single day.
I have no advice for those days. I wish I did. Practise self-care, yes, whatever that means to you. Two rejections? Pfft. No big deal, I am a writer, dang it. Rejections are my life. Three rejections? Hey now, that stings a little. FOUR? Oh sweet baby Yoda, nothing has hurt like this since Whatstheirface dumped me in grade 11.
Big, deep breath.
I’m sure there’s a callus that grows over your soul at some point and in the year 2030 it will take forty rejections per day to turn me into such a sniffling mess (the climate apocalypse plans on making me jaded AF). There was a point when one rejection felt as discouraging as four did in 2019-which brings me to another thing that this whole one hundred rejection goal did for me-it made me more resistant to rejection. Four? Before 2019 I’d never received more than one a week, max, and if we want to be writers, we do need to get used to rejection. Gosh, we’re in a masochistic profession.
I’m still not where I’d like to be in terms of faith in my own writing, but I am learning to need that faith less, and to trust my voice more. Which is probably what I needed to learn more than anything, TBH.
What about you? Did you make any goals for last year this year? Want to hash them out?
Today a book containing stories from a few friends and critique partners is dropping for pre-orders: Dystopia From the Rock. This is a collection of short dystopian stories from Canadian authors. I reviewed the last From the Rock book, Chillers, a few months ago here. If this one is anything like Chillers, it will be stuffed with quality short stories. Especially the ones my friends wrote *wink* Go check it out!
I’m still making my way through Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass. Both of my girls have had birthdays in the past few weeks and I had a few deadlines which slowed my progress. That’s the beauty of an online class, you can schedule it to fit your life.
Something amazing DID happen regarding the class. I heard my writing voice. A non-writer friend recently asked me what a writer’s voice is and after some thought, I told her it’s “the sound of your accent to someone from another country. You can tell when you hear someone else’s accent, but hearing your own is another thing altogether.” When I finished up the voice exercises in Neil’s class, there it was: my voice, sitting right there on the page, clear as spring water.
I did what any modern writer would do. I tweeted about it. And then this happened:
I didn’t fall off my chair, but I should have, for dramatic effect. Instead, I giggled at random for twenty-four hours.
We’re in that odd place between Christmas and New Years. My birthday lurks in here somewhere, ready to pounce and pronounce me some unholy number. It’s always been a weird time of year for me. When January arrives I breathe a sigh of relief and the tight bundle of anxiety I’ve been wrapped in releases me into a fresh, exciting, new beginning. A return to myself.
In the meantime, I’ve signed up for Storystorm in January, which I’m excited about. I had a few breakthroughs on the novel I’m longing to write but whose idea isn’t quite cooked yet. Discovering the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers has helped me put my writing year into perspective. I highly recommend it. Due to my December-holiday related depression, I tend to forget the good stuff that happened in 2018. The assignments in the 12 Days brought it all back. Thanks for that!
Here’s what happened:
Dragon Crossing won first place in the WFNB’s Fog Lit Books “For Young People” prize. I got to read it to a roomful of writers and it was an amazing experience! After receiving the judge’s advice to turn it into a gothic middle grade novel, Dragon Crossing has been put aside until I figure out if I should flesh it out into said novel or if the magic lies somewhere in the short story form.
Toby’s Alicorn Adventure came out in Cricket and it was thrilling to see my story fully illustrated on the page.
After seeing a beloved publisher planned to accept unsolicited manuscripts, I pulled out a book idea I’d been plotting and wrote, edited, received critique, and edited again in a few months to make the deadline. What got me was how much fun I had getting Dreamers, Inc. together in such a short period of time. The creative rush had me thrilled to my fingertips. High five to my critique partners who were willing to work with my tight deadline, too. #heroes
After two years of revisions I finally got my story The Night Janitor where I wanted it. All the hard work paid off when it found a home in an amazing anthology (TBA) with a Table of Contents that makes my jaw drop. Stay tuned for more details in early 2019.
I bid on, and won, a charity auction for a professional critique from the award-winning editors of Uncanny. The story I submitted is one I’m excited about and I hope their critique helps me to take it the next level (in less than two years this time). I’ll share more on this when I receive the critique and process the experience.
So go away, December brain-shadows. 2018 was awesome. Sure, disappointment, discouragement, and regret held space as well, but… meh. They’ve taken up enough of my energy already.
What surprises did 2018 hold for you? Did you have any creative breakthroughs?
Today’s post is a part of a monthly blog hop called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where writers can share concerns and bolster each other. You can see the participating blogs here. This is my first IWSG post. Planet Pailly’s IWSG posts about his muse inspired me to sign up and join the conversation.
I’ve been wrestling with the concept of why some stories should be written rather than filmed. Why it is we often hear “the book is always better.” Its easy to say, ‘I prefer to read, it’s a different activity than watching, I get to use my imagination’ and dismiss the argument as irrelevant, but I think writers have a vested interested to understand what books can do that films cannot. We should take advantage of those aspects, shouldn’t we?
According to a 2015 article by Carol Test, the reason the written word is unique is because of the ‘interiority’ of the book or short story. When we’re reading, we are able to follow the story directly from the character’s, or narrator’s, mind. We open a book, put on their perspectives like a coat, and watch the world from their eyes.
But consider movies like 2011’s Limitless, where the character’s interiority anchors the story. My partner watched Limitless over the weekend, bringing it to mind quickly, but a slew of others follow. Fight Club. Six Feet Under. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Most film makers chose not to use interiority as a device, but the fact remains that they can, and they do.
Words can be chosen to manipulate a reader into a certain frame of mind or expectation, but a movie score can do the same.
Where is the space where books remain unique?
I’m pulled back into those earliest of writing lessons, teachers rapping on and on about using all five of the senses. Movies, I realize, can only use two senses: sight and sound. Touch, taste, and smell are a void. Movies smell like popcorn, the touch of buttery fingers, and the acrid taste of buttersalt. They can show you the incense burning in a medieval church, but it takes the written word to fill your senses with musky, perfumed smoke thick enough to hide the smell of the congregation’s unwashed bodies. To remind you of how its half-forgotten scent clings to your woolen tunic and your hair as you walk home.
Can it be as simple as these three missing senses? I don’t know. My gut says there’s more, much more, and to keep hunting. Books hold space in our lives. There’s poetry and rhythm and so many things to consider, to experiment with.
That said, I’ll be extra conscious of writing touch, taste, and smell into my work this week. What do you think? What else can books do that films cannot?
There’s a liminal nature to abandoned or neglected buildings which attracts me. The place in these photos is an old gypsum silo situated at the back of the village of Hillsborough, NB. The dock where ships laden with gypsum moved up the Petitcodiac River into the Bay of Fundy is gone but for bundles of wood emerging from the shifting mud.
White gypsum pebbles, a form of selenite, dot the earth. Some make their way into my pockets.
The concrete silo is the closest thing to a castle you’ll find in these parts.
The graffiti is a beautiful, hidden expression by individuals trying to exist as liminal as the structure itself. Most of us are that person, desperate to leave a mark, any mark, at some point in our lives.
There are beautiful graffiti artists who leave a memorable image, knowing it will not last. It is art meant to be destroyed to make way for more art. I struggle with this metaphor as a creative person. I dream of a story that echoes through generations and lasts forever. This is that dream’s opposite and I cannot look away.
There are other graffitists, too, caught unprepared with a can of spray paint and a sudden desperation. They scrawl a curse word when they panic in the moment, unable to think of anything clever and too uncertain to make something beautiful. These curses remind me of a primal scream. Of something trapped. I imagine this feeling repeating itself in a future lunch room, a coworker’s unexpected get well soon card laid before them, their mind blank and unable to think of anything more clever than the card already says. They don’t swear this time. They sign their name instead. Maybe they’ll remember the old castle tower in the moment, maybe they won’t.
The tower doesn’t care. It watches the tide go up and down on the river and dreams of pretty white stone.