Things I wish I knew about Dealing With Rejection when I started writing

Dealing with rejectionRejection’s never fun, and although I’ve copped a fair amount of it I still suffer from that moment of disbelief whenever another story gets returned.

Either something didn’t resonate (which is rarely the writers fault – you can’t please everyone), or the story in your head got lost in translation – which is your fault. You’re the translator, after all.

You’d be surprised at how frequently people see something you didn’t intend, or more likely, how rarely they do.

Regardless of the reason, rejection gets easier, but I doubt anyone would ever say it’s a ‘woohoo’ moment (even if you’re involved in some sort of competition to get you submitting – the more rejections, the more proactive you’re being as a writer, after all).

It’s hard not to be precious about our writing, but you can reduce the angst by writing more stories and sending out. That way you’re not pinning your hopes on one – you’ll have dozens out there carrying your dreams of publication.

Don’t consider trunking a story until it’s had at least fifteen or twenty rejections either, and probably not even then. You cared enough to write it, so there’s always going to be something magic there.

Put the story away for a while if you need to – you’ll see it with fresh eyes when you return to it.

In the mean time, write more stories and keep sending them out. Sooner or later, you’ll hit a mark. Lots of marks, hopefully.

Here’s some more great advice on Dealing with Rejection:

“Expect rejection, and when the rejection letter comes, put on your thick skin and send your story out again. Then sit down and feel the pain, and because your baby has been sent out again, feel the hope. Keep writing.” Cora Foerstner

“Rejection is part of the process and your work will not be right for everyone, no matter how good it is. Keep multiple queries or submissions going out, so you don’t have all your eggs (and hopes) in one basket.” Maer Wilson

“When I experience rejection, I consider that all the big authors have five star and one star reviews, so we should expect it too. And, when it’s your baby…remember, it will be a big and strapping young thing one day that can handle itself.” James Steven Clark

“That first rejection might hurt. Even the second. But by the thirtieth, or one-hundredth, it’s like water off a duck’s back. Doesn’t bother you so much. Trust that this will happen and don’t let the fear of rejection stop you.” Vanessa MacLellan

“Before sending off a submission, always know where you’ll be sending that story next should it get rejected. Having a back-up plan before you receive a rejection will soften the blow.” Zena Shapter

“You most likely won’t win the book lottery. Margaret Mitchell, John Scalzi, and others who have managed the almost impossible, partially got lucky, but they had the book that made it possible for them to get lucky. So if you’re getting lots of rejection letters, look to reworking your book, or abandon it and move on.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

Using critiques to improve your writing

Using critiques to improve your writingI’ve probably mentioned I’m participating in a novel critique group this year.

Every month someone in the group puts their novel up for critique, and the rest of us pull it apart with a view to improvement.

It’s all about critical analysis, but its the passion you need to look for – what people love or… really don’t love.

Unfortunately, every comment that’s not adoration stings a little.

In fact, the more effort someone’s put into a book, the bigger the sting they’ll feel.

Still, feedback’s just feedback – impressions based on what other people would do if it were theirs, and that’s the attitude you need to take into it.

The problem is, it’s easy to get lost in the detail or take things personally. It is your baby, after all.

Once you get over the initial disbelief that everyone else doesn’t love it as much as you do (believe it or not that happens occasionally), you’ll begin to discover some value in what’s said.

Hopefully you’ll see lots of value.

Even so, all of it will all be given with bias due to personal tastes and perspectives, so take a step back and ask yourself a few questions about where you want to take your story and what you want to achieve with it.

If you can do that, you’ll be in a better position to assess the responses.

There are a lot of specific questions you could ask yourself, but only one that’s important at this stage:

“What impression did my story make?”

Seriously. Everything hinges off that question. Specifics can wait.

How people react after reading your novel is the truest test of its worth.

If your critiquers didn’t like it, consider that a reasonable parallel with your intended readers. Translation: poor sales.

You’ll need to weigh their reactions against what you know about the individual critiquers of course, particularly if they’re not in your target audience.

For example, romance writers may not appreciate your military SF novel,  but they may know more about developing characters that readers will care about than you do.

In that regard, the greatest thing you can do (from a commercial perspective) is impress readers from other genres.

Everyone’s perspective is valuable, particularly if you concentrate on emotional responses instead of critical analysis.

If you give your novel to ten people and none of them love your story, then it’s probably not working  as well as you need it to.

On the flip side, if they’re emailing you for weeks and months afterward with ideas or are demanding to read the sequel, then you know something’s resonated with them.

That’s the magic you’re looking for!

That’s what sells books, and that’s what you need.

Whatever else you do, keep the things that people love and try to figure out why those things resonated with them (if it’s not obvious).

Conversely, consider ways of improving everything they didn’t like – their critical responses will help with this.

You may even come to the conclusion that some of the things you love have to go or be completely reworked.

A good knowledge of story structure and getting readers to care about what happens to your characters helps here.

How you use the knowledge is the hard part, but it can only come after you assess their reactions.

Write another novel if you need more time to gain perspective. It can only help.

Things I wish I knew about Short Stories when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about short stories when I started writing.There are a lot of great things about short stories – they’re fast to write (at least in comparison to novels), there’s plenty of markets for them, and they allow you to practice and hone your craft while you learn to deal with the realities of the publishing world.

I often use them to explore my larger worlds with fresh characters, and consequently there’s been more than one occasion where a character from short story has made it into a novel.

That said, short stories take a long time to master (if that’s even possible), and even experienced writers who’ve got dozens, perhaps hundreds of shorts published, still learn with each new story they produce.

My advice: Always have at least one or two short stories on the go. That’s something I neglected for a long time.

Here’s some more great advice:

“In a short story, every word counts and every scene should do triple duty.  You’ve no time to waste.” Vanessa MacLellan

“Do not start with a dry explanation of the story’s context.” Mary Jeddore Blakney

“Short stories for a writer are like sketches are for an artist. There is only room to explore your main subject. Every line counts, so make the best of them.” Kelly Martin

“Don’t try to turn a short story into a novel.” Vruta Gupte

“Short stories are a great way to get feedback from readers.  With minimal investment, you can see which of your stories readers like the best – and then, the most popular stories can be used for your next novel.” Drew Briney

“A short is kind of like a poignant snapshot of a much deeper story. So don’t get too bogged down trying to tell the WHOLE story. DO tell enough to draw the reader in and make it an interesting story within the larger story.” Dana Masting

“The few words of a short story can be far more powerful than a novel if done right. Often this takes more out of you to do this, and will leave you more drained than a novel can after it is finished.” Andrea Jensen

“You can still earn money writing short stories.” Vruta Gupte

“Writing a short story is a style all of its own.” Chantelle Griffin

“Writing shorts stories help sell your bigger novels. Gives new readers a small taste of your projects to garner interest. Not everything you write has to be the Great American Novel.” Chris Mentzer

“I wish I’d known to not be embarrassed or distressed because I suck at writing short stories. My natural story length is the novel, and I don’t have to follow the “conventional wisdom” that you have to break in with short stories, and then sell the novel.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“I’ve never written a short story, but just about every scene I’ve written has a beginning, middle, and end…” Mark Mercieca

Things I wish I knew about Point of View when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about Point of View when I started writing.Point of View is one of those things that often takes a long time to get your head around (no pun intended), but once you do you can’t ‘not see it’ when writers ‘break’ the rules.

I recently re-read a book I’d loved as a teenager – a book that sold in the millions and even spawned a movie.

By today’s standards it’s was atrocious in terms of POV, which just goes to show how subjective we all are as readers.

More to the point, what’s acceptable today may not be acceptable in the decades to come.

While I’d encourage people to stick with a single POV per scene, it’s really only a guideline. Do whatever works for you and your readers.

Here’s some more advice you might like to consider:

“Point of view is the best way to get in a characters mind.”
Era Metko

“Be sure to stay within one point of view until a scene change.” Glendon Perkins

“Stick to one per scene. No head-hopping!” Robin Lythgoe

“Understand POVs.  Read the definitions of First, Second, Third, Omniscient, etc.  Realise head hopping is OKAY if that is what you intend.  Don’t let people tell you you can’t do it, because they think it’s wrong.  It’s not wrong, it’s just not their choice.” Vanessa MacLellan

“I wish I’d known that after two books in a trilogy written in first-person, my third book would have to be written from multiple POV. I probably would have done it the same way, but I would have thought a lot harder about the choice.” Blanca Florido

“As a reader I get confused when an author changes viewpoints (head hops) in the same scene unless something else makes it obvious.” Mark Mercieca

“Use whatever POV works best for you and your story – no matter what everybody else says.” Victoria Adams

“I tend to define my narrator as a character. This helps focus my story by limiting what can be told through the narrator’s understanding of events as opposed to my author’s perspective. I attribute motive to a narrator as well, colouring the story with their agenda. Sometimes what they omit or change is as informative as what they relate.” Kelly Martin

“Nothing can break a reader’s attention quicker than a change in the point of view. Tread very carefully when adding more than one, and make sure it is necessary for the story. No amount of revision will smooth out a piece of writing when a point of view is in the wrong place.” Chantelle Griffin

“I would recommend staying with the same POV throughout your novel, except you might slip into an omniscient viewpoint if no POV character is present in the scene, and perhaps if it’s in first person and that character dies.” Mark Mercieca

“Play with POVs, especially on the first draft, but even when editing. You could discover a new perspective that brings light in an otherwise horribly confusing chapter.” Era Metko

“POV is most effective when the narrator shares the “voice” of the POV character (regardless of whether you’re writing first person, third person, whatever). This makes for a more interesting narration and can help to orient the reader when switching POVs (your hitman probably narrates in short, terse sentences with the occasional swear; your sassy teen probably narrates with slang).” Madison Dusome

“As a story progresses it should become clear “Why” the narrator is interested in telling the particular story. If the reader can’t figure out “Why” the narrator cares about the story, then it is going to be more difficult for the reader to care about the story.” Kelly Martin

Everything I wish I knew about First drafts when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about first drafts when I started writing.Unlike me, I’m sure most writers never have any trouble finishing a first draft. Okay, maybe a couple do.

I like to tinker, play, and revise to distraction. In fact, I sat on the opening three chapters of my first novel for about a hundred years.

Years, anyway. Quite a few of them.

Which brings me to today’s subject. First drafts. How do you go about writing them? What’s your best advice to a newbie on the subject?

I’ve found the best way for me is to rush through them – write every day until they’re done, and then take a break. NaNoWriMo is perfect for this.

So my advice: Get it on the page – it doesn’t matter how good or bad it is. You can fix it later.

Here’s some more great advice you might like to consider:

“Your first draft is your plan or outline. It’s much easier to take your ideas and characters out for a spin in the virtual world of an outline rather than manage hundreds of pages of a rough manuscript that may end up going nowhere.” Luke Mercieca

“Bad news is, it will suck because you’re not perfect. Good news is, you can make it better. Even better news is, that means you don’t have to worry about what you write. The first draft is for yourself and yourself only.” Era Metko

“The first draft of a manuscript lies in the midst of a great journey. What you do next will make all the difference.” Chantelle Griffin

“A large part of what goes into a first draft will not appear
in the finished work.” Giulio Zambon

“You will see things that need to change, how a different structure would enhance a scene or a chapter. Take notes, move on, and make those changes in revision.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“Chapters 1, 2 & 3 are about to become Chapters 2, 3, 1 & 4. Oh yeah and you need to tear out most of them and re-write, because they’re bad.” Charles Murray

“In the middle of the draft, if it gets hard or boring or you feel like it’s the worst thing anyone’s ever written, that’s completely normal. Keep on writing anyway.” Kyra Halland

“You might end up rewriting 90 per cent of it, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid of it.” L.K. Evans 

“Writing is like making a jigsaw puzzle without an image of the finished work, and the first draft is like working on the edges of the puzzle and on the parts you can easily recognise. Expecting to be able to write a first draft from the beginning to end is like attempting to solve a puzzle from top-left to bottom-right.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll discover so much more about your world, characters, plot than you had planned.  And that’s okay.  Don’t try to force it into a box, even if you do have an outline.” Vanessa Maclellan

“Don’t get distracted by little details that you think you should fix – keep the momentum going and save your edits for later.” Drew Briney

“You can get port in goon-bags.” JW Arlock

“First Drafts are first drafts. It may only be a very small step on a very long journey especially if your intension is to write a series and its the first book. The first draft may be an experiment to see if the plot works or even an expedition to discover both the plot and the characters, and after a analysing it you might find yourself transplanting these elements into a decent story structure…” Mark Mercieca

“Don’t waste time trying to polish up a first draft.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll get bogged down somewhere around the middle. Don’t give up. Push through, and finish it.” Keith Keffer

And there you have it. I think the general consensus is ‘just write it and worry about making it great later’.

What’s your advice?

Things I wish I knew about Critiquing when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about critiquing when I started writingCritiquing means different things to different people.

For me, it was always about finding the flaws so they could be fixed.

I’ve never made it a secret that I want to get my stories in front of as many people as possible, and I assume everyone else does to (unless they say different).

That influences my approach to critiquing, because to get your stories in front of people beyond your immediate reach, you have to give them a story they want to share.

It doesn’t matter how much advertising you do, how popular you are on social media, or even who you know, if you write a story that people don’t like, they aren’t going to share it.

Having a broad base of support is a great advantage, but word of mouth has always been, and will continue to be, a writers best friend.

In that sense, it’s kind of pointless to seek feedback if you’re not going to listen to what’s said.

It’s pretty rare that the solutions people offer will work for your story, but if several people have the same problem with it, then there’s almost certainly an issue you need to deal with.

That’s my advice, at least.

Here’s some more great advice from other writers:

“Being diplomatic and constructive is very important when critiquing, as its somebody’s ego you’re poking. Be true but kind.” Mark Mercieca

“It’s as much about asking the right questions as about the writing itself.” Robyn McIntyre

“Critiquing will take up a large amount of your ‘writing time’, but don’t worry to much about that because its worth every minute.” Mark Mercieca

“You learn as much from reading the critiques of others as you do your own.” Roland Boykin

“Early in the process, there’s a fine line between following your vision and incorporating another’s ideas. Don’t expose your baby on the mountain until she can survive the elements. Then incorporate those suggestions that make your story the best that it can be.” Janine Donoho

“I wish I’d demanded written critiques, not scribbles in the margins of my hardcopy. Week’s later when you go over these reviews they often don’t make sense or you can’t read the reviewers writing.” Mark Mercieca

“There is a big difference between giving criticism and being critical. Be honest, but be constructive. Telling someone their writing is rubbish doesn’t help them. Telling them why it doesn’t work for you and helping them improve it does.” Angeline Trevena

“Like editing, you need multiple reads for: plot / world building continuity, prose / rhythm, plot pacing.” Drew Briney

“Early on I felt that sometimes I couldn’t contribute or identify issues other critiquers picked up. Don’t worry. This definitely improves with practise.” Mark Mercieca

What’s your best critiquing advice?

Things I wish I knew about Editing Your Own Work when I started writing

Text: Things I wish I knew about Editing Your Own Work when I started writing.Editing is a dirty word for some, but for me, it’s the best part of writing.

It’s where ninety-five per cent of my effort goes (if not more), and it’s the part I can get lost in. A little too lost, sometimes.

I wish I’d known a few more things about editing my own work when I started writing, because I spent years trying to perfect sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters, yet I didn’t have a clue that some of my stories had bigger problems.

It was a classic forest and trees problem.

I had the editing part down, but not the story part. In short, I didn’t know how to edit for story.

Therefore, my advice to my younger self: Don’t start editing words until you’ve edited for structural issues.

That’s not all I needed to learn. Here’s some more fantastic advice I wish I’d known when I started writing:

“So, so many words can be deleted. I promise there will be another opportunity to use them later.” L. K. Evans

“No matter how many times you go through it, there will still be something an editor will pick up that will have you facepalming and wondering how you could ever be so stupid.” Ann Smyth

“I finally realised that the Rules of Writing are actually just guidelines, not hard and fast rules.” Roland Boykin

“Other people will always pick up things you won’t, so another perspective is crucial; preferably six or seven or ten if you can. If different people are saying the same things about your work then it needs some changes.” Mark Mercieca

“Add your text to a read back app on a computer or mobile device. Follow along on paper to mark the errors in spelling.” Glendon Perkins

“Keep notes to help remember if it was the ‘right hand or left hand that was burned’ later on in the book. Use this for characters and places and named objects.” Keith Keffer

“No matter how good of an editor you are for other people’s work, you will never give your own stuff the same diligence. I find myself overlooking simple things like typos much less giving my work the angry red pen that it really needs.” Colin Ritter

“Get Adobe Acrobat to read your stuff back to you (albeit in a robotic voice). You’ll notice missed/duplicate words, bad sentence rhythm, etc. more easily. If you read it aloud yourself, you may still miss things as you’ll read what you think is there. The computer won’t make that mistake.” Ann Smyth

“Use word count analysis to pick up spelling differences in names etc.” Mark Mercieca

“Know when to stop and pass it off to someone else. If you are on your fifth pass through and you find yourself second guessing what you wrote, hand it off.” Keith Keffer

“There are several things in life for which no amount of preparation will match the actual task, editing is one of these. Make it as much fun as possible because one edit is not enough.” Chantelle Griffin

“When you finally get around to writing a novel, you’ll discover its fun, until editing begins. The countless revisions (i.e. self-editing) is where it gets tough – and the author emerges. Outsourcing is recommended, especially proof-reading.” Karen Wyld

“Always read your work out loud. It means you read a little slower, and you can pick up on issues like repetition, syntax and rhythm that you may otherwise miss.” Angeline Trevena

“Write what you love (what you know will come), read it aloud (and repeatedly) because if you don’t want to, you KNOW something’s wrong; start strong (and then live up to that); and seek advice (then fight it).” Will Hahn

“When you get to the point when you’re changing a word, then changing it back, it’s time to stop.” Ann Smyth

“Edit in a different medium than you write, such as e-reader or paper.” Keith Keffer

“There is no such thing as great writing, only great rewriting.” John Skeats

“Text to speech is a great idea I wish I’d heard of earlier. The metallic computer voice is the ultimate impartial judge on your writing.” Mark Mercieca

“You have to wait before editing. Doing it the day after you’ve written a chapter will block your progress and never be good enough. It may end in an infinite loop of write and correct.” Era Metko

“Find great critique partners who pull no punches. It can be a little painful at first, but once the bandaid is pulled off it doesn’t hurt so much. And the scar makes your writing stronger.” Blanca Florido

“The best way to edit yourself is to hire an editor. Before I hire one, read it out loud, it’s a very different perspective on your work that you must have.” David Nelson

“When writing a story, you need to shut off you inner editor or you’ll never finish your work. Editing comes when the work is complete, not when you finish chapter one.” Chris Mentzer

“The best editing is done three years after you’ve lost your ms, stumbled on it again, said ‘this is really bad’ and started again. You just can’t edit your own work properly until it’s stone dead.” John Yeoman

“Take at least a few months off before making a final edit to make sure the material is no longer fresh in your mind.” Drew Briney

What’s your best piece of editorial advice?

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