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Posts Tagged ‘rejection’

It’s a beautiful day today, the birds are singing, the clover is growing and I’m plugging along, making progress on numerous fronts and feeling fine.

It isn’t always this way.

Some days I can’t get a thing done and nothing seems right no matter what I do. I’m not alone in this, as I was reminded by a recent discussion on one of my listserves. A member had finally had it up to there with the frequent failure to find editorial acceptance. Folks chimed in, discussions were discussed, and this particular writer hopefully left the thread more optimistic than when it began. I know I did.

What some call failure, I call pre-acceptance. Have I mentioned this before? I probably have, because it’s a fairly critical component to my writerly attitude.* No one is going to like everything you write, no matter who you are. There will be rejection.

And that’s ok.

That’s progress, that’s experience, that’s learning one more way not to make a lightbulb. All writers, all people, get rejected.

Let’s take words out of the equation for a moment. I’m on a cookie kick so let’s stick with that.

Are you handing out delicious cookies at work? Someone will say thanks, but no thanks. It may be that they aren’t keen on chocolate chip, or that they are lactose intolerant, or that their doctor just read them the riot act about Type 2 diabetes. You don’t know, and that’s ok.

This isn’t about them, it’s about you.

Do the best you can, of course, and keep bumping that line higher. Practice. Follow Angela Duckworth’s research and go on grit rather than talent. Go online, and find helpful pep talks like the one Neil Gaiman wrote for National Novel Writing Month:

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

Whatever it takes. Your goals are worth it.

* I should mention that I didn’t start out this way. It took some time to be ok with rejection, and if I can do it, you can too. The 350+ pre-acceptances I have accumulated so far helped a lot:)

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Life is not supposed to be neat. And it’s a comfort. It’s a comfort to all of us who have messed up. And then you find your way back…

— JK Rowling

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Today I ran across a collection of tips from master writers. The Gotham Writers Workshop includes tips for aspiring writers from Elmore Leonard, George Orwell, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, P.D. James and more.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
— John Cage

Every – every – story is a story about people, or it sucks.
— Joss Whedon

I’ve seen a number of these suggestions before but many not. And when it’s Tuesday morning and the tea has yet to kick in, I find that every little bit helps. Happy writing!

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The excellent Elizabeth Bear has a good post on how to get past “rave rejections.” You know the ones, where they tell you how great the story is but sorry, can’t use it.

Her advice? Focus on Voice and Narrative. While these suggestions are hardly new she does frame them in concise, useful language that cuts through the extensive “how to” checklists so often found in writing advice. Here she is on how to grow a voice:

Write a lot. Work at identifying and expunging cliches and lazy word choice from your prose. Find sharp verbs and strong, observed details. Read things out loud and if you don’t like how they sound, change them. Embrace whimsy and quirkiness, but only inasmuch as it is natural to you: otherwise you run the risk of becoming twee. Play with pastiche. If you have a natural wit, let it shine through. Be playful.

On narrative drive and creating characters readers care about:

A character who loves something, or who holds fast to an ideal, is humanized and becomes approachable. A character who takes action lures us unto caring about what she cares about.

We love people who fight.

It’s a great post, short, approachable, with a “manageable bite-sized helpful chunk” of useful information. Also, bonus points for using a funny video of David Bowie to make her case.

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“Persistence.” That’s what my father told me when I asked what it took to succeed in graduate school. Smart helps, yes, but there’s no beating the commitment and perhaps sheer bloody stubbornness that comes with persistence. That advice served me well in academia and elsewhere, particularly when it came to writing.

There are a lot of challenges around writing: the difficulty of learning a skill so complex that the greatest achievement is to make it look simple, the often solitary pursuit of improvement, and “overnight success” that is usually anything but. Kameron Hurley, author of God’s War, has an essay about this topic today on Chuck Wendig’s site. She sums it up well:

Persistence, I realized, was not the end goal. It was the actual game.

Now, I argue for a balanced approach to writing or whatever your project may be, and I’m too attached to my family and my health to sacrifice them in the hopes that will make me a better writer. For me, the opposite is true; strength in one area translates into strength in others. If, as my ever-wise father says, you are willing to persist. That note rings loud and true.

For more on Kameron’s experiences and her long journey to (and eventual redefinition of) “success,” read the full essay here.

Then whatever it is you are working on, finish it.

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I’m very pleased to report an acceptance from the good people over at Cast of Wonders.

When you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thickskinned, to learn that not every project will survive.

— Neil Gaiman

All too true, but I’m glad that this project did:)

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