Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Well heck...Rejection...What was your first time like?

Despite the post title, there is no pity party here.  I have been living life to the fullest over the past week and a half and haven't been blogging.  While there was some definite task avoidance going on, there was some serious growth as well.  See, on the 13th of February, I received my first rejection letter.  Now, despite the crappy timing...Valentine's eve...this wasn't an entirely bad experience.  Within that notice of nonselection came some effective and ineffective advice.  See below:

Hello Christine Benson,
Thank you for your submission to Red Fez. We know that you put a lot of time and effort into your submission, so we appreciate you thinking of us. Right or wrong, we have decided against using your work in our next issue.
 (Polite, direct and to the point.)

You indicated you wanted to receive feedback on your submission. Since you put the effort into submitting to us, we feel you deserve an explanation for our decision. There's nothing worse than submitting to a publication and learning nothing from the process. Here is the raw feedback from our editors: (Standing by their word)

Feedback from 2 editors:

Discovering invisibility
 1) in the first 2 paragraphs, there is a serious overabundance of the words: flames, brats, beds/bed, and grease. I think some synonyms would do wonders for the redundant use of said words.(Fair enough, I tend to overuse words and I should have caught that.  Rookie mistake.)   it's a somewhat confusing how many people are involved here because she refers to everyone involved as the boys, she and marie e.t.c. this sentence in particular could have been better: (Too many pronouns.  Ok, well this is probably also valid as I struggled with identifying the speaker a bit due to the personal similarities that brought out embarrassment.  Lesson learned: Go for it.  Don't hold back.  Readers don't automatically think the event happened to you when it is labeled as fiction.  And if they do think that, then you must have a strong protagonist.)

For years they had been all getting together and drinking and nothing like this had ever happened before.

get rid of the all, no need for that. i haven't even mentioned how generic some of these metaphors are:

She robotically, handed him another beer, pausing to watch the cold tear of sweat running down the bottle; the slight tremble of excitement causing it to drip on her hand.

robotically? like mechanized? ugh, me no likee. (Ok, I have to admit, this one hurt.  I especially liked that line, I felt this line.  So why did I like it?  I've had to think about this one a lot.  This has been a big part of my task avoidance and self-doubt.  My peer group gushed over this line and the imagery.  I felt it, because at this point, I was going for it, mixing the real experience with the fiction.  However, because I hadn't gone for it before, hadn't let the reader SEE my protagonist and how much the proceeding experience affected her, the reader couldn't feel what I felt.

2) Not terrible, but it doesn't seem like a fit for the Fez. (Fair enough...this happens.  I need to get better at analyzing the places I am submitting.) This reminds me of the submission about a group of middle aged couples awkwardly watching porno movies together. In fact at first i thought it was the same piece. Is my mom sending these in under different pen names? (Really?  Is this comment necessary?  How am I learning from this?  This genre was a risk for me anyway.  I have to admit, I am now gun shy about sharing anything like this piece again.  Any ideas on how this can help me grow?)

Having said that, we're just one publication with one opinion. In the end we can't help but publish what we like. We could be wrong about your piece and it wouldn't be the first time. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to look at this piece - we appreciate it - and wish you best of luck in finding a suitable publisher for your work. (In fact, check out our Friends of Fez page for a list of other publishers that may be interested in your work!). We hope you'll continue to consider Red Fez in the future. (Thanks for being open and honest.  I appreciate the way they left the door open for me.  That makes it all feel better...it honestly does, no sarcasm at all.)

Artistically yours,
The Red Fez Editorial Team 

Over the past week, I have contemplated this letter and reread it many times.  I went back over the piece of writing I had submitted and made some corrections based on their feedback.  I even took some time for myself to feel the sting and disappointment of being rejected.  Once I was ready to stop crying in my orange juice, I had to work my way back on track.

5 Things I did in response to my rejection...

1. I didn't stop completely.  I wrote some poems for myself.  I wrote about 400 words on my WIP (admittedly with the creep of self-doubt).  I scribbled an idea here and there from my dreams.  

2. I shared my experience with friends, family, writing peers and even my 7th grade students.  Talking through the rejection helped me bring perspective to it.

3. I read a book, for fun.  Not a trade book about improving my writing, just a novel.

4. I opened my blog several times, knowing I wasn't going to write but needing to remind myself how new I am and how much I want this.

5. I read tweets, blogs and status updates from fellow writers, published and aspiring.  We all struggle sometimes.  How we respond to that struggle seems to be what separates the successes from the failures.

So, here I am.  Feeling like somewhat of an embattled veteran and picking myself up to carry on.  I have great supporters out there (and more clearly identified them by sharing my struggle).  I still have the drive to move ahead and work for my dream.  I'm putting myself back on my ROW80 goals.  Writing will go on and I will grow from this experience.  Now, what I'm wondering...what was your first time like? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm Learning...

ROW 80 Goal Progress

Write 1,000 words on days I have no kids.  I've written about 2500 or so words in the past week!  I have to say, if it weren't for a mystery Tweep telling me to get my ass off of Twitter and write...well, my Zombie friend, let's just say thank you!  I am not only getting the hang of sitting down and letting the story flow, I am learning about my own process.  I learned that I can write one story line and research ideas and facts for the next.  I have also learned that I am more of a method writer--inserting myself into my characters when I write (see link later in post).  This makes it more difficult for me to write in small bursts because getting into and out of character is challenging.  Therefore, writing when I do not have the kids is even more important because then I am less likely to be interrupted.  Also, because of the way I write, having a second project going on is also important.  Sometimes, my characters get emotional and I can only write one or two scenes and then I need to quit.  If I have a second project...that I can research for or work out character sketches or some other planning or revising, then I can take a break from the writing but still be productive towards my goals.  Understanding that this is how I work has helped take so much pressure off.   

Attend Writer's Group on a regular basis.  This hasn't happened, but it hasn't happened for anyone in my group.  Meetings just haven't worked out.  I am meeting with the newly published author, Trish Stewart,  on Saturday at my hometown library for her book signing.  While there, the two of us are planning to discuss starting a writer's group there.  If that were to work, I would be so happy!  

Select/Revise/Submit entries on days I have the boys.  I have been working here, but mostly on researching for my next book idea.  I am waiting to hear about my first submission.  For some reason, I don't feel I can move forward until I know one way or another.  I know I will get past this feeling, but it will take a time or two before I jump into the publishing deep end.  Right now, I feel I am still developing as a writer and embracing the fact that I am finally allowing myself to be happy and do what it is I have always dreamed of.

Blog on Wednesdays.  At least it is once a week, right?  Oh, I did write a book review for the YA novel, AWAY by Teri Hall on Goodreads.  

Read one post on improving craft and develop my platform for an hour everyday.  This learning was fun this week.  I learned that I am a method writer from Derek Flynn at his blog, Rant, With Occasional Music   Then, I realized some harsh truths from my friend and fellow author, Shelli Johnson (Small as a Mustard Seed) as she blogged about numbers on her website, Shelli Johnson.  I have been using the numbers as both positive motivation and a distraction from the actual act of writing.  Now I am not competing against anyone but myself, but it is like some strategist game...if I unfollow this person and then follow this one, will I be able to get more followers?  I don't think there is anything wrong with this, except for the fact that I let it take away from my writing time.  I will be setting a timer for any Twitter or Facebook time during my work hours.  This way, I can't waste precious writing time.