Happy Rejection

rejection

I got yet another rejection today and I can’t say it made me feel super happy.  It wasn’t as bad as the first, or the fourth, or the tenth, but it still had a bit of bite.  It woke up the internal voice that reminded me I’m not marketable enough, not original enough, not good enough, not something enough.

But I then I remembered, it’s rare for anyone on the writer’s path to get accepted immediately or easily, and I dig into other writer’s journeys to give me inspiration.

Sherilynn Kenyon was denied access three times to a creative writing program because they wanted to save the spot for someone who actually had a future in publishing.  She is currently a multi-multi international bestseller.  In her keynote speech to the RWA in 2011 (which I attended), she said that, “Sometimes impossible only means you have to try harder.”  For her whole really inspiring story see this http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/-rwa%20luncheon%20speech%20delivered.pdf

I have friends who have only gotten published after hundreds of rejections.  What kept these people trying, when all common sense says that you obviously are not suited to being a writer?

My first answer is always faith, unshakable, rock solid faith in themselves and their story.  But it even goes deeper than that. I think it also has to do with attitude.

Kresley Cole (another mega bestseller) gave this advice to new writers:  “…if you’re set on publishing, then don’t dabble. Decide if you’re in or you’re out. Then do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. I had a “25” plan. At any given time, I would have my writing out in 25 myriad forms—either contests, critiques, agent queries, publisher queries, etc. I believe you have to jump in with both feet.”

Obviously, a rejection or two didn’t deter her.  I think some of her methodology comes from the fact that she was an Olympian before becoming a writer.  Half of being an athlete of that caliber is showing up and attitude.  Practice, practice, practice until you master a technique. And I believe she applied that to her writing career.

I think it’s not a bad idea for other writers to embrace this style of submission.  Just pound on the door with absolute confidence, because this is not an objective business, personal preference plays a part.  The agent could have just bought a book just like yours, or only likes dark paranormal when your book is full of humor, or it just didn’t grab them. So for every rejection or pass isn’t the end, it’s a step forward in the process of finding the agent or editor who ‘gets’ your vision.

In 2015, I’m going to have the never-give-up-Olympian attitude about rejection. Impossible only means I have to work harder.  For every pass takes me closer to the right agent and editor, the one who ‘gets’ me and my work, the one who will champion it to the world–and that I can feel happy about.

When You Think You’ve Reached the Top. Look Up.

DSC01287s I write.  Not every day and not always well, but I write. And I’ve been writing for a long, long time. I have consistently followed the writer’s path to publication for the last seven years. In my thirties, I took classes and started novels. Further back in my preteen years I wrote ‘The Story’, a 300 page, hand written tome, that had characters very similar to Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.  Even longer ago, I scribed a retelling of the Eros and Psyche myth in play format for my fourth grade project. I even dabbled with short stories before I knew how to write in cursive.  So when I say I’ve been writing a long time, I’m not exaggerating.

The last few years have been very similar to climbing a steep mountain side.  First the foothills, constant improvement, learning more craft, finaling in contest, finding great writing friends and critique partners.  Then I hit some tall, daunting walls: harsh critiques, rejections, financial woes, family issues, indecision about self-publishing, loss of faith.  But for every rock slide or loss of hand hold, I took two steps forward. I could see the top and nothing was going to stop me. I put my head down and worked harder.

I recently received some positive feedback from one of my all-time-favorite mentors and I thought for sure the apex was in my reach.  An agent or editor would grab my book soon and it would be all downhill from this point on.  Finally, I would be a published author.  I would be living the life of my dreams.

But as I read over my latest manuscript, I glanced up to see the top maybe further than I expected.

A lot further.

Could this have been just self-defeating, lack of confidence?  Or could this feeling be a realistic worry.  I felt frozen.  Like a climber who has miscalculated the time it would take and is worried she didn’t bring enough food. My thoughts spiraled into a vortex:  Can I financially make it without additional income for another year or two…or five?  Have I blown out my arms?  Writer speak for: Do I have the knowledge and strength to keep writing and rewriting and pushing, year after year?   Do I have enough faith in myself and my ability?

I sat and read craft books and wallowed in my story, unable to even begin the process—yet again.

I never thought about quitting. When you are this far up the mountain, you have passed the point of no return, you are committed. It’s reach the top or die.

And I remembered that it’s not just the idea of reaching the top that pushes me on day after day. It’s the journey. It’s the writing. It’s the puzzling together of a story that not only delights me but may someday delight others.  It’s the learning and the growing and the process.

I decided to find the strength and fight.  Write a new story, or dig in and edit one of the pile I have finished, or do both. Because no matter how high this mountain goes, there will always be another peek, another goal that pushes me forward, another milestone to reach.  Even when I finally get published, I will look up and realize that there is yet another mountain to climb.

Because I am a writer and that’s what we do.

A Recipe for Productivity

My title is a total lie. I just randomly typed a title and that’s not what this blog is about, but it’s related. I’ve discovered a really cool thing.

Noise-canceling headphones!!

*waits for recognition, gold star, wild screams of ecstasy from readers*

What? Not even a pat on the back? Okay, okay, I get it. You’ve all heard of noise-canceling headphones and this is not news for you, but I’m about to change all that.

Step down into the rabbit hole my friends.

I’ve made no secret that I’m dyslexic and I have to employ several different tricks to get my writing to a high level. High enough to be engaging, engrossing, interesting… you know, publishable. Aside from changing fonts for each editing pass, or setting my kindle on landscape mode with the lines more widely spaced, the noise-canceling thingy is a really huge discovery.

Because it has changed my writing habits and it can change yours too.

Since this is starting to sound like a multi-level marketing campaign, I’ll just get on with it:

Along with dyslexia I also have some problems with sensory integration, specifically auditory. I’m really sensitive to background noise; it pulls all my attention or makes it really difficult for me to listen or follow a conversation in a crowded room.

This whole journey started a few weeks ago when I decided to take my laptop out on a field trip to the great wild frontier (or more commonly known as a public place with really crappy WiFi so I wouldn’t be tempted to surf the internet while I was supposed to be writing).

I sat down, propped up my legs on a stool, did a little neck stretch, and in walks a group of riff raffs hell bent on the latest gossip. I swear they talked louder than a gaggle of cheerleaders strung out on pumpkin spice lattes—but the cheerleaders wouldn’t have been half as annoying. Steam came out my ears for a few minutes while I forced myself to concentrate on the project in front of me. At one point I completely gave up and started typing out how annoyed I was instead, in the hope that getting some words on the page would direct my focus back (although now I see that writing about it as it unfolded was not the best way to “refocus”).

Defeated, I packed up my things and moved inside to the café. And what do you know, about ten minutes later it got too cold for the group outside and they moved inside, too. I scrambled up my things again to move outside, except that I noticed a large group of over-stimulated children were on their way to sit out there.

I ended up going home instead.

Wishing that there were some way to block out the sound of background noise, I – wait—hold on–I DID have a way to cut out the sound of background noise. I remembered my husband had noise-canceling-headphones. I ran home and scoured through his things like a monkey thrashing through trash at a zoo.

With my new weapon in hand I brought it to the café the next day for another try. I found ocean sounds on YouTube and settled in. I won’t lie. It was pretty much awesome.

Then my husband showed me something that blew my mind: an app called Ambiance. It’s an app that allows me to download a variety of white noise type sounds. So I guess I’ll keep the husband around for a while. He’s proven he can be useful.

There are fire sounds, war sounds, train sounds, water sounds of every kind. Writing something creepy? Leaky faucet. Writing something mysterious? Creaking oak. Writing something in space? Outer space sounds…

Although, being a science fiction writer I was skeptical at that one.

Now when I’m writing a night scene I pull up my “country night” noise, which is crickets chirping, the occasional frog, even a distant car passing on the highway. Or I’m writing a scene on a busy street corner, I can find traffic noises that fit what I have in mind. Sometimes I just want to zone out and think about the plot and I have sounds set aside for that purpose. Overall, it’s just made me able to focus on what I’m writing much faster than I could before. I get into the zone more quickly and I write more.

But anyway, it’s a really neat tool and so far I’ve been digging it.

I love comments! Every time you comment a new sound will pop onto the Ambiance app for a writer to play with.

After the Immersion

QuillPenAnother one of my bucket list writerly dream came true. I recently attended an Immersion.  What is an Immersion?  A quick recap for the uninitiated, Immersion is a four-day crucible for writers, usually held in Colorado but luckily this time hosted in Ohio. The retreat hones participants writing skills with the help of the Bela Karolyi of writing instructors– Margie Lawson.

She has driven many writers to distraction, but she has also driven many writers to multi-book publishing deals and bestseller lists.

I arrived nervous, scared, but ready to learn. And learn I did.

We reviewed the basics according to Margie. Nothing shockingly new, earth rattling, or different.  Use power words, empower emotion and body language, white space, and the correct use of rhetorical devices. All the packets with her fantastic methods are available here and they are worth ten times the amount she charges.

We practiced the techniques and got instant feedback.  We read and reviewed and tweaked, then critiqued more, from early morning into the night, even during meals!

The experience was like receiving instruction from an NBA championship coach bent on another win. I loved every brain-squeezing moment.

Another aspect of the Immersion was the other attendees, my Immersion Sisters.  A group of mega-talented women who share my dreams, passions, and commitment.  We called ourselves the Rebel Zombie Flies. Don’t ask about the name, it would take too long to explain. But if you are curious follow this link http://www.darylscience.com/Demos/DeadFly.html.

Going in, I thought  I wasn’t ready, my work was crap, and I was still light years from my dream.

I left abuzz with an infusion of energy and faith. I push on submitting work with new vigor.  The implements in my writer’s toolbox glistening, sharpened to a diamond hard edge and my spirit bolstered by a taste of what I hope the future holds, crafting stories that are stellar, spending my time making them perfect– living the life I have always imagined.

Real Life Ghost Stories: Part Three—The Haunted House

I’ve accidentally found myself involved with a group of psychics, accidentally taken part in a séance, and accidentally spent the night in a haunted house. Yes, I do realize that I’m about the most inept sounding para-experienced human around. The haunted house came about after being invited to a sleepover. Except it wasn’t a normal house nor a normal night. It was a well-known haunted house in my community and also it was Halloween night.

According to town legend this house became haunted some time in the recent past. I learned about it’s hauntedness from several family members who as children would throw rocks at the windows and take turns seeing who among them could get the closest to the front door. Pretty much just like in the movies when you see a creepy house and children playing around it.

I won’t go into too much detail other than the family that took it on did a lot of really nice work to the inside and put a lot of love into making it livable again. There was no “story” attached to the history of the house. Nobody died in there, nobody was tortured. It was just one of those things that people believed to be haunted and so it became the town’s haunted house. Every town needs one right?

A friend and I were invited over to a sleepover and my parents were a bit nervous about the idea. Not so much because of the house, but also because the family had connections to a well known serial killer. Oh…forgot to mention that part. Anyway, the connection didn’t weigh too much, since the family was nice. The parents were going to be there, except they’d arrive around dinnertime because they would be coming in from a day trip. All things added up to a fun, safe evening of a teenage romp.

I picked up my friend at her house and we headed over to the sleepover together. We discussed all the cool things we were going to do, it being Halloween and all. Since we were super nerdy, most of those discussions revolved around recreating a science experiment from Chemistry that involved plastic bags and fire.

Probably should leave it at that. Don’t try it at home kids!

But mostly we ended up cooking gourmet food and brownies and staying up all night talking about life, the universe, and which people from high school were the most unlikely to ever leave high school.

Around midnight our host’s parents still hadn’t arrived and we began to drift in an out of sleep. Every so often we’d hear a creak or stutter in the wood. At one point I woke to a door slamming. I tried to be perfectly still, pretend I was sleeping, but something gave me away, because Meghan (my friend who came with me to the sleepover) called out.

“Hey, you awake?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Do you hear it?”

I stopped and listened, noticing the sound of angry voices. It was faint. Our door was closed and the voices seemed to be coming from another room across the hall where the door the door was also closed.

“Her parents must be home.” I wanted to be diplomatic, not say too much about the fighting in case our hostess woke and then had to face embarrassment of her parent’s not getting along.

We both lay on our backs, struggling to ignore the now growing argument. At some point we both fell back asleep, only to be jerked awake again by another door slamming and then the hall light came on, casting a glow from the gap under our door. The floorboards of the hallway creaked. The light flickered as if someone were walking the halls. Then after a few minutes the person went back into the room, the door shutting with a hard note of finality.

I heard a sigh from the bed of our host.

“You okay?” we both asked her.

“Yes. It’s fine,” she said.

Meghan and I exchanged glances. It didn’t sound fine, but we also knew people fought and we could have very likely just caught them at a bad time. The argument had seemed distant and cold. Although we couldn’t make out the hushed words of what was spoken, most of the tension happened in the long drawn out silences.

We slept fitfully for the rest of the night, even though there were no more quiet confrontations, only the occasional ticks and cracks and groans from an old house settling in for the night.

In the morning, we made breakfast—or rather our host did since she was really talented with the stove and oven, noting her parent’s were not yet awake. After a while we realized that we were actually alone in the house again. Our host thought about this for a moment, and realized that her parent’s must have gone to church and we all cheered that we had somehow escaped. Meghan and I figured it was our Catholic-ness that maybe earned us our freedom from attending a different church.

We packed our things and put them out into the car, but decided to stick around for a while and chat some more. That was until her parents pulled in, their car covered in snow. Except it didn’t snow in the valley where we were and it would have melted by now if it was from their trip the day before.

The parents rolled in the drive and they waved from their window. “We are so sorry!” they called out. “We got stuck after they closed the freeway last night and had to stay in a hotel. I hope you girls had a fun sleepover. Please let your parents know we’re terribly disappointed we weren’t here to supervise.”

Meghan and I looked at each other confused. Our host appeared a little pale as well. After some questioning and making sure we weren’t punked, Meghan and I decided it was time to leave. The whole trip home we dissected the night’s events. Was it a set up? Did we really experience a visit from the ghosts of the house? Who were they, if not the parents?

We never really settled that one.

I love comments! Every time you leave a comment a ghost will haunt unsuspecting teenagers.