Form Rejections

Hello, hello!  Last Thursday, I sent out a few of the queries I was talking about in my last post.  Friday morning, I woke up to a form rejection from one of the companies that declare a no from one agent is a no from all of them.  They didn’t even take the time to personalize it with my name or the title of my “material,”  and the signature wasn’t from the agent I addressed my query to, but instead from an associate agent.  It had been sent at 8:04 in the morning.  I thought my first agent rejection would be devastating, that it would be so much harder to take than all of the other writerly rejections I’ve received.  I was wrong.  A form rejection that basic was pretty much the best first agent rejection I could have asked for.

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Cute animal memes help.

First, I suppose I should explain what a form rejection is for people who might not be sure.  It’s basically a vague letter turning you down.  Most of the ones I’ve gotten have an “it’s not you, it’s us” vibe.  They start with a firm no, usually followed up by explaining that your story doesn’t mesh with what they’re looking for, and ending with something along the lines of “feel free to submit to us in the future.”  Most of them are polite enough to include your name and the title of your story, at least in the realm of magazine/ezine rejections (not sure about agent rejections yet).

What do form rejections mean to me?  Honestly, they tend to be an indication that my story didn’t even make it out of the slush pile, that it probably didn’t even make it to human eyes (and I might be entirely wrong, but it’s what I like to think).  The places I submit to get hundreds of submissions a week.  There’s no way they can read each piece and give them the attention they deserve.  Slush readers weed through the ever-expanding piles and do their best to pick pieces the editors will enjoy or grab names that will bring in more readers.  I’m guessing a similar process occurs in the agencies.  I might not appreciate the whole process, but I understand it.  As writers, rejection is a part of the game and we can’t question each one we get.

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Okay, but only for a little while, then back to work.

So, yeah.  A barebones form rejection from an associate agent was exactly the kind of rejection I needed.  It doesn’t mean that Garnets and Guardians is unwanted trash.  It doesn’t reflect on my writing in any way.  It simply means the agency wasn’t hooked by my query, if they even read it at all.  And that’s okay.  I’m more worried about when the rejections get personal, because then I’ll know it’s my fault.  I might start getting really discouraged at that point.  Until then, I’ll just keep writing and submitting and collecting my rejections.  That’s all I can do.

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Don’t let the rejections get you down!

How do you feel about form rejections?  If they get you down, do you have any kind of ritual to help improve your mood again?  Feel free to share any thoughts, stories, questions, or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Accountability: Like Due Dates But Different

Howdy, howdy!  I was really having a hard time deciding what to write about when a friend sent me a text thanking me for being the voice in her head asking if she was at least thinking about writing.  It gave her the nudge she needed to stop at a place after work and take a little while to have a cup of tea and write some words.  She hadn’t written in a while, but she wanted to, so I told her I’d pester her every day or so until she started writing.  The second day of pestering and she’s already making time for it.  That’s what happens when you’re held accountable for things like this, you make time for them.

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I know, Cas.  I know.  I’ll go do that.

 I don’t know about you, but I always work better with deadlines in place.  At school, I could knock a ten page paper out in one night if I had to, as long as the research was done ahead of time.  Deadlines meant grades.  In the real world, missing deadlines affects the pay from the day job.  In other words, deadlines carry the threat of consequences.  But what’s going to happen if you don’t finish a novel?  Unless you have a contract with a due date, nothing will happen.  So, how do writers overcome this lack of a threat and finish things?  We hold each other accountable.

In the beginning, I didn’t really understand how holding each other accountable would work.  After all, if I don’t push myself to finish something, why would someone judging me for it be motivational?  Turns out that guilt is a powerful tool.  If I set reasonable goals with people and don’t reach them, I feel guilty.  I don’t care if the end of the world pops up, if people know I planned on doing things and failed, it sucks.  It also helps that I’m mildly competitive, so failure and losing are not an option.  I won’t be the only one to not meet my goals.

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Mixed signals achieved.

 According to people I’ve done this whole accountability thing with, it also works by legitimizing their craft, especially when they have jobs.  They have trouble taking time out of their schedules to write because they feel like it shouldn’t be a priority even when they secretly (or not so secretly) want it to be.  Having someone who will pester them and encourage them gives them an “excuse” to make time for writing.

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You can’t keep waiting when there’s no last minute.

 So, even when deadlines aren’t an option, we can still motivate each other by holding each other accountable.  We might not receive any real negative consequences if we don’t meet our goals, but we’ll have to live with the shame of disappointing our friends.  Who has time for that?

Do you have any friends who pester you about your creative outlet?  Does accountability work for you?  How?  If not, what do you do to stay productive and motivated?  Leave a comment here or on my social media pages to share your thoughts!

Until next week!

A Writer’s Tale

Hello, hello!  I was at a loss over what to write for today.  My usual plea for topic ideas proved unfruitful this time.  Then, I realized that I have never shared my journey to writerhood on here.  At least I don’t think I have.  Feel free to stop reading if you’ve heard this story before.

I’ve always written.  Stories, poems, the occasional attempt at a comic strip (but my drawing skills failed me there).  I never really wanted to be a professional, though, so I’m a little different from my friends and fellow writers who have wanted to do this forever.  My crazy job goal was always a fashion designer, but when I figured out that wasn’t going to happen, I set my sights on more obtainable professions.

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Dallas Hall at SMU.  This campus is where my plan tumbled down.

 I went through most of my time at college (both community and university) waffling between psychology and English.  With psychology, I could help kids like myself.  After all, all the psychologists I saw walked into the room and presumed to know how I felt.  It never seemed right to me.  At least I would appear a little more relatable than they did to me.  I also kept returning to English because it was easy and I enjoyed it.  In fact, by the time I transferred to SMU (I went in as a Junior), the only degrees I had time to finish were psychology and English.

Since I had a semblance of a plan with psychology, I initially decided to go with that major.  It was going well.  I passed all my classes with fairly high grades (never less than a B).  I really got into abnormal psychology, especially the class that focused on disorders in children.  I aced my research class paper.  But I still kept taking English classes as well.

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Try having the debate with yourself.  I still secretly prefer APA.

 Then, that fateful day came.  Dad was walking me to class after a stop at the campus coffee shop and we were talking about majors and what I was planning to do, when he asked the question that shattered my little plan.  “How’re you supposed to be a psychologist when you don’t like people?”  He was right.  I’m not a people person.  I don’t like to pry.  I’ll offer advice when asked, but beyond that you’re on your own.  What kind of psychologist would I be?  I could go into research, but I don’t even like that.  Thus, I became an English major.

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Don’t fall for the hype!

 What was I supposed to do with an English major?  I had zero desire to teach.  So, I took some creative writing courses, found out that I still enjoyed writing, and dipped my toe into the big bad world of writerhood.  And that’s how I found myself on a path that would take me to Stonecoast and onto a place where I could live with the voices inside my head without having to worry about people.

How did you decide to pursue the path you’re on?  Did you always know you wanted to do it or did it spring itself on you?  Tell me your story in the comments or on my social media pages!

Mood Music

Hey all!  What kind of sounds do you enjoy in your creative environments?  It’s a weird question, I know, but it’s an interesting one.  A lot of people I’ve talked to about this can’t work in noisy places.  They go so far as to carry around those noise-cancelling headphones if they decide to write outside of their usual area.  It’s a neat idea, since it’s not only dampening noise, but also giving people a visual sign that you don’t want to be bothered.  However, I couldn’t do that.  I like to work when there’re sounds all around (preferably music).  So, I thought I’d share some of the music I write by.

Music

Honestly, I don’t really have much in the way of criteria when it comes to the music I listen to while writing.  I basically just hit shuffle on my iTunes and I’m ready to go.  I usually try to start with a song in a language I don’t speak much of, because it’s easier to not get distracted when you can’t sing along.  Any language will do, really, but I’m partial to Japanese.  Though my music ranges from English to Japanese to German to Spanish to French to Thai to… well, you get the idea.

Buck-Tick is one of my go-tos for writing.

Anyway, on the rare occasion that I do more than hit shuffle, I’m usually looking for a song that sets a certain mood.  Take the song above, if I’m looking to write something epic (like fantasy epic, not epic for the sake of epic), that would be on the list.  My writing tends to lean more towards horror a lot of the time, so you can bet I have a ton of rage music.  Dir en grey, Rammstein, basically all your screamers and growlers go on the rage list.  Then there’s the happy rage (see below, but beware of foul language) which is really helpful when writing certain characters.  You know the ones I mean.  We all have them.

I suppose I have to admit that I also have a number of sappy songs.  I blame a certain male I used to know for that.  These are the types of songs I never used to own.  Ah well.  I suppose we all need a reason for a little sap.  Admittedly, it’s actually helpful to have musicians like James Blunt and Lifehouse and others in my collection.  I find more and more romance seeping into my writing, so it’s good to have that kind of playlist.  Plus, you know, the music is really good.

So yeah, my writing music spans pretty much everything.  Also, it runs the gamut of the years.  I mostly mentioned 90’s and later here, but I have classical and oldies and everything in between.

As I was asking in the beginning, are you more of a quiet worker or noisy?  What kind of noise?  Nature or music?  What kind of music?  I’m curious to know how my method differs from yours, so drop me a line on here or Facebook or Twitter or Google+!

Is Reading Actually Work?

Hello, hello!  I recently asked people on my personal Facebook account for advice on what to ramble about on here, whether they had questions for me, etc.  So far, I’ve received four ideas, which I will address in this and future posts.  But first, I wanted to invite anyone who reads this to send me suggestions or questions or just random comments!  You can do it here on the blog or Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

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You have questions, yes? Art by Heise (Lian Yan Fang)

The topic I’m going to address today comes from my dad.  Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of my time reading instead of writing, and he randomly asked me if reading was part of my work.  I had to pause, and formulate a satisfactory answer.  He just wanted a yes or no.  Unfortunately, I had to re-convince myself.  It’s something I’ve thought of before and I consistently arrive at the same conclusion, but I always feel kind of weird saying yes, simply because I enjoy reading.  No one actually enjoys “work,” right?  So, how can reading be work?  It is.  I think.

The more I think about jobs, the more I realize that they’re constantly changing, and people have to study to keep on top of it all.  It’s not far-fetched for companies to keep an eye on the competition (also known as other companies).  Well, in the writing field, your “competition” is other writers!  What better way to keep track of what everyone else is doing than by reading their stuff?  At least that’s how I rationalize reading current authors.  It’s studying!  It’s not my fault that my studying involves zombies and werewolves and fun stuff like that.

And anime/manga. I get to study that too.

Actually, studying applies to basically all of my reading.  When I read the classics, I’m studying form or the craft or whatever you want to call it.  That pretty much goes along with any author, current or past.  I blame Stonecoast.  I used to read just for fun, but once I had to focus on certain aspects (characterization, pace, diction, the list goes on), it took over my entire reading life.  I can no longer open a book without noticing parts of the craft that the author excels at (or fails miserably at).  In that way, reading definitely gets tedious if I don’t enjoy the story enough to override all of that.  Those books are most certainly work, but I can’t forget that I get something from every book.  I learn things.  That sounds like good work to me.

One last reason that reading is work for a writer is actually the most obvious.  Writing often requires knowledge outside of the author’s wheel house.  This means they have to study those things, and if they can’t do so with a more hands on approach, they have to read about them.  For example, I write about serial killers every so often.  One way I prep for such stories is to brush up on psychology.  Granted, I studied the field in undergrad, but terms are always changing and I know very little compared to people who spent years studying it.  I do this because I get irked by authors who obviously have no idea what they’re talking about.  So, if you’re writing about something and only have a vague idea how it works, please go read up on it.  Google makes this fairly easy.

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It’s not wrong.

So, what does all of this mean?  Basically, there’s more to writing than just the words you put on the page.  It requires studying, which means it requires reading.  It’s all part of a writer’s job.  At least that’s my take on it.  What do you think?