On Rejection

I’ve just received my 57th form rejection email for my novel. I like to print them out and keep them in a file. It hasn’t slowed me too much because there are a lot of agents out there.

In the mean time I keep writing short stories and flash fiction and have started another novel, so I stay busy. If you’re going to write, you need a thick skin.

The only thing that bugs me are the agents that ask you to send pages and don’t read them. I understand agents are busy people and all that, but if they’re so busy don’t ask for pages in the first place. (By the way, I’m not just talking queries with attached pages, I’m talking requested pages here.)

How do I know they don’t bother to read? I’ve started to place a tiny, almost invisible pencil mark under the paper clip holding my pages on snail mail submissions, and the pages have come back pristine, the clip in it’s same position. (On e-mail submissions, who knows?)

I don’t care if an agent reads my stuff and writes back, “This is crap.” At least I know the agent took the time, and I didn’t waste the postage. But don’t ask for pages you don’t intend to read. Writers pay postage. It shows a lack of class to ignore work that you requested. Don’t do it.

It won’t stop me from sending out queries, and you know, it’s not that hard to act like a human being.

Got to go. More queries to mail.

The Lonliness of the Professional Writer

ImageHello, writers. I’m talking to those of you who are struggling with your first novel, short story, article, whatever, and perhaps you’re waiting for inspiration, the muse, or lighting to strike before you write that bestseller or Pulitzer Prize winning piece. I’ve got news. It’s not going to happen. At least not right away.

Writing is a solitary, sometimes horribly lonely profession. It’s also a job. Professionals will tell you that you have to make time to write every day, and you have to do it. SET ASIDE TIME. Don’t use it to go on line. Don’t check Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other sites you use. Write. Set a word goal and keep to it. If you hate it, you can always revise. Not everything you write is going to be good, but if you keep writing, you will get better. The important thing is that you keep at it.

Keep doing it until you get the story finished. Then go back and edit. Your first draft probably won’t be great, but that’s okay. You can edit and polish and edit and polish. Do this. Constantly.

Another thing: hear your writing. Take the time to read it. Out loud. Listen to the rhythms and cadence. Does it sound right? Would you want to listen to it on an audio book or does it make you cringe. If it’s the latter, revise. Again.

Ask people to read what you’ve written. Start with friends and move on to writing groups and people who will be more critical, but thoughtfully critical. Get to know other writers. There are a lot out there, and many of them are going through the same things you are. Get to know them. They are (for the most part) wonderfully supportive and helpful.

Finally, read. I don’t mean just best sellers. Read everyone. Learn different styles and genres. If you appreciate good writing, your writing will get better. Don’t get discouraged. It will happen if you keep at it. Read short stories, novels, graphic novels, whatever. Just read.

Carry a notebook and make notes about what you see in the world. If you’re really sneaky, you can jot down a good turn of phrase. It works. I’ve stolen a bunch from my kids.

Writers’ conferences are also a great resource, if you can afford them. You’ll discover a world of people who, like you, are trying to figure this writing business out. The speakers and even the agents who come are extremely pleasant, helpful and full of good information.

Finally never stop learning. There’s never a point where you can’t discover something new.

You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to hit like a lightening bolt from the sky because it probably won’t. But remember, you aren’t alone.

 

Flash! Friday # 28 — WINNERS!

Flash! Friday

I knew you all would come up with hilarious, terrifying, creepy, stirring adventures for our poor Lady of Shallot. If only Waterhouse and Tennyson were around to weigh in, eh?? (Maybe we’ll save that for a future contest… heh heh.) You all continually amaze me with your inventiveness and skill. Thank you for coming out to play! Thanks too to judge Kinza Carpenter Shores for her fine work this week. Thank you, all!

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Judge Kinza Carpenter Shores says, I love judging but was sad this week not to be able to write for it too! What a compelling prompt. The stories were all so wonderful. Seriously. Sooooo many good stories! 

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HONORABLE MENTION

Dawn Nikithser, “Captaining.” I loved the poetry. Really well written, it had a very inviting cadence and rhythm. The sentiment was clear and strong and the imagery beautiful, and even though it is…

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More Summer Movie Mahem

With the arrival of the new Superman movie at the theaters, I feel compelled to note (and I’m by no means the first to do so) the new trend in action movies. These loud spectacles roar into the theaters chock full of CGI effects where whole cities are destroyed willy nilly until the beleaguered hero/heroes finally restore order. The plots, such as they are, are thin, the characters are even thinner, but the violence and decibel level is way over the top. The object, of course, is to lure teenage to twenty-year old guys to the movies, and it’s working so Hollywood sees no need to change the formula.

Look, I’m not damning all action movies. I loved Batman, but Christopher Nolan created deeply resonant characters in his Batman trilogy. He also created the haunting Memento and Insomnia, both character-driven films.

The new Superman film could have been another great picture. It starts out with a pretty compelling story but morphs into the standard action CGI fest.

I understand that action is where the big money lies in Hollywood, but movies like Mama Mia and Bridesmaids also had pretty respectable showings at the box office and not one building collapsed.

More and more I find myself searching out indie movies because on their small budgets, they must tell stories, not rely on booming sound tracts and special effects to do the job for them. Or maybe I’ll just give up and leave the movies to the guys and watch cable. There’s some pretty good stuff on cable now.

Game of Thrones for TV

Now that Game of Thrones has ended its third season, I’ve heard a lot of grumbling from people who read the books about the ways in which the series has deviated from its source material. To those who are upset about it, I say, deal with it.

An adaptation of a book is not a recreation of the book, line by line, character by character. It has to be streamlined for dramatic purposes, and characters who are interesting, but not essential to the plot, generally are eliminated. Let’s face it, HBO isn’t producing a Shakespeare play here. It’s trying to bring to life several sprawling 900-plus page novels, filled with characters.

Having written video scripts, I cannot fathom how they condensed the material into three ten hour seasons. Would I like to see more? Of course! I love GOT. I wish it ran at least 16 or 20 episodes, but it doesn’t. So that means, things must be condensed, they would still be in the first book.

I also read the books, and I still have to go back and double check names, but I remember the story. I think David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have done an excellent job in capturing the essence of George R.R. Martin’s story, which can be boiled down to one line, “In the Game of Thrones you win or die.”

I think those who get upset about the changes might do better to take the series as a separate piece from the books. After all, changes were made to The Lord of the Rings, but it didn’t change the essence of the story. The movies worked well because Peter Jackson clearly understood and loved the source material.

The same could be said for Benioff and Weiss and Game of Thrones.

 

 

Webster

He lies on his bed and watches the light patterns change on the ceiling.

It’s been twelve hours and seventeen minutes since he stepped into the front door and stood amid the balloons and friends and relatives who crowded too close, hugging and kissing and crying. Though he wanted to run away screaming, he forced himself to smile and say how glad he was to be home.

The house smelled like a mix of roast beef and cherry pie, but it made his stomach tighten. He missed his mom’s cooking, but there was so much of it. He had gotten out of the habit of eating, and they just kept trying to feed him. The home seems so alien it scares him. When he and his dad and Uncle Brad and his cousins Pauly and Jimbo went out to smoke cigars, he stood with his back to the house on high alert in the deepening twilight.

“You seem a little out of it,” Pauly said.

“Just tired. It was a long plane ride.”

“Now you can go to college like you always wanted,” his dad says.

He doesn’t know if he can focus any more, and even if he could, he can’t see himself fitting in with carefree undergrads. They may have read more novels or know more science, but he’s seen guys lit up like Fourth of July rockets. He’s seen a guy cut in half. He’s picked up body parts after a landmine blew up a jeep full of his friends. After three tours, there isn’t much he hasn’t seen

They call him a hero, but he’s not. He’s a survivor. He has a few scars on his arms and hands, but he’s intact.  In country they called him Magic Man.

Now he hears screams all the time. He jumps when anyone comes up behind him. He lies on his bed and stares at the ceiling because he can’t sleep, and he’s afraid if he goes to the doctor, he’ll be branded a mental case and won’t be able to get a job.

He hears scratching at his door and bolts up, but it’s only Webster, his parents Golden Retriever. Webster’s gait is a little slower these days, but he still jumps on the bed with grace and crawls up against him. He gives a soft whimper and butts him.

It’s a small comfort to lie against this yellow dog, to feel his warmth and run his fingers through his soft fur. The simple repetition is soothing. He listens in the dark to Webster’s panting and hears him begin to snore.

He edges closer to the dog and wraps his arms around him. As always a curious sense of calm descends on him, and his body adjusts to the rhythm of the dog’s breathing. There’s no judgement, no too eager attempt to be cheerful, just unconditional acceptance. Webster might as well be part of him.

“Help me,” he says. “I want to come home.”