Category Archives: Getting Published

My Best Writing Makes Me Feel ______.

My best writing makes me feel like this!

A few years back I changed dentists. Everything started out just fine. I settled into the chair and stared at the ceiling. I noodled through the logistical difficulties of installing television screens between the tiles. It was pretty normal. Boring.

Then the hygienist came in and asked me about my goals for my teeth.

“Yes… What are your goals for your teeth?”

And despite the fact that this very serious lady was about to put very sharp and pointy instruments into my mouth, my writer’s brain kicked in before I could stop it.

“Well, unlike my children, when they grow up I’d appreciate it if they didn’t move out on their own.”

[Cue the blank stare from the hygienist…]

But it was such an open ended question! What could I do? I suppose I ought to wear a button that says WARNING: WRITER! DO NOT GIVE HIM AN OPENING! It’s only fair to warn people in advance, right?

On Twitter, I don’t have to warn anyone in advance about being a writer. My handle there is hownottowrite. It’s pretty obvious what I’m going to go on about. So, yesterday I posed a question to my tweeps:

“My best writing makes me feel ____.”

I started doing this Twitter thing hardcore about a year ago. I tweet about all sorts of things: what’s going on in my personal world, hanging out with my family, taking pictures of whatever carbtastic thing I’m about to consume… But generally, I focus on writing and the writing life.

I also like to toss out questions and hear what other writers have to say. To me, that’s what Twitter is all about — connecting with people and having fun.

And how does my best writing make me feel?

My best writing makes me feel as if I’ve tapped into something much larger than myself. In fact, it makes me feel like a conduit into another world as opposed to any sort of editor or creator. The world flows through me and I am infinitely grateful for the experience.

Please enjoy the wonderful responses below. Visit these great writers! When you’re done, take a moment to leave a comment and add your voice to the chorus!

p.s. Everything turned out fine at the dentist. We laughed, we cried, we filled a cavity. 🙂

Your turn! Go for it! “My best writing makes me feel ____.”

Best Little Christmas Story

No, I’m not posting a Christmas story (not yet). This is a special post to let you know that I launched a new site over the weekend – Best Little Christmas Story.

For background on the site, check out the About the Site page. There’s also a link to register on the site. Registering on the site allows you to share stories as real posts on the site. As I say over there, think of it as guest posting for Santa. 🙂

Of course, everyone is welcome to comment. You don’t need to register for that, but since so many writers frequent this site I thought that I’d extend a special invitation to by means of a post here. I hope you’ll come by for a visit and consider signing up.

In fact, the first guest post should be live by the time you read this. Novelist Deborah Woehr (@DeborahWoehr on Twitter) wrote a beautiful post entitled Seasons of Hope. Come by and read it. I know you’ll be touched just as I was.

Merry Christmas!!

Manuscript-Under-The-Mattress Syndrome

No matter what sort of writer you happen to be, there is some part of you that is confident. Putting the words in your head onto the page is the first demonstration of that confidence. Sharing them with others is the second. Asking for help is the third, and it is here that many writers fail.

As in many things, it is easier to quit than ask for help.

I kid quite a bit on this site about being a bad writer, but in truth, it’s far easier to be a martyr for your art than to be an actual artist. It’s easier to simply say that your book or story is no good and put it away rather than get down to the hard work of turning it over to more capable hands for serious evaluation and assistance.

Manuscript-Under-The-Mattress Syndrome

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the completion of my second novel. I didn’t have a cake, nor did I light a candle. In fact, I didn’t even realize it had been five years until someone asked me about the book last night:

“Why do you think it was bad?”

The answers ranged from the obvious (the person I paid to read the book couldn’t finish it) to pure avoidance (I “over-edited” the book). I also tried to frame my answer by trying to change the medium (the book would make a better play than a novel).

“Did you share the book with other writers or do you keep it under your mattress?”

I did share the book with a few writer-types I know. Those who managed to make it through the work panned it. To give a you a flavor of the comments, I one fellow put his copy in the closet and came across it recently when he was getting ready to move:

“Can you believe I actually sat down and read it? I mean, it sucks of course, but I think it’s amazing that you finished it.”

There are parts of the book that are funny and there are parts that are poignant and yes there are parts that do indeed suck. The same could be said about most books. Mine is really no different, but what is different is that I have never asked for help. I paid someone to read it and proof it, but that is hardly the same thing as asking for help.

As a result, the novel I wrote five years ago has indeed slept beneath my metaphysical mattress. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience?

How to Ask for Help?

Well, you could start a blog and write about your failures as a writer and hope that someone will come along and take pity on you…

On second thought, perhaps that’s not the best advice. 🙂

Actually, I’m hoping that you will help me fill in the blank here. (see I’m asking for help) I would love to hear from writers and editors on this subject. I’ve read a lot of books on writing and this is one area that seems to get glossed over and yet I think it is critical to moving on from Manuscript-Under-The-Mattress Syndrome.

6 Things Not to Do When Your Story Is Rejected

I picked up a new rejection in my inbox this week.

Lego Dragon, Not Like Mine
Note: This dragon does not appear in my story…
[Image credit: teejayhanton Flickr]

The story is quirky, so I know it will be difficult to place. Should someone force me to classify it, I might call it Terry Pratchett meets David Lynch

In any case, the editor, who is known for being tough, blunt, and fair, did not disappoint. The rejection notice outlined the basic faults of the story and clearly explained why it wouldn’t work with the publication. I really couldn’t ask for more.

Before you ask… No, I won’t name the editor. No, I won’t name the publication. That’s kinda silly. They rejected the story, not me.

I read a lot of posts by struggling writers who get themselves worked up into a terrible fit about their rejections. Having been there myself, I realize it’s hard not to take these things personally. So, with a fresh example in hand, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few thoughts on rejection.

6 Things Not to Do When Your Story Is Rejected

1. DO NOT: Write back

A friendly bit of advice from an editor is not an invitation to send a thank you. It is certainly not an opportunity to argue the case for your story.

Editors are busy. Do not waste their time.

If you decide to argue with an editor, you’re not only asking to be blacklisted from their publication but also from other publications. Editors talk. You do not want to be the subject of conversations like this.

I’ve heard stories about writers who have written back and badgered editors into taking their stories. I suppose that this approach might work in some few instances, but I just fail to see the point in it. If the editor wants you to write back, they’ll tell you. Plain and simple.

2. DO NOT: Throw Away Your Story

I sent the story to this particular publication because I thought that they would like it. I was wrong. However, this doesn’t mean the story is bad or ought to be burned in the street before a cheering mob.

As I said above, the editor rejected my story not me. This is one editor, working for one publication. I will likely submit to this publication again in the future because I like it and would like to see my work with other writers I respect. For the moment though, I’ll be moving on.

3. DO NOT: Cancel Your Subscription

Now, why on earth did you subscribe to this publication in the first place?

Hopefully, you subscribed to the publication because you liked the material. Later, you decided to submit to the publication because you wanted to see your work there with other authors you admire who are producing works similar to your own.

Do you believe that editors check the membership rolls before accepting stories?

I have no idea if they do, but it seems like that would be a fairly ridiculous thing to do… Read the next issue. Get inspired. Try again.

4. DO NOT: Blast The Editor and/or The Publication

This is an extension of #1.

It’s natural to feel disappointed when you are rejected, especially when the subject line of the email says REJECTION in all caps. 🙂

20 years ago it wasn’t very easy to get the word out that you’d been rejected by publication X. Today, the Internet makes it possible to make a fool of yourself immediately in front of rather large groups of people.

Don’t take it personally. Have a little pity party for yourself. Cry on the shoulders of your friends for a minute or two and then dust yourself off and get some more stamps.

5. DO NOT: Pester Your Friends and Readers for Good Words About Other Stories

Crying on the shoulders of friends is one thing, but badgering them for opinions after a rejection is taking advantage of their friendship. It’s also unfair to the work you’ve placed in their hands for careful consideration.

I can’t claim to be a saint on this one.

In fact, on same day I received the rejection notice, I rushed off a message to someone who is reading a new story. It wasn’t fair and I apologized (and here I apologize again). This is part of the reason I wrote this article.

6. DO NOT: Tell Yourself That You’ll Never Be Published

You will be published. It may not be in the biggest publication. You may not get paid. However, I guarantee that someone, somewhere will publish your work if you keep sending it out.

Yes, even you crazy people too.

There are loonies in publishing just waiting for the next manifesto. Not many, but they’re out there.

Please don’t hurt anyone though, quite unnecessary.

The only way you will fail to be published is by failing to send out submissions. I know because when I stopped sending out stories I stopped showing up in print. Shocking, I know, but editors are not coming to visit me at the cafe to see when I might have some new story for them to hurry to their readers.

The Good News Is Just Around the Corner… If You Keep Going

Even though my story was rejected this week, I turned around and sold a non-fiction article. Just got the email yesterday!

This is the first time I have ever been paid for my writing. Those stories I mentioned earlier paid in contributor copies. So, I’m pretty excited about this modest little start. I suspect that this would have happened much, much sooner if I’d kept going way back in the day, but I’m not dwelling on it.

I’m off to the post office to by more stamps.

As an aside, if you’re interested in self-doubting Barbarians, wise-cracking wizards, and pornography-loving dragons (without depictions of actual pornography), email me and I’ll send you the story.

The story contains fewer hyphens than suggested by the previous sentence… if that’s any enticement. Like I said, it’s a bit quirky. They can’t all be Alice Munro meets William Gibson.

Giving Away Your Book Part 2

Since I wrote the original post about the philosophy of Giving Away Your Book, I’ve continued to study the world of free content. It’s really fascinating.

Here are a few additional things I’ve learned:

1. Giving away free books for a short time is a good way to create a sense of urgency and excitement.

Bob Younce of Writing Journey wrote a 30 page report on the e-lancer service known as Helium. Bob’s original posts on his Helium experiment inspired me to write my first Helium article.

Who knew I had so much to say about dropshipping?

Bob followed up on his experiment by writing this monster post about Helium, that turned into a paper, that will eventually be a for pay e-book. He’s using Twitter and his blog to generate interest in the free work before switching it over to a fee-based e-book.

Continue reading Giving Away Your Book Part 2