Posts tagged with "persistence" - Faerye Net 2011-03-04T22:29:41+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Find n 2011-03-04T22:29:41+00:00 2011-03-04T23:50:44+00:00 <p>Here&#8217;s one of those things that I can&#8217;t believe I&#8217;ve never blogged about before (though I hinted about it when I chronicled <a href="" target="links">my first rejection letter</a> in 2004). Writing folks who know me in real life have probably heard me say this, but I want it up here, for two reasons. One, so I can drop a link when I refer to it in future; two, in case this way of thinking about rejections helps someone as it helped me.</p> <p>When I started sending out stories, I knew I would be hearing a lot of &#8220;NO.&#8221; We all know that. We all find some way to deal with it: this is mine.</p> <p><strong>There is a finite, unknown number <em>n</em> of noes between you and yes. The only way to determine <em>n</em> is experimentally.</strong></p> <p>That may actually make me sound a lot more logical than I usually feel, but it helped me. It helped me take those thin, thin envelopes out of the mailbox and open them and keep sending stories out, in the dark days before <a href=""><em>n</em> made itself known</a>. A friend of a friend is reported to open responses from poetry journals exclaiming, &#8220;Aha! The rejection slips I sent away for have arrived!&#8221; but this, while cheerful, is not sufficiently optimistic for my worldview.</p> <p>The truth is, every rejection is a sort of accomplishment, provided you&#8217;re improving your work and trying your best. Without throwing yourself in the way of rejection, you&#8217;re never going to stumble into acceptance. There are ways you can learn to improve your writing, which will probably make <em>n</em> smaller. There are ways &#8212; not researching markets, scattershot submissions, not revising and not being honest about your work &#8212; to make <em>n</em> almost certainly larger. But there&#8217;s only one way to determine the value of <em>n</em>. There is no equation, only experiment. You have to do it the hard way. Send out more stories. Count your losses. Send out more stories.</p> <p>It&#8217;s true for stories, for academic articles, for grad school applications. Every rejection is one fewer between you and acceptance. Get out there and find <em>n</em>.</p> 500 words a day (or so) 2008-08-20T11:33:07+00:00 2008-08-20T11:33:07+00:00 <p>Of late, I&#8217;ve been listening to the <a href=""><em>Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing</em></a> podcast (are podcast names italicized?). This only happens, say, while grocery shopping or folding clothes, so I&#8217;m plugging through them fairly slowly. However, it&#8217;s interesting and often inspiring.</p> <p>This summer, they&#8217;re doing some contest which, in manner of crossover comics plotlines, is supposed to get AiSFP listeners to listen to sister program <em>I Should Be Writing</em> and vice versa. It has writer guests deliver &#8216;Keys to Publishing&#8217; which we&#8217;re supposed to collect from both shows. Anyway, the first one, in <a href="">Podcast 56</a>, was delivered by Tobias Buckell and was, naturally, persistence. Always number one, that one, I thought, as I picked out green taco sauce for enchiladas, but when Buckell expanded, it turned out he was not talking about sending stories out doggedly (hey wait, how many stories do I have out? Maybe I need that pep talk too), but about <em>writing</em> doggedly. &#8220;I think a professional has to write a lot, and be persistent about it. It takes about 300 words a day or a page a day to create a novel in a year, and a novel in a year is quite often, you know, a rate that a lot of people have to hit in order to make a living at it.&#8221;</p> <p>Obviously, this is good advice, as is the unpacking he does about practicing for productivity and practicing our craft in general, so I decided I would start writing 500 words a days towards a project I&#8217;m working on. If I only hit 300, that would be okay (I&#8217;ve discovered that setting goals works better if I don&#8217;t berate myself for falling short), and this is in addition to any other projects I&#8217;m working on. The first obstacle was, of course, that I do my initial drafts longhand. My <a href="" target="links">Clairefontaine notebooks</a> don&#8217;t have a word count function. So I chose a couple of pages and counted the words, estimated how many pages would make 500 words, and did that the first day, then typed it in (revising as I go, which is part of the point) and found it was 562 words. So far, so good &#8211; my goal is four pages longhand, not counting cross-outs.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been doing it ever since, though yesterday I tried to cram it in before bed and ended up with three pages (hopefully that falls within my 300 word range). With the exception of yesterday&#8217;s hiccup, what I&#8217;ve found is that it&#8217;s easy. I sit down with all the despair and feeling of dorkiness that besets a new project, unsure what scene to write on the heels of the one I finished the day before. But I get an idea, or maybe two before one sticks, and I write. Most days I have written well over four pages, written to the end of a scene or until looking at the clock in alarm. This is the mystical &#8220;butt in seat&#8221; that our faculty member David Long recommends in place of muse. This is doing the work. This is self-conscious and awkward, but it&#8217;s moving me forward <a href="" target="links">to revision</a>, to having made something, to the future.</p> <p>Sometimes when established writers throw numbers around, it&#8217;s in the form of a rate, and it tends to cause panic in me and my fellows. But it doesn&#8217;t have to, if it&#8217;s not a rate, but a small, manageable goal. 500 words. 4 pages longhand. I can do this, every day.</p> Rejection letters: the saga continues 2007-07-27T16:47:33+00:00 2008-06-08T11:41:22+00:00 <p>Got another <a href="" target="links">rejection letter</a> today. While it can&#8217;t compare with my latest rejection letter &mdash; my first ever <em>personal</em> rejection, and rather nice at that &mdash; it does have its charms. There are slight scribbles of personalization on the form letter, viz. &#8220;it didn&#8217;t hook me fast enough&#8221; underlined in the list of possible offenses, and &#8220;Do try again. Thanks!&#8221; scrawled at the bottom.</p> <p>Of course, the offense indicated is somewhat humiliating, as it may mean that the editor didn&#8217;t finish my story. <em><span class="caps">CRINGE</span>!</em> On the other hand, I can&#8217;t imagine that the chap scrawls &#8220;Try again, thanks&#8221; at the bottom of every one, so there must have been something he liked about it, so maybe he did read all of it! On the other hand, it might just have been my spelling and grammar in the few paragraphs he did read. On yet a third hand, the form letter text indicates he feels bad for using a form, so perhaps he feels so guilty that he scrawls the phrase at the bottom of each as penance! So much to analyze and consider.</p> <p>And then there&#8217;s the question of whether this is &#8216;form&#8217; or &#8216;other&#8217; when reporting the response type and time to the fabulous <a href="" target="links">duotrope</a>. So much to ponder.</p> All you need is...what? 2006-04-17T17:05:43+00:00 2008-06-08T14:20:15+00:00 <p>Yesterday, in course of conversation with herr <a href="" target="links">wonko</a>, I found myself sing-quoting, &#8220;There&#8217;s nothing you can do that can&#8217;t be done&#8230;&#8221; and I felt a sharp pang of hypocrisy. You see, I hate those lyrics. It&#8217;s an okay song and all, and all due credit for use of the <em>Marseillaise</em> (even if it has exactly nothing to do with the song) but the lyrics have always annoyed me. </p><p><blockquote>There&#8217;s nothing you can do that can&#8217;t be done. Nothing you can sing that can&#8217;t be sung&#8230;. Nothing you can make that can&#8217;t be made.</blockquote></p> <p>I know, I know, they might mean something else, and coming from the mouths of artists &#8220;bigger than Jesus&#8221; perhaps it really should come off differently; but to me, it&#8217;s always seemed to say, &#8220;You aren&#8217;t really unique and special. If you don&#8217;t create something, that same thing will in due time be created by someone else.&#8221; Which is, of course, my problem with the whole thing (not the following, &#8220;But love still makes life worthwhile!&#8221;). I was raised in the strictest Cooperative Pre-school/Sesame Street tradition of creativity and individual uniqueness. By the age of 5, many carefully deployed books, programs, and parental compliments had brainwashed me to believe that I am, in fact, unique and special. But on a deeper level, I feel the premise of these lyrics, or my interpretation thereof, is wrong.</p> <p>Let us say, by some miracle, that ten people in the world all imagine precisely the same thing. How many of them are actually going to create something from the idea? I think I&#8217;m being overly optimistic to guess three; and of those three, one will write a story, one will paint a watercolor, and one will pull out his guitar and start a song. The same idea finds different expression through different people, in different parts of the world. It adds to the richness of human accomplishment.</p><p>And the others? The seven non-starters? Perhaps they think imagination is childish, or, worst of all, they don&#8217;t believe enough in their idea or their gifts to try. They don&#8217;t have the sheer arrogance to perform that act of egotism and create. As acts of egotism go, there is none less objectionable and more fruitful than saying, &#8220;I can create something of worth and beauty.&#8221;</p><p>Give it a try. There&#8217;s more to life than love; all you need is a dream.</p> My very first rejection letter 2004-05-20T14:39:26+00:00 2009-12-15T23:25:47+00:00 <p>I got a rejection letter the other day. It was my first. I&#8217;ve never actually just sent in a manuscript to a magazine before &#8211; I&#8217;ve entered contests, but never just submitted a story &#8211; and also, the contests were online. This was a honest-to-goodness rejection letter, in my very own self-addressed stamped envelope. So it was a landmark for me, in a way.</p><p>Of course I&#8217;m sorry I didn&#8217;t get published on my first try, but at the same time it makes me feel good that I&#8217;m trying. Every rejection letter I get is a reminder that I&#8217;m pursuing my dream. Every rejection letter I get will be another step towards publication. Every rejection letter reminds me to keep writing. After all, I can&#8217;t dream that each day&#8217;s post will bring the golden ticket if I don&#8217;t have manuscripts out&#8230;.</p>