Posts tagged with "writing" - Faerye Net 2017-04-16T20:32:53+00:00 Felicity Shoulders I am gone, though I am here: Blog Moving Announcement 2017-04-16T20:32:53+00:00 2017-04-16T20:33:27+00:00 <p>The good news is that I am fitfully beginning to blog once more! The bad news is that it shouldn&#8217;t be here at for the foreseeable future. That doesn&#8217;t mean I&#8217;m abandoning the domain: it means that for technical reasons, I can&#8217;t keep on using this blog as it is. I may someday start fresh with a different content management system, but for now, will be a static archive, and new content will only appear elsewhere.</p> <h1>Where to find me and my writing</h1> <p><a href="" target="links"><strong>Medium:</strong></a> My new blog posts<br /> <a href="" target="links"><strong>Twitter:</strong></a> My random thoughts and political opinions<br /> <a href="" target="links"><strong></strong></a>: My publication news and listings</p> <p>Several of my published stories, such as <a href="" target="fiction">&#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;</a> and <a href="" target="fiction">&#8220;Small Towns&#8221;</a>, are reprinted on my author website. I hope to add more reprints, and audio recordings of them, in the future. These will always be linked from <a href="" target="links">my list of publications</a>, and I&#8217;ll trumpet about additions on social media when they&#8217;re made!</p> <p> was a very important project for me: it helped me find my voice and footing as a writer, and gave me the freedom to play &#8212; just as important as the rigor of &#8216;getting serious&#8217;. I&#8217;m glad it will be here, even as a digital fossil, for the present.</p> "Small Towns" available to read online! 2013-01-30T07:56:54+00:00 2013-01-31T21:03:20+00:00 <p>Because I am not the sort of person who likes to hear half a story myself, I don&#8217;t like putting others in that situation. Therefore, when I chose to read my novelette &#8220;Small Towns&#8221; at the <span class="caps">SFWA</span> Northwest Readings this month, I decided to plop the full text online for everyone to finish reading, whether they made it to the event or not! It&#8217;s a very different sort of story from &#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;, the other story I&#8217;ve <a href="" target="links">made available online</a>, and I like the contrast quite a bit.</p> <p>&#8220;Small Towns&#8221; is a historical fantasy novelette, first published in the January/February 2012 issue of <a href="" target="links"><em>F&amp;SF</em></a>. Thanks to the kind offices of my co-protagonist <a href="" target="links">Ryan Grove</a>, it&#8217;s available <a href="">as a web page</a> or you can download the <a href=""><span class="caps">PDF</span></a> or <a href="">ePub file</a>.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s the teaser for those who didn&#8217;t make it to the readings:</p> <blockquote> <center><b>Small Towns</b></center> <p>When Jacques Jaillet was a small boy, he brought home a pocketful of sand from the seaside and dribbled it slowly onto the floorboards of his little room. He made long avenues and cottage roofs, rows of shops, garden walls, a church with a fragment of shell for the tower. Then, for no reason he could later recall, he took a deep breath and blew it all away, the shapes and the order, the grains themselves skittering under the baseboard, gone forever.</p> <p>When Jacques returned to his market town in 1918, past his middle years, it looked as if here, too, a monstrous child had finished playing and had blown the town, the streets, the houses and shops from the face of the Earth.</blockquote></p> <p>Go and <b><a href="">read the rest!</a></b></p> The Lay of the Wise Woman's Fire 2012-08-19T20:51:20+00:00 2012-08-20T11:06:29+00:00 <p><em>What ho, readers! I wrote something a little odd, so I thought I&#8217;d put it on, where the odd things go.</em></p> <p><strong>The Lay of the Wise Woman&#8217;s Fire</strong><br /> In a forest past a mountain<br /> Where a gleaming birch stood bright,<br /> Shrugged a tiny cottage doorway<br /> Barely shutting out the night.</p> <p>Low the coals burned in the pit there,<br /> &#8217;Twixt walls pierced by draughts and cold<br /> But the etched face of the bent crone<br /> Showed a cunning smile, and bold.</p> <p>&#8220;Come on in and sit, ye traveler!<br /> By my dying fire you&#8217;ll tide<br /> And hear a story or a puzzle,<br /> A lie in which great truths can hide.&#8221;</p> <p>In beside the soughing embers,<br /> &#8217;Cross the fire from the old dame,<br /> Lurched the third son of a warlord,<br /> Fortune-seeker, Brait by name.</p> <p>Long and far his path had ta&#8217;en him,<br /> Or so it seemed to untried Brait,<br /> Before the moonlit path had shown him<br /> The way to this old woman&#8217;s gate.</p> <p>&#8220;Fame do you seek, or glory?&#8221;<br /> Asked the smiling glint-eyed crone.<br /> &#8220;Bright-haired noblewomen&#8217;s daughters?<br /> Magic? Treasure? Or a throne?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Any of these would I leap at!&#8221;<br /> Said the boy, half-rising, awed.<br /> &#8220;Sure you must know much, great wise one,<br /> Sure the right path have I trod!&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Tell me where my story takes me!<br /> Give me clues to find my fate!<br /> And your hands I&#8217;ll fill with silver,<br /> After fortune makes me great!&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Fortune&#8217;s fickle,&#8221; laughed the wise one.<br /> &#8220;Many heroes have I seen&#8230;<br /> Promised gold and promised silver<br /> In the counting lose their sheen.</p> <p>&#8220;Have you aught of honest value,<br /> Son of mighty warlord&#8217;s halls?<br /> For a treasure of your past, then,<br /> I may share destiny&#8217;s call.&#8221;</p> <p>Forth Brait drew his gleaming longsword,<br /> Ruby-studded, rich in names.<br /> &#8220;This I give to buy my future!&#8221;<br /> Watchful Night heard him proclaim.</p> <p>Through the dark he took her counsel,<br /> Learned her riddles, drew her maps,<br /> &#8217;Til one hour past the daybreak,<br /> Brait strode forth to try his haps.</p> <p>And when, one year hence, Brait returned there &#8212;<br /> To the slope-roofed cottage old?<br /> All he found was broken thatching,<br /> Tumbled wall stones, fire cold.</p> <p>For however dark the forest,<br /> However wizened the dame may seem,<br /> Not every old crone is a wise one &#8212; <br /> Despite her knowing eyeballs&#8217; gleam.</p> <p>Rich the house and straight its timbers,<br /> Warm and bright and great its fires!<br /> Fat and happy on the sword&#8217;s price<br /> Lives not a witch, but yes, a liar!</p> Novelette sold to Asimov's: "Long Night on Redrock" 2011-10-19T18:26:51+00:00 2011-10-19T18:27:24+00:00 <p>I am overjoyed to announce my second novelette sale! This one is far-future science fiction, and it will appear in <a href="" target="links"><em>Asimov&#8217;s Science Fiction</em></a>.</p> <p>Many thanks to my lovely readers! It wasn&#8217;t hard to find them for this piece, because it turns out <em>everyone loves space marines</em>. Even retired ones.</p> <p>Here is a teaser of my novelette! You&#8217;ll know more about where to find the rest of it as soon as I do:</p> <blockquote> <center><strong>Long Night on Redrock</strong></center> <p>“If you’re exploring the town, you should stop walking,” Peder Finn called down from his porch. The stranger, a fair-haired man bent under a backpack, paused at the gate. Peder pegged him for an offworlder. A dozen telltales said as much; from his low-topped shoes, likely to let in sand, to his unshaded eyes, without tanned-in squint or sunglass marks. It was almost aynid harvest, a suspicious time for an offworlder to come visiting.</p> <p>The man took in the dusty yard, where Peder’s children had lined and stacked rocks into an imaginary city and set a carved toy horse on an overturned bucket to reign. Finally his gaze settled on Peder, who had paused in carving another toy, a long strip of synthwood still hanging from his knife.</p> <p>Peder produced a noncommittal smile. “Nothing that way you want to visit.”</blockquote></p> Art Form 2011-08-07T20:27:51+00:00 2011-08-07T20:41:13+00:00 <p>I was looking through the photographs the <a href="" target="links">Metropolitan Museum of Art</a> put online of their exhibit of <a href="" target="links">Alexander McQueen</a> fashion, <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Savage Beauty&#8221;</a> (hat tip <a href="" target="links">Kate Elliott</a>).</p> <center><img src=",VOSS2001.T.jpg"></center> <p>I&#8217;ve been an admirer of some of McQueen&#8217;s designs for a long time. They&#8217;re audacious and challenging. They often combine an element of the familiar with a leap into the wildly alien. I&#8217;m not hugely well-grounded in haute couture, and of course I can hardly fail to have problems with the fashion industry, but McQueen&#8217;s creations are arresting. On the Met&#8217;s blog, the photographs of objects from the <a href="" target="links">wildly popular</a> exhibit are accompanied by quotes from experts and from McQueen himself.</p> <blockquote><a href="" target="links">“My designing is done mainly during fittings. I change the cut.”</a><br /> <br /> <a href="">“I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them.”</a></blockquote> <p>These quotes really struck me, because something I&#8217;d thought as I looked at the photographs was that you can&#8217;t easily imagine a fashion drawing of these pieces. You often see a fashion drawing which is the purest expression of a concept, and then the realized item, which is just a little descended, a little off. These creations of McQueen&#8217;s, love them or hate them, are the real object, the thing itself.</p> <center><img src="" /></center> <p>You&#8217;d be hard pressed to express the essence of <a href="" target="links">this mossy dress</a> as a drawing, or communicate with a sketch the complexity that defines <a href="" target="links">this dress designed from its fabric.</a> And I think part of the power of these things, whether or not you like them as clothing, is that they were made with deep knowledge.</p> <p>Part of any artist&#8217;s craft is having something to say, but another part of it is deep knowledge, passion and application, immersion. Here was someone who knew the shape of his medium intimately, and that mastery shows in the product: we should all aspire to that, as artists, even if we shy away from other aspects of McQueen&#8217;s legacy.</p> <center><img src="" /></center> <p>I was moved once by a <a href="" target="links">craft talk by one of the poetry profs</a> at my grad school, where she talked about memorizing poetry to learn rhythm. When I sum up that talk, the wisdom she conveyed, I think of it as &#8216;eat poetry so that your body is made of it&#8217;. You are what you eat, right? Eat words, eat art, eat poetry and prose &#8212; think about it, be aware of it, be a mindful mouth &#8212; and you can have that knowledge and love in every sinew. You&#8217;ll still be you, just made of your art. That&#8217;s what I aspire to: to be a story elemental with bones made of words.</p> <p>What are you taking in that you want to keep? Out of what are you making yourself?</p> <p><font size="small"><em>Photographs ©Sølve Sundsbø from <a href="">the Met blog</a></em></font></p> Blog recommendation: MFA in a Box 2011-03-18T10:41:06+00:00 2011-03-18T15:49:50+00:00 <p>My first advisor in <a href="" target="links">graduate school</a> had a huge influence on me. I had several fabulous teachers in the program, but working with <a href="" target="links">John Rember</a> set the foundation of my writing life. He got me to state with confidence &#8220;I&#8217;m a writer&#8221; and taught me that being a writer is a <a href="" target="internal">continuous state of being and seeing</a>, not something you just do when you write. The books I read at his behest and discussed with him in my correspondence semester helped give definition and certainty to things I had felt as instinct and hunch: things about the importance of writing, writing as survival strategy, writing as making meaning.</p> <p>John&#8217;s craft talks at the program were also rich and valuable. They were the sort of lecture where you scribble notes intensely, and you can&#8217;t keep up with all of it that you want to get down, and you also want to be writing your own notes about all the things in your own writing and life that hook into what he&#8217;s saying, all the ideas this gives you. Luckily, many of the rich, layered craft talks that he wrote for the Pacific program are now available to me in a more complete and much more legible format than my own scribbles: printed essays in book.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780982579428'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px;' align="left" title='More info about this book at (new window)' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px'></a>John has written a writing book, <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'><span class="caps">MFA</span> in a Box</a></em>, which I am reading. To be honest, I&#8217;m reading it very slowly. That may sound like an odd endorsement, but it&#8217;s an honest one. I started reading the book on the plane to a convention. Every chapter is an essay, one of those rich interconnected thought-weavings that we got to listen to as Pacific students, with the addition of a top ten list at the end of each &#8212; valuable for focus and review, but also often funny. I found, reading on the plane, that when I was done with the first essay, I didn&#8217;t want to read the second. I wanted to write. So I dug out my carry-on and switched activities. On the plane ride home? Same thing. One essay, and then writing.</p> <p>Obviously, this is a rare writing book. I have read quite a few, and I don&#8217;t remember any of them making me want to write <em>that moment</em> like this does. The cover says it&#8217;s &#8220;a <em>Why</em> to Write Book&#8221;, and the evidence says it&#8217;s convincing.</p> <p>So the good news about John&#8217;s splendid craft talks is that you can <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'>buy the book</a>, and the bonus good news is that you can <a href="" target="links">read his blog</a> while you&#8217;re waiting for the book to arrive. It&#8217;s a relatively new blog that he&#8217;s started in support of the book (hence the name!) and it is chock-full of the stuff John Rember specializes in as a teacher: thoughtful, mordant, lucid non-fiction about things which are important and hard to tackle.</p> <p>Here are some of his posts:</p> <ul> <li><a href="" target="links">Narcissism and Depth</a>, which may obviate or at least mutate two blog posts I meant to write here</li> <li><a href="" target="links">The Wannabe Writer</a>, about stopping pretending to be a writer and actually being one.</li> <li><a href="">A Writer&#8217;s Meta-Narrative</a>, about the stories everyone lives by, not just storytellers</li> </ul> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve ever written a blog post just to recommend another blog before. Maybe John&#8217;s blog isn&#8217;t the blog for you, if you&#8217;re not a writer or interested in writing, or don&#8217;t like hard questions. But I am so glad it&#8217;s there, that someone with so much experience and so much willingness to examine it honestly is sharing in this way. John as teacher is challenging, wise, and dryly, darkly funny. John as blogger is much the same.</p> Why longhand? 2011-03-16T11:33:22+00:00 2011-03-16T11:40:17+00:00 <p>Here&#8217;s yet another of those topics I&#8217;d have sworn I&#8217;d already covered here, but apparently I have not.</p> <center><a href="" title="Longhand by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" alt="Longhand" border="0" /></a></center> <p>The other day I finished writing a longhand draft (126 pages, not pictured) of a long novelette. The problem that then confronted me was that I had to get the thing typed into the computer in time to send it to my critique group in only a couple of days (in case you were wondering why I hadn&#8217;t blogged recently!) I posted about this challenge on Facebook and <a href="!/faerye/status/46833518147416064" target="links">Twitter</a>, and one of the responses on Facebook was: &#8220;You can do it, but why would you write in longhand to begin with? Embrace the 21st century!&#8221;</p> <p>Which is how I ended up discovering I don&#8217;t have a blog post about this to which I can direct people when they ask, because they do ask. I have <a href="" target="links">mentioned my process obliquely</a> but never written up the defense I&#8217;ve had to give verbally many times.</p> <h3>Why I write longhand first drafts</h3> <p><strong>1. Transcription is revision</strong>: When I transcribe a finished draft into the computer, I don&#8217;t type it exactly as I wrote it. It is no more effort to type different words than it is to write the same ones &#8212; and less if I can make the sentence smaller (which usually means clearer and more efficient). When I transcribe a story, I reconsider <em>every single word</em> in a way I simply don&#8217;t when reading a typed document. This is by far the most important reason I write longhand. The draft that goes in the computer &#8212; the first one anyone else can read (given how my handwriting gets when I&#8217;m in a hurry, quite literally) &#8212; is lightyears better than the handwritten draft that no one sees. Rewriting the entire story, starting at the beginning, with the end freshly in mind allows me to grasp the story as a whole and helps me improve continuity, too.</p> <p><strong>2. Process</strong>: A related point. When I&#8217;m writing a rough draft, I don&#8217;t always know what the characters&#8217; names are, or what precise order things should follow. Rekeying the entire story means I can easily replace the placeholder names (or epithets) on the fly. More importantly, while I&#8217;m writing, if I think of something I should have written in a scene ago, or decide to move something, I can note it quickly with a marginal note &#8212; &#8220;add desc of room&#8221; or &#8220;move after reveal&#8221; &#8212; without losing the forward momentum of composition. My bookmark or thumb is still holding the current page, I didn&#8217;t have to do the copy-paste to move the stuff, make sure it was tidy and unrepetitious, and completely lose my creative place. Writing longhand has a great forward flow.</p> <p><strong>3. Distraction reduction</strong>: My <a href="" target="links">favorite notebooks</a>, by Clairefontaine, have many fine qualities, but they don&#8217;t have an internet connection. It is less easy for me to be pulled out of that forward flow by a communication or my own fidgetiness. Even more importantly, for a person as easily drawn into small and often non-germane research topics, it means it&#8217;s not easy for me to open a tab and start doing lots of searching and reading about something that doesn&#8217;t really matter to the story. I can just scrawl a &#8220;[?]&#8221; or &#8220;[check]&#8221; or &#8220;[did they already have this in 1919?]&#8221; and keep going. When I transcribe, that&#8217;s when I get fiddly and detail-oriented &#8212; a much better fit for a revising mindset than it is for a composing one.</p> <p><strong>4. Portability</strong>: My beloved Clairefontaines are under 7 inches by 9 inches. Even my smallest messenger bag can fit more than one of these puppies. So when I&#8217;m waiting for my Chinese takeout, early for a lunch date (don&#8217;t laugh, that&#8217;s happened), proctoring a test in my capacity as an occasional substitute teacher, or on a long drive with <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a>, I can whip this out and be working on a draft &#8212; with full access to what came before &#8212; in moments.</p> <p><strong>5. Psychology</strong>: I come from at least one line of <em>makers</em>. My paternal grandpa could build a house. My paternal grandma could renovate a hotel to period-accuracy, make beautiful furniture, and sew entire wardrobes including wool coats and formalwear. Between them, they taught me to cook, tole-paint, make model airplanes and build a remarkably sturdy footstool (still in use, albeit at my parents&#8217; house. I want that back!) Much as my psychology is keyed to celebrate upon <em>finishing</em> things, it&#8217;s even more satisfying to be able to hold up a physical finished item and rejoice. When I finish a first draft, I like to pinch the silk-smooth french-ruled sheets of paper together and look at their thickness. Look at all those pages of words. I made that.</p> <center><a href="" title="My writing notebook stack as of 2010 by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" alt="My writing notebook stack as of 2010 -- now higher" border="0" /></a></center> <h3>So what?</h3> <p>I have no idea if this will convince those of you who think I&#8217;m ridiculous to write longhand that I know what I&#8217;m doing. There are lots of other ways to deal with these problems or accomplish these goals &#8212; this just happens to be mine. The bottom line is that I believe I produce <em>better fiction</em> writing this way. If you read my stuff, you should appreciate that!</p> <p>You&#8217;ll notice, however, that I have written this post in the first person. I do <em>not</em> believe there&#8217;s One True Way to write fiction or anything else. I believe much of the journey of writing is learning (and gaming) yourself and your process. I would never tell anyone else they needed to write longhand (although I might list it as among possible exercises should they need a lot of process shake-up). I would never promise that I&#8217;ll always write this way. Writing &#8212; which is to say, learning to write, as they&#8217;re the same thing &#8212; is a process of growth and change.</p> <p>What do you do in your writing, crafting or artistic process that might seem odd to someone else?</p> Underpopulated 2011-03-09T21:59:14+00:00 2011-03-09T22:12:06+00:00 <p><a href="" target="links">My dear friend Jeannine</a>, a speculative poet of great talent, is also a vigilant <a href="" target="links">lit-blogger</a>. It was she who alerted me to this <a href="" target="links">interview the amazing <a href="" target="links">Duotrope</a> did with the fantastic <a href="" target="links">Sheila Williams</a>, editor of <a href="" target="links"><em>Asimov&#8217;s</em></a>.</p> <p>Now, I&#8217;ll own Jeannine brought it to my attention because I am mentioned therein, but something else about it caught my eye. In part of her response to the question &#8220;What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?&#8221; Sheila said: &#8220;Most stories are underpopulated. A lot of the tale can be told through the interaction of characters.&#8221;</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think Sheila knows it, but she has my number here. (She doesn&#8217;t know it unless I&#8217;ve mentioned it to her. I&#8217;m a procrastinating perfectionist, so she doesn&#8217;t see a story from me until I&#8217;m pretty damn proud of it.) I have learned from hard experience that when a story is just not working &#8212; it doesn&#8217;t want to unfold onto the page, or the first draft is flat as a board &#8212; adding a character often fixes it.</p> <p>I actually wrote a story draft last year where only one character appeared in the flesh (a few more via videoconference. And a cat.) Did it need to have only one character? Was it about solitude, loneliness, shut-ins, or anything of the sort? No. In fact, having only one character made the story flat and unengaging. Once I added a second character, the draft started working and more conflict started seeping in. I hardly need tell you that a story needs conflict like a sled needs snow. With a second character on the scene and a few more revisions, I deemed that story ready to go to Sheila, and it will appear next month <a href="" target="links">in the June issue</a>.</p> <p>I wish I could say that that was the first time I&#8217;ve needed to add more characters to a story, but in its first version, <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;</a> was missing one of its most important characters. I threw out that version and rewrote from scratch. It took a lot of revision even so, but the story found its heart as soon as I wrote Minerva in.</p> <p>Like most specific writing advice, this doesn&#8217;t apply to everyone. I know I&#8217;ve talked to other writers who have to cut characters out routinely. Maybe my tendency to draw a small cast onto a stage is related to my tendency to write spare drafts that need to be expanded &#8212; another habit many writers don&#8217;t share. But I am pleased to report that like many bad habits, underpopulation can be minimized through practice. I haven&#8217;t had to stop mid-story to rip up and reweave with a new character for a while, and hopefully I&#8217;ll continue the streak. Even though I&#8217;m alone with the page, my characters don&#8217;t have to be.</p> Words for writers 2011-03-07T23:14:07+00:00 2011-03-07T23:15:21+00:00 <p>Once upon a time, I was uploading any number of photos from my writing school days to <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>. Now, I have a tendency toward folksonomy, and a general philosophy that it&#8217;s best to capture data at the point of entry, whether or not you are sure you&#8217;ll use it later. Thus, I had the urge to not only tag the photos with the names of the people in them, but with their affiliation: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction.</p> <p>I didn&#8217;t exactly want to type open-quote fiction student close-quote a thousand times: what I wanted was a one word solution, preferably as elegant as &#8220;poet&#8221;. What I got was two words (because of course I wanted to capture the Lying or Truth-Attempting valence of the prose students as well): <strong>proser</strong> and <strong>fictionist</strong>.</p> <p>These are ungainly words. They lack the suavity of &#8220;poet&#8221;, but I have a real affection for them. &#8220;Proser&#8221; is so, well, <em>prosy</em>. It puts one syllable in front of the other: pro-zurr. Plod plod plod, building complete sentences out of verbs and subjects. Writing until you hit the margin and then doggedly keeping going. <span class="caps">PROSERS</span>, baby. Grunts of the literary world. Boots in the mud. <span class="caps">PROSERS</span>.</p> <p>As for &#8220;fictionist&#8221;, it has more pretensions, but that&#8217;s only fitting. It has narrow little i&#8217;s, peering at the world, seeing it all as fodder. It&#8217;s more ornate, more full of artifice, and that&#8217;s what fictionists are. Peddlers of artifice.</p> <p>I do so love words. I love other tools too &#8212; pencils, shading sticks, even erasers, and the odd and occasionally dangerous tools with which oboe reeds are made. I love their form that follows function, the capabilities they hold. Words are the same, but even better: you don&#8217;t have to carry them or store them or buy them, just remember them, and if you lose one all you need is a few clues to find it again. As I&#8217;ve <a href="" target="links">purported before</a>, language is our birthright. The toolbox is vast and joyously expandable. And every once in a while, it&#8217;s so nice just to lay out the tools and ponder their forms, admire in each its individual gleaming.</p> 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>