Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pause and Reflect...

I know I've been MIA lately, so I hope you all will forgive me. I've had my attention temporarily alienated by the process of applying for a mortgage. Good times.

I hope to be back soon, but in the mean time, what keeps you from writing? Writer's block? Daily activities? Stress? Or....gasp! good ol' fashioned laziness?

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Which I Reconsider Feedback....

So it happened.

I got my first rejection on a full yesterday. It was very odd for me. I was let down, but not distraught. I guess deep down the thought that I would obtain representation on the first full request was pretty slim. If anything, I was hoping for some feedback from her so I could evaluate my MS and make changes. But the agent was snowed under and could not give any specific reasons for her rejection (other than she loved the premise, but it wasn't right for her list--otherwise known as the standard reason). It's so hard to dissect a form rejection.

X marks the spot...or in this case
the rejection!
I am now at an impasse as to what to do. I didn't realize how much I was hoping for feedback from her, so I would know how to proceed. I've struck a wall in regards to finding betas (I only managed two). I want to join a writing group, but I've got to find one first. OK, I've found one but they only meet the 1st Saturday of the month. I'm so desperate that I reversed my feelings about online feedback and posted my first chapter for technical comments. We'll see where that takes me....

And until then, I'm sort of just hanging out here, twiddling my thumbs. How I hate being still!

So what about you guys? What do you after a big rejection?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Dangers of Feedback

Feedback is a good thing.

If it wasn't for feedback, I would have never even thought about getting my writing published. As I have often mentioned, writing was an outlet for me--a chance to create the stories (particularly historical ones) that I wasn't seeing on the shelves at the library or local book store. I sometimes wish that I hadn't been so narrowminded as I would have had the chance to study with a published author when I was in college. But I digress.

I first started exploring the notion of getting published about two years ago when I published some of The Enemy Within on a review website--you know the ones, you critique people's work and they'll critique yours. It was when I found that readers were developing strong, but good reactions about my characters that I thought that I might have a chance at this.

With my usual singlemindedness, I delved into honing my writing and learning everything I could about finding an agent, getting published, etc. And finally here I am. I'd say that I am fairly confident about finding an agent. I hope it's for The Enemy Within, in fact, I'd probably be somewhat disappointed if it doesn't make it anywhere, but I know I have many more stories in my head that might make it to a bookshelf one of these days.

But even with self-confidence, I can still get pretty upset over a harsh critique. I rarely get them, if I'm honest. Or perhaps I should say that I rarely get ones that aren't helpful or that I don't agree with. I think sometimes I let my confidence get the best of me. I put myself out there in ways that I really shouldn't--and usually there's a price to pay for it. Most recently, I was told that my writing was great but cliche. Um, really? How was that in the least bit helpful? I understand that there are some elements of The Enemy Within that are cliche or rather what our society had programmed us to consider cliche. Yes, there are renegade Union soldiers. Yes, there is a big white plantation house and slaves. But personally, I don't think a sprawling Civil War epic would be complete without any of those things. Nonetheless, this recent critique has been plaguing me since I read it. Part of me knows that it was just one person and I shouldn't fret, but given that I'm already somewhat traumatized by the things going on in my personal life, I'm particularly sensitive.
It's so hard to separate out those bad apples sometimes. Add that one critique to the fourteen rejections I've gotten in the past few weeks and it's been a tough twenty-four hours. It's one of those times where I wish I had never ventured out of writing stories for myself. And it's even lead me to consider removing myself from the forum world for a while. I want to be involved (because I like interacting with other writers) and I know it gets my name out there, but sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it. I know that I have my involvement in the forum/blogging world to thank for supplying me with all of you wonderful readers. I certainly don't want to miss out on that.

So what about you all? Do you find that forums and feedback are more harmful than helpful? What do you do to filter out those comments when they seemingly have no merit?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Change is a...well you know the rest...

Change is a funny thing. It's constant (or so the saying goes). And yet, sometimes it seems that when you want change the most, it never comes around.

Some of us love change. Some of us resist it with our fingernails dug into a cliff side refusing to let go.

But Change and I have been good friends over the years. I will be the first to admit that I embrace her everytime she comes knocking. I'll also curse her when she decides to withhold and leave me stranded. It's a good place to be as a writer. If a new idea hits me and takes me off the grid, it doesn't bother me. I just go with it. Even in life, I've always been able to hang with change pretty well. For example, when I was twenty two (or was it twenty three?) I managed to change pretty much every aspect of my life. I remember very clearly my grandfather's reaction to all this nonsense--"You may fly by the seat of your pants, kid, but you always come out on top!" In the space of a year, I graduated college, got a new job (that required moving to the big city), got engaged and bought a house. But then, I got a new job (that required moving to small town). I sold aforementioned new house roughly two months after closing on it. Ah, the joys of a booming real estate market! And so I moved on, I bought new house, and I broke off my engagement. Then I ate my grandfather's words: I lost my new job three months after taking it and was stuck with a mortgage in a small town where there were no other jobs for me. I ended up OK in the end, but looking back, I wonder how I didn't have a nervous breakdown during all that mess.
Painting by Abraham Willaerts - 1626
But sometimes things take FOR-EVAH. I've spent the last two and half years being held hostage by my dear friend, Change. It's been more emotionally exacting than anything I've ever been through. It was a time of reflection and maturing, if I'm honest. I evaluated my past mistakes and the behaviors that led to them, and in the end, I think I've made some real progress. And so when things started changing (new job, moving, interested agent...), I embraced them gleefully. Finally--I was getting what I wanted.

But for the first time in my life, I've realized that change is hard. It means missing everything--the familiarity of day-to-day routines, my work friends, even driving up to my old workplace in the morning! I've been on my new job for three days now, and while I think everything will pan out OK, I'm wandering around in the dark (and bumping into furniture along the way).

I think the hardest part is not anticipating these emotions. The loss, the sadness, etc. I wanted these changes, hoped and prayed for them, so why do I feel this way? My only answer is that I've grown up. It's a good thing, I suspect, given that the big 3-0 is next year. I just wish I could skip the depression and find my feet in this new world I now inhabit. Because now I am being forced to change for the first time in my life, and boy, is it hard.

So how about you? Do you handle change very well? How does it affect your writing?