Tag Archives: tips

Today I sold my first story

Today I sold my first fiction story. It’s hard to express my thoughts and feelings. I will keep working hard, and I will eventually sell more, but today I am elated.

Below are some musings and reflections on what led me to today’s achievement. This is hardly to say that I am an expert after a single publication; it’s a list of things I think I did right that might be useful ideas for others. I have read many tips on getting published from experts. They doubtless have more experience than me, but they got published when the industry was really different. They have had years to gain some distance from the hard emotions associated with the process.

  • I learned to finish projects. I used to be good at big ideas and poor at execution. I made grand plans and I never finished anything. I dreamed but I didn’t labor. I credit grad school and aging for teaching me to finish and work on the long scale. The Fairy Tales collection featured on the side of this page was the first big project I finished; it took about a year.
  • I exposed my work. For some people, this is easy. It was very hard for me. To me, exposing my work involves more than having others read my work–it’s about hearing what they say about it. Unlike engineering, writing is subjective (which is terrifying!). If enough people say it’s bad, they’re likely right. As a first step, I started this blog, slightly over a year ago. Then I joined a local writing group.
  • I accepted critique. This is related to the point above. Of course I think my work is good, but sometimes it just isn’t. If one reader didn’t get the joke, maybe they’re a little dense. If several didn’t, the joke wasn’t properly conveyed. I’ve met a lot of other aspiring writers who are uncomfortable with this fact. It’s very hard. I wrote in a vacuum for years; sometimes I got it wrong. I got great critique at critters.org.
  • I wrote regularly. For the first several months of this blog, I posted three times a week. Three times a week I had to say something (semi) coherent. My writing group has a monthly theme, and I made myself write something every month. It wasn’t always good, but that was good motivation. Recently I’ve been writing at least one writing prompt a week and posting it here. This month I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo.
  • I submitted. And I submitted and I submitted. Stories are rejected for tons of reasons; inadequacy is just the tip. Many places accept only 1% of what they get. Some places only publish half a dozen stories a year. Some places are vague about what they are looking for (in my experience, beware the “we never get enough of x” statement). Sometimes they already have a story about a cat, or a story where the protagonist is disappointed, or a horror story, or an intimate first person story. Any of the above are reasons to get rejected. My story got rejected three times before it got accepted; it was the 32nd thing I submitted since the end of June. My favorite story has been rejected 8 times so far. Others in my writing group have excellent work that they have submitted and have had rejected. And then they stopped.
  • I researched those markets. I read what they said about themselves. I used places like The Submission Grinder and Duotrope to find out their response times. A lot of my rejections have come from sending pieces to unsuitable markets–it’s hard, but I got better at it.

But mostly, I am so happy. I worked hard and got very frustrated sometimes. This post is as much to motivate myself as anything, since the journey is hardly begun. I hope it will be useful to others as well.

Editing

Editing is a word I hate. I’m one of those people that always wants to be on to a new project. Bigger, better, and newer. Realistically, nothing I write is publishable after only the first draft, and this is true for most people.

Perhaps part of my dread of editing is that I’ve read very little advice on how to go about doing it. I try to write what I write as best as I can the first time, but then what? But it’s something I have to learn to do, so I am forcing myself to learn. Here are three of my approaches, and some links to some sights that have more experience than I do.

1. Maybe leave that small error in there on the first draft, if you are debating it. It helps you get through the writing faster the first time. I find it helpful to have a toe-hold of some error you know you want to fix, and then move into the manuscript from there. I sometimes feel the urge to make the first draft as perfect as possible, but I think for me, it’s actually better to leave it rough. This also makes it easier to take a machete to it where needed, since there’s less sense of loss.

2. Leave it the hell alone after the first draft. This is two-part in motivation. One, I love it too much initially, and it guts me to rip it apart immediately. And two, I’m more likely to overlook awkward phrasings or logical leaps if it’s still too fresh in my mind. For both parts, it needs some time to gain some other-ness.

3. Work top to bottom. Does the character change behavior inexplicably? Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Big, basic stuff. Then I think about things like pacing, and then about specific sentences.

Some links that helped me think about my approach to editing:

So happy editing? It’s a miserable process for me, but it makes the fun bits worthwhile. In every worthy endeavor, there are parts that are inevitably less than thrilling, but we keep going. I welcome any suggestions from others, too, since I am learning always.

 

Writing: Maintaining Enthusiasm

Last week I started headlong into an attempt to write my first novel. This is not my first time trying to write novel, but another attempt to finish one. I suspect this isn’t an uncommon problem. It seems to be an enormous leap of faith to write something ~80,000 words long. You have to set aside that time, in the first place. And then what if it isn’t good enough, what did you do with all that time? I think in every past attempt I reached about 25k words and said, where exactly am I? This isn’t going to get read and then I will have an 80k time sink in my hands.

I think such worries never leave. But in other areas of my life I have been able to push through worries of failure. It’s that old cliché that lack of trying guarantees failure. Each time I try, I try to do it a little different. This time I wrote it first as a short story. Then I outlined it at a rough level. As I go I outline the next part in more detail. So far it seems to be working for me. I got to figure out who my characters were in the short story. I’ve also been trying to set more realistic writing goals. I used to write as much as possible on a day that felt good. That would leave me tired and sick of writing the next few days. Then when I’d come back, the material would be unfamiliar, and I’d spend time trying to pull myself back into the mindset.

It’s still early, but this time feels better and different. I just reached 8,000 words. The idea that I have 90% or so still remaining is really daunting. Each day will help. And really, what better to do than work to improve?

Some other possibly helpful posts, since what do I know… I keep quitting each time (I thought there used to be a related articles function,  but it isn’t showing itself… so I’ll link them myself):

Upon Book Binding- Getting started and some useful things

Book binding is pretty simple. I do not mean it is necessarily easy or fast, but that you do not need much equipment or knowledge to get started. I think when I first started binding (not much more than a year ago) that this knowledge was a big surprise to me. So, if you are interested in trying your hand at binding, take heart!

Most of what I have learned came from three sources: observation, YouTube videos (such as this one on the coptic stitch style), and this nice book on book craft. With the help of the library, this info is all free.

I once imagined that bookbinding required extensive tools. It is true that the books themselves take certain special materials (you can’t fake nice paper, for example), but the tools required for putting them together is dead simple. I use four g-clamps and a couple well-bound oversize books, shown below. Every book I have ever made was with these four clamps and these two books. Very soon I will be making myself some new presses according to this tutorial, except that I intend to use cutting boards instead of fiberboard.

The only truly essential materials are strong thread (beading thread or linen thread works well), paper, an awl, a cutting board, a cutting implement, book board, and copious quantities of elmer’s glue. I like to order my decorative papers and cloths from Hollanders, and most other supplies like book board, elmer’s glue, and linen thread from Amazon.

The first few times I made books, they were not great looking. There were two primary reasons for this: 1) I did not let the glue dry sufficiently before moving to the next step. Then when I did the next step, the unset material would wrinkle, bubble or tear, and 2) Some papers are really unforgiving and will bubble and wrinkle very easily. Copy paper for example is not designed to be absorptive, and thus takes some skill to handle. I recommend starting with drawing papers or high cotton content papers. These papers will not buckle with too much glue or bubble with too little.

Below are four books I did in the first six months of learning. You can’t see here, but all of them have some little wrinkle or foible here or there. Each was still really exciting; I still had made books! I hope this little discussion is helpful to anyone who is interested, or getting started. I find joy in every book I put together, sometimes to an extent that seems strange. For more pics (of more recent efforts), or if you are interested in my books, check out my Etsy store.