What to do when you’re not publishing #2

A while ago I wrote a post about what to do when you’re not publishing. I read it again recently because, low and behold, I’m still not publishing! I think it needs an update though, because I have discovered many new things to do that are more energising. The worst thing about constant rejections is their tendency to sap energy for everything – writing, work, life in general – and so finding things that can feed you (metaphorically, though delicious food is a good distraction as well) is life-saving.

11. Watch TED talks. They may be a bit cliched, but motivation is only lame when you don’t need it. It can be surprisingly effective when you’re feeling low.

12. Discover new artists. Artists of any kind, though my favourite is musicians. Find amazing art created by people who just got on and did it, and built an incredible back catalogue of work while apparently being ignored. My current anthem is Don’t Come Easy by Patty Griffin.

13. Try to find community. This is hard, though my recent discover of Writers’ HQ is helping me. They have free short online courses, cheap(ish) longer ones, they’re active on social media, and they run retreats in England if that’s your area. They also have a wonderful way of making it all seem fun, probably because of all the swearing.

14. Find some writing you love and type it up. It’s amazing how much more achievable it seems when it’s typed in Word rather than printed in a printed book.

15. Submit. Whatever you have really. The rejections (let’s be realistic here) won’t come in for months by which time hopefully you’ll be feeling better, and the little spark that comes with pressing ‘submit’ will do wonders right now.

16. If you haven’t already, download Scrivener and spend hours figuring it out and imagining how much easier it will be to do really good drafts in the future.

17. Take a weekend off. You’ll be dying to get back to it on Monday.

18. Imagine you’ve been given a death sentence (I mean weeping-in-a-courtroom, choosing-a-last-meal kind of imagining). What would you work on? Do that now.

Time for me to crank Patty, load up Scrivener, and find some old work to submit to something.

main-qimg-513ddac3314cb35edf042fc728e850d1-c

Advertisements

June: the month I went crazy, made a plan, and got impatient for July

 

 

It’s been a really tough few weeks, made tougher by the fact that I was expecting to feel all kinds of wonderful.

I went to Manchester for work. When I travel for work, I get to write a lot. Hotels are inspiring, somehow. But Manchester was in lock-down and even though I was as productive as I’d hoped, something about the atmosphere crept into me. Writing the climactic scenes when your novel is about a woman recovering after a sexual assault is traumatic enough, but editing them over and over while in a city with armed police on every corner was worse.

It was only a few days and I did what I had planned – I finished a draft. I had promised myself to put the manuscript away for a month, and expected to feel elated. Instead, I felt lost, empty, and like I was abandoning it. I tried to distract myself by researching literary agents and the publishing world. There was a lot of encouraging advice around but all I could think was – I’m not ready.

I wanted to get straight back and start editing again, but I’d already entered the first three pages in a competition and paid for feedback. I felt like I couldn’t do anything much with it until I received the feedback, and then I found two more competitions I wanted to enter it in before the end of June. My month of marinating started at least one month too early.

For three weeks, I stubbornly stuck to my plan even though it was increasingly making no sense and I felt rubbish. Why would I get out of bed if I wasn’t going to write? The strangest thing is that when I’m not writing, I find it very difficult to do my normal work, or anything much. Life is low, basically. Finally, I gave myself permission to look at the manuscript again. The problem with not writing very much is it’s difficult to start again, it really is like a muscle that needs to be used. I read paragraphs and knew they needed to be changed but had no energy or inspiration to change them. It started to feel like I would never get it to the next level.

And then I realised – the competition is announced this Saturday. If, as is entirely predictable, I don’t win, chances are high that I won’t want to look at it for a while. So I panicked, and in my panic I found my motivation. The things I have been thinking about adding or changing, I suddenly need to do before Saturday and the expected slump. I work well to deadlines. So I will do what I can before Saturday, slump a bit, then hopefully receive the feedback and work on the first three pages ready to submit to the two competitions by the end of June.

Hopefully, in July, it will truly be ready to sit quietly for a month so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. I am impatient to read it cover to cover (so to speak) and then start the process of finding beta readers (volunteers welcome!). And then, I will start using all my research and find me an agent. Who would guess I also have a full-time job?

When ‘good’ rejections are the worst

16511061-little-girl-crying-Stock-Vector-cartoonA couple of months ago, two story ideas came together and I sat down and wrote. I changed one or two things the next day but essentially it was done. I loved it. Magic happens sometimes.

I sent it to Kill Your Darlings, a literary magazine run partly by Hannah Kent, an author I admire. I have been determined to be published in this magazine for a while and this, finally, seemed like the time.

I recently received the rejection email. When you research submitting short stories, there is lots of encouragement to rise above rejections, but there is also advice to take ‘personal’ rejections as compliments, or even as successes. Rejections are usually templates, but occasionally an editor will write an actual email. The email I received from Kill Your Darlings said:

Yours was [a submission] that we seriously considered as it captured the chaos and senselessness of grief beautifully, and while in the end it wasn’t quite right for our upcoming issue, we would be keen to see more of your work in future.

It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a little golden nugget compared to most rejections. It is still hard to take, however, despite all the advice. In so many ways it actually seems worse. If it was actually that good they would have published it anyway, or kept it for another issue, or changed this issue so that it could fit. This is when I go into toddler mode, stamping my feet and going red in the face. But I WANT it.

In typical me-fashion, I decided to cancel my subscription. I immediately sent the story to six other places. I started writing another one, a better one! Which isn’t better at all because, while magic does happen, it doesn’t happen that often. This one will take work, which is fine. Luckily, I still remember that glorious feeling two months ago when I thought I’d created something a little bit perfect.