Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Love Your Writing, But...

Most writers have received numerous rejections that read something like this: Thank you for your recent submission, _______. Although your writing shows talent and I found your story to be interesting, I'm afraid it is not for me at this time.

You read and re-read these words, and your mind takes off on a run, with your heart in close tow. Oh, sure. What they're really saying is, 'You can't write worth a damn and your story sucked, big time. You're a LOSER!'

Then you get the old, "you've gotta have a thick skin" lecture from well-meaning friends (or from that chastising voice in your own head.) You search your manuscript, looking for that one word, or line, or paragraph that sabotaged your otherwise brilliant career. Maybe if I change my heroine, her crisis, her background--her underwear! Maybe, then, they'll like me...er...my book.

You can make yourself crazy, trying to figure out what that somewhat cryptic rejection meant. I'm talented and you liked my story---but it's not for you? It begs the question: Are you looking for a no-talent writer to produce a crappy story?

But what if you take the agent, editor or publisher at his/her word? What if you take to heart what has been said? You are talented. You have an interesting story. It's just not what this particular agent or publisher is seeking at the moment.

Who needs a thick skin, when you have an open mind? Think about it. What does this person, who has in all likelihood never met you, stand to gain by lying to you? Do you think they really want to let you down easy by cushioning the fall with false praise?

I'm not asking these questions to challenge you but, rather, to challenge myself. To change the way I view the dreaded rejection letter (which has become a two-line rejection email--even more impersonal).

I received just such an email yesterday, after the publisher held onto the manuscript for eleven months with the note that it "showed potential for their market." I had a choice: I could become angry, frustrated, cynical--let it take me down. Or I could take it in stride, smile at the fact that this particular editor saw something positive in my writing and in my story, and I can reason that I was offering beef when she was hungry for chicken. (Okay, really bad analogy, but you get the point.)

Learning to deal with the rejection that comes with this business can be challenging. Most of us don't write only from our heads. We write from our hearts and souls. And, so, when our work is rejected, it hits us on a personal level. It is personal.

If I believe this editor who said she liked my writing style and found my story to be interesting, and if I take that personally, I should be feeling pretty good about myself about now.

Shouldn't I?

Now go, shake off the dust and re-submit something!


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dancing With Your Muse

Okay, so what do we writers do when our muse takes a vacation?

Some writers refer to this time as a period of 'writer's block'. I don't personally believe in writer's block. The term implies that one has the inability to write anything. I can always write something, just not necessarily what I want to write.

But I admit there are those times when I find myself pulled up at a standstill, unable to find the words for the next sentence, unsure of which turn to take that will further my plot. It's usually at those times that my heroine (bless her heart) becomes selectively mute--not giving me any hint of where she wants to go next.

What do we writers do? We sit and stare at a blank computer screen. Or, perhaps, we minimize the blank document and play Solitaire. Occasionally we even resort to drastic measures like housecleaning! Some writers shut down the computer entirely and put all writing aside for a day or two--or a week, or a month, or... But at some point, you have to come back and try again. And, if the inspiration is still not there, if your muse is still off dancing on some exotic beach with a Margarita in her hand--then what do you do?

My suggestion? Join her. Dance with your muse. Clink your glasses together and laugh at that nagging voice in your head that keeps shouting: "You must write something!" Know what I think will happen next? I think your muse will smile, take a sip of her Margarita (or coffee, or iced tea), tilt her head and whisper, "Want to hear a great story?"

Writing is work, and it is challenging. But, the day it ceases to be fun is the day I switch to Solitaire, or just shut down the laptop and watch TV. Nothing will squelch creativity faster than the sense that you have to do it--a performance anxiety of sorts.

So, relax. Dance with your muse, and wait to hear what she has to say next.

Happy writing!