I don’t know how I ended up in my archives.  Something I read had me coming back to see if I’d written something on the same topic and, well.  Here we are.

About a year-and-a-half ago (oh-my-God: have I been here this long?), I wrote about my plans to send out my very first query.  I was nervous, of course.  I expected rejection, but in that way where you know it happens, but if the universe lines up just right, it won’t happen to you.

A few months later, I wrote this post about handling rejection and how to use it to figure out where to go from there.

I remember being excited when I got my first rejection letter.  A form rejection letter and I was happy because that meant I was a real writer.  A few months after the second post, feeling like I was still flailing about in the process of submission, I took a great query letter workshop from CJ Redwine (@cjredwine on twitter).  (I recommend it; registration is open and a new workshop begins April 4.)

In my next post, I’m going to compare my pre- and post- workshop query letters (which you should feel free to comment on!), but that’s not why we’re here.

What I saw, looking back, was a bit of naivety.  We all have it.  I still have it.  Just not about rejection.

I have now accrued 23 rejections.  I did manage to get one request for a full.  It didn’t happen.  I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

Maybe, it doesn’t even matter.  I knew, although I was hoping for that universe-lining-up thing, that I was very unlikely to sell a first manuscript.  Writing a novel is a learning experience.  I knew exponentially more when I finished than when I started.  Like… I went from first day of Kindergarten to rocket scientist kind of learning.  I’ve tried to take submission, and rejection, as an opportunity to learn as well.

And, wow, it’s taking me forever to get to my point.  The point is this: what happens after The End–from editing to synopsis to query to agent and beyond–it’s still The End.  And while you’re doing all of those other things, the absolute most important thing you can also do is keep writing.

Start another novel.  Write short stories or flash fiction.  Do something.  But keep writing.  It’s the only way to grow, it’s the only way to learn, and–I’m going to go out on a limb here–it’s the only way to stay sane.  It’s the only way to keep your dream close to you, it’s the only way to still love writing.

Rejection will sting.  But writing makes it better.

Dory: “Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills… When life gets you down do you wanna know what you gotta do?”

Marlin: “I don’t wanna know what you gotta do.”

Dory: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”

If I haven’t convinced you, read this Guest column by JM Tohline on How Do We Know When It’s Time To Quit Being A Writer?writersdigest.com.

So, I write this novel, a rom-com, and it’s finished and I like it, but it’s not selling.  Which is okay–first novel.

Then I started one and it just died out because the characters, well, mostly the main characters, were just dead to me.  And that means flat and dull for you.

So, then, I started a new manuscript, but … I just didn’t have my  heart in it. I think, one day, I can make it work.  But not right now.

So, then I thought, “Why not write the story that’s been brewing in my head for ages?”  Well, I’ll tell you why not.  It’s a series.  It has to stand alone, but also have a longer arc.  Also, it’s paranormal romance.  Um, hello?  Where did that come from?  Can my voice, which–as I mentioned, rom-com–handle a paranormal romance?  Is my tone off?  My banter too light?  Can I do it?

Then I decided… I’m sitting here not writing books in the genre I feel comfortable with, why shouldn’t I write something that pulls me out of my comfort zone?  What’s the worse that could happen?  I don’t write?  Already there.

So my little counter over there stands at zero.  But that’s okay.  I’m taking a lot of notes.  Piecing together pictures for scenes.  And making notes on scenes–an outline, maybe?

I’m curious?  Have you ever stepped outside of your writing comfort zone and how did it work out?

Comic used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.

I’ve had some distracting circumstances recently that forced me to pretty much put aside writing for a while until I could own my time again.  My time still isn’t completely free and clear, but there is a little more of it.

The problem, though, is how do you pick up that piece you once had so much passion for?  What magic formula brings it alive again?

I have two works in progress; one is still very much alive, but the other I laid aside because it just..wasn’t…working.  That’s the one I want to discuss today.

My first approach is to try something new.  I mean really new, something–a pov, a timeline, a plotting versus pantsing technique–that you’ve never tried before.  This novel is very much connected to events in the past.  So much so, that’s where a good portion of the story should be.  So I’m breaking my own backstory rule and trying to weave it in.  I’m going to have two simultaneous timelines happening to explain what’s happening in one by using one.  Will it work?  Don’t know yet.  But, right now, this story is so much dead weight in the water.

Second, I’m going to bask in the process.  I’m a note taker, a big one.  I write everything down, even conversations with myself and my characters about the story.  I plan on steeping my mind in this information until that spark of passion ignites again.

Finally, and I’m pretty sure this is how any story truly gets written, I’m going to just do it already.  Hold my nose, close my eyes, and jump in.

I strongly believe, a story is written not through love of writing but commitment. Click To Tweet

Push through the wall, head down, hands on the keyboard, and just write.

The goal is not a number of words or hours spent writing. All you need to do is to keep your heart and mind open to the work.

WALTER MOSLEY

I’ve really been struggling lately with process.  I’ve come to a dead end and, it occurred to me, it’s not the story.  It’s how I’m getting the story out.  I always considered myself a planner (vs. a pantser) but it occurred to me when I was actually writing five page descriptions of my heroine’s apartment that maybe I was doing too much planning.

But writing the beginning of a story is easy. Or it is for me.  There’s so much to get out, so much you know is going to happen, it’s like you channel the story.  And then you hit that wall, where you haven’t planned any further and you’re not sure where to go next.  I had notecards based on GMC (which I still believe is a good idea), but they just didn’t ring true to my story.  Nothing did.

I decided to pick up another project I had done some notes for (my stories generally start with pages and pages of backstory–how did my protagonists get where they are now?).  I was sick of rules, sick of genre, sick of trying to write what I should.

I just wanted to fly with the story as it flowed out of me. Click To Tweet

No worries about description or narrative.  I wanted minimal direction, I wanted to know what my characters were feeling, and I wanted to get the dialogue down.  (Dialogue always comes first and easiest for me.)  I’m 41 pages into this long “outline” and I don’t know how it’s going to work out.  I don’t know if it’ll be easier to avoid those walls and how much work it’ll be to turn it into a decent first draft.  I just know writing feels good again.  It feels right, and that matters.

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

NEIL GAIMAN

via AdviceToWriters – Home – Write Your Story As It Needs to be Written.

Please share your process with me in the comments.  I’m always looking for new techniques.

So I’m a third to a half of the way through my manuscript and oh. my. God.

I knew the beginning.  I had so much to write, to get all these threads and storylines moving.  I had to write and then condense and rewrite just to make sure I could get in everything important without rambling.  And then I get to this point and I’ve got nothing.  What comes next?  I sort of know the ending, though not the specifics, so where do I go from here?  Some ideas.

  1. A preset time (say, 30 minutes) of freewriting, preferably with a program that pushes you to just keep writing, like Write or Die.
  2. Use note cards to just jot down scenes or even ideas and then piece them into order.  Great advice from Johanna Harness on her magic note cards.
  3. Use these 4 tips from Writer’s Digest to tame your ideas.

Don’t worry about failing. Be fearless about taming your best ideas, and about tossing out those that don’t fit your model. Choose paths that illuminate your own unique take on the world.

Most importantly, don’t give up! The middle is supposed to be hard, the whole writing process can be hard.  Don’t let that make you think you don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

Writing is entirely too hard to not take seriously.  Like the decision to go on living, the decision to decide between life and quality of life, writing is a choice.  It’s not something we’re called to (though it may call to us, like the siren); it’s not something you do halfway, because maybe you can make it.  You commit to it, the way you commit to a career, to a marriage, to having children.  Because once it gets into your blood, there’s no quitting.

Is writing fun?  All too rarely.  It can be thrilling, heartachingly frustrating, gut check time, and some of the highest elation you’ll know.  But it’s not for fun.  It’s for real.  It’s for grown ups.

It's for those of us who don't consider life lived if it doesn't include writing. Click To Tweet

I’ve written it before–if you can quit, you should.  It’s just too damned hard.  But, if you can’t, come sit by me.  Let’s share our heartbreaks and successes.  Let’s cheer for one another and mourn for one another and, most importantly, brainstorm for one another.  Let’s inspire one another, knowing at least someone else has been there already and survived it.  Let’s share motivational quotes and pat each other on the back.

If you are writing and feel alone, I strongly suggest you join twitter, (add me, because I love following fellow writers and promise to follow you right back), and start joining the #amwriting movement.

It’s a job. It’s not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick to it. Even if it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed you have to approach it as a job.

ROSELLEN BROWN

via AdviceToWriters – Home – You Have to Sit Down and Work.

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

via Quotegarden.com (which  no longer seems to exist).

Writing makes me crazy.

One minute I feel heady and at the top of my game and the next I feel like the worst writer ever, ever in the history of ever. Click To Tweet

There are days that I can’t stop writing, even if I wanted to, and the story just keeps coming.  (I call this writer crack–no better feeling).  On other days, I stare in desperation at the screen or my notes and will something, anything to come.  And if I get a hundred words down, I’m grateful.

Writing is all that, but I could never not write.  Writing brings me so much emotion and joy, it makes me feel alive and real, it makes me feel like I have something to say and that something matters.  It’s my passion, and I love sharing it with others, talking about it, learning it.  I give hours of my day–I sacrifice time I could be doing other things, but it calls to me.  This matters, it says.

And the thing I find most amazing about writing is that not only are those feelings of elation and frustration universal to writers, so is the deep passion for the craft.  And in that way, those of us who often can’t venture out easily, who prefer living inside our own skulls, we can connect.  And we just get it.  Ah, you’re a writer.

New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. ~Mark Twain

via Quotegarden.com (which no longer seems to exist).

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. I think it presumes one is somehow failing already. Click To Tweet

Which, I suppose, one may be.  But I prefer to stay positive.  I’m not failing–I just still have things to learn.

In that vein, what do I want to learn this year?

  • To write, in some fashion every day.  I mean every day, whether I feel like it or I’m tired or I’ve got kids running around.  Every day.  I have learned that I write best when I keep my story fresh.  If I can’t “write” a scene, then I’ll make notes, or brainstorm, or work on the synopsis, or reread it for a refresher.
  • I’m writing a rough draft.  That means no editing as I go, no going back and deciding this isn’t working here or there or that scene isn’t long enough.  Just write it–and sort the rest out later.  There’s something to be said for allowing creatively to flow uninhibited.
  • I will fear less and learn to accept rejection more.  I will send my work out without fear because I may have a lot to learn and I may be rejected, but I’ll never be published while it sits in a folder on my hard drive.
  • I will remember that I write for the love of it, the rush, the thrill of creating people and worlds and stories because it makes me happy.

I’d love to hear your goals/resolutions/that which you want to  learn in the comments!

You need to stand out, and that means swallowing your fear (and your pride) and showing all of you, even the hidden parts.

via The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler: On Fear and Baring Your Soul.

At some point, when one realizes one wants to be a writer–a real, true, working writer–it then becomes apparent that one must write.  Even when inspiration has flipped you off and it’s the last thing you want to do.  What do I do?  I make a go of it with pen and paper.  I write very informally, almost as if I’m talking to myself. (“So, this is the part where character 1 finds out what character 2 has really been up to.  She’s pissed and more than a little hurt…”–that sort of thing.)

But I really, really want to know: how do you do it?  Because it’s buckle-down time for Lori, and I need the help, guys.