A Writer’s Rut and Round-Abouts

The last month or more, writing has been an agonizing process. Time and responsibilities and thoughts of the future press on me with an unwavering, biting intensity. As this is the time of the year that I reflect on the past twelve months (and goals for next year), I have seen many false starts and a circling of projects stalled or even halted entirely. Most, if not all difficulties, are of my own making, and I take responsibility for it.

I began the Knights of Writ as a place where writers can visit to see what haunts the creative process, a place where the process of writing can be shared. I have seen little sharing, and that too falls to me and my failure to strike a chord with those visiting. That is another story: what I am talking about here and now is the daily writing assignments I wish to accomplish. Why have I not produced what I wanted?

There are many reasons, but I suppose the largest self-inflicted problem is time-illusion. Holding down a full-time job (nine hours a day required to be at the beckoned call of customers) saps the creative energy and the free-thought needed to write. Alas, I cannot change the reality of having to work to support my family.

What can I change? The two hours in the morning I allot myself to write. Sadly, by the time I have my coffee and sit down to create, a tsunami of concerns prey on me, and even sadder, little has to do with writing.

I do not mention this for sympathy, but as an explanation of what all of us would-be authors face—life and the myriad of problems associated with outside forces requiring our attention.

I am most happy and fulfilled when I write, though I find it difficult to devote such small time-snippets doing what I love. It’s hard to immerse myself into the process with one eye on the clock and the “actor with a head-set” job thundering nearer with each ticking second. Again, I cannot change that.

Life is attitude, and of late my mental well-being sucks, leaving it up to me to put things in perspective. In order to alter my attitude, I have written down—I’m a writer, after all—several things to help change my viewpoint. Most items are attitudes I already know, but writing them down reminds and impresses on my uncooperative mind what should be inbred.

  1. Write everyday, even if only a page or part of a scene.
  2. Do not open the internet browser, even to check email to see if a story sent out has been accepted.
  3. DO NOT think about anything but writing during my two solitary hours.
  4. Keep from talking with others about working projects; discussing them seems to take the magic out of the process.
  5. When not writing (or wearing the headset), read. One cannot be a writer without reading a great deal, within one’s chosen type and beyond. In either case, there is a great deal to learn from writers who have found success. I am now reading The Kite Runner, which is completely aside from my own selected venue.
  6. Read books about writing; these excite my muse, and of late have been ignored.

I have written these items down and posted them at my desk as a constant reminder. I need that. I encourage you to do the same; write down your own writer-plagues and review how to beat them every day. Head the list with the words, I AM A WRITER.

Please share your list here so others may learn from your wisdom.

See you on the next page, and next year.

Rick

Happy Santa

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2016 Writing Goals: Submission Circle

My writing lately has been a bit of jazz, a bit of blues, and more than enough elevator music; ups, downs, and the blahs—must be the weather, the blustery winds and sheets of chilling rain penetrate my clothes and rust these older joints, the mind dulled by always wearing a hat. The Pacific Northwest continues to get hammered; this morning came the first snowfall of the year.

As I sit at my computer, I ponder the upcoming year and what I hope to accomplish. The first goal, as always, is to write every day. I have mentioned this often, so I will not belabor the point except to say creating every day should be every writer’s goal.

Last week I wrote about how I begin the marketing process, and now “The Eyes of Destiny” has been sent to the first of eight possible homes.

Between working on the follow-up novel to The Returning (which has been sent to several agents), I have a number of stories in various stages: some need polish, some would do well to be revamped, while others have been waiting too long for my attention. I will soon decide which one to shape for submission, and start working on it.

The Submission Circle

My goal in 2016 (and perhaps yours as well) is to complete six to eight stories and get all into the marketing stage. This accomplishes several things at once:

  1. Keeps me writing, fingers and mind a continual nest of ideas and word-play.
  2. Having several stories out at once dulls the rejections that are sure to arrive.

(Note: when a rejection arrives, grumble and moan if you must, but there’s work to do on the present story; drop down to the next market on your list, and get the rejected story back out there. If you receive a few rejections, it might be time to re-evaluate the worthiness of the piece, especially if all the rejections are “form” responses. If you receive a personal rejection, take heart—you are moving up the line, ever-nearing publication).

  1. Experience gained from writing and sending out stories cannot be over-stated. One, the more you write, the better you become; two, the more you are rejected, the tougher the Rhino Skin becomes.

By the end of 2016, strive to get several stories in constant travel, returning to your inventory, only to be packaged and sent out once again—this I call the Submission Circle.

The habit of writing every day affords production, and the law of averages dictate that at some point your writing will be published. True, at first you may receive nominal monetary value, and perhaps none at first; like any field of endeavor, apprenticeship precedes success.

With that in mind, I conclude with a favorite quote, one from President Calvin Coolidge:

Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

 

See you on the next page,

Rick

 

After the Writing, Then What?

When you complete a short story or novel, what is the next step? After taking a couple deep breaths and congratulating yourself, it is time to market—the business side of creation. Many writers agree marketing is their least favorite task. You do want others to eventually read your tale, right? If the answer is yes, then what follows is a necessary process.

Perhaps you have an idea where you want to send your writing, whether magazine or agent. Magazines and agents each have their own certain style, slants to use the in-house nomenclature, yet I often finish a story before searching the marketplace for the right fit. That being said, it is the wise writer who reads within the projected field, thereby having a good idea of the types of stories different venues publish. I have many markets bookmarked in my browser that I semi-regularly check to see what is currently being accepted; markets fold regularly or take a hiatus.

What I consider the greatest asset of the internet is the ability to search a broad spectrum of topics, and this is especially true for writers. I will use a story I am now preparing to market (following a final polish) titled “The Eyes of Destiny.” A standard sword-and sorcery-tale populated by thieves, Emperors, witches, and the Eyes, I will start my search by typing in “Fantasy Magazines.” The list is endless; sadly, this is where a chunk of time is required to sort through the false leads, bad links, and abandoned websites that at one time published fantasy stories.

Within an hour, I have a dozen possible homes for my story. At this point, these are vague markets, generalized to accept the genre I write, though I have already discounted several because they deal with Urban Fantasy, or Horror, or specialize in Fairies or Orcs.

All online magazines have a “Submission” section. Read the requirements carefully several times. Look for the following:

Word Length: if they say “up to 5,000 words,” don’t send a 6,000 word story. Instead, cut 1,000 words and see if you are happy with the outcome, or move to the next choice.

Further explanation of exactly what the magazine is looking for. Read several offerings published by the particular magazine—this should always be the case, whether online or physical magazine, with an eye cocked to “the slant” and the type of stories they publish.

Payment: recompense for your craft varies across a wide field, beginning with copies to anywhere from $5 to ΒΌ cent per word all the way to several hundred dollars. As you might expect, the higher payments are, for the most part, going to professional working writers who have a following. I’m trying to break into the marketplace, a newbie within the genre, so my sights are realistic, which may mean I will only make a few dollars on a published story. The hope is to have my writing read, to get the by-line, and in time gain a following, no matter how meager.

Rights: are they taking one-time rights, first rights, rights for a period of time or to include an anthology if they choose. A word of caution: Never give up all rights. If that is the case, withdraw your piece (if you did not catch that fact early on) or do not offer your writing. You never know where your creation can take you if left in your caring hands.

Response time: within the magazine short story market, send to only one at a time. For a novel, agents expect you to send out the pitch and synopsis to several agents simultaneously. Again, follow the directions, and if you do not hear back in the allotted time, send a polite follow-up as to the status.

Make sure you choose the correct editor and address the submission by name.

Books like Writer’s Market and others are invaluable—do not ignore their importance—and follow the same procedure as when searching the internet.

Follow all formatting rules. Some will be (or seem) quite complicated. If I don’t get it—I am not a programmer—the market is removed from my list. Copy-and-paste into body of email is okay with me, but I do not have time or inclination to add coding ( < i >, which indicates italics in some cases) to make the writing “readable.”

As I have mentioned in previous posts, writers need courage to send their creation into the world, and by doing so, success is gained even if the story is rejected. So when you complete a work, research the markets, make a list of a half dozen appropriate choices, and send your child to the first on the list. This is the beginning of the Submission Circle.

You will never publish if you do not give yourself a chance. Take heart, have hope, be brave and I will …

See you on the next page,

Rick