Thursday, February 14, 2013

Free Enough to Dream

(I just posted this at my personal writing blog, Surgebin):

I’ve stopped writing fiction for about a year now. I want to start again; I am starting again. I’ve been thinking why I stopped and I what I want from the process.

Fundamentally, I got disillusioned by the publication rejection process. Who doesn’t, sometimes? There was one major turning point on this road. I’d felt I’d really nailed a particular story. It wasn’t accepted. I learned then that the force of rejection is proportional to the square of how great you think your story is. It’s about that gap between how good you think it is, and what the response is.

I’ve heard it said many time that you need to write fiction primarily for yourself, the writer. That’s never made a lot of sense to me, because I try to write for the audience. Now it does make sense. Writing for yourself is about why you write, not how. The how is about using words to communicate with your audience. After some time of focussing on the how, it becomes the why. What I mean is this: the response of your audience becomes your reason for writing, and that’s a very dangerous place to be.

So now the why is for me, the how is for you.

As I’ve started to write fiction again, I’m finding that the ideas don’t come as easily as they once did. Putting ideas into words still works well, because I never really stopped writing. In my work I’m always distilling my thoughts, arguments and concepts into reports, e-mails and graphs. But it’s always about something that’s happened, not something I’ve imagined. I know ideas are cheap, and they will come again.

I just need my imagination to feel free enough to dream again.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Writers Reactions to Rejection: Slushkiller

If you want to get published, you'll need to make submissions to publishers.   Chances are, a lot of what you submit will be rejected.  Often the rejection comes as a "form letter".  This is not only disappointing, but gives no real hint about what can be improved.  When the editor takes the time to explain why your piece wasn't accepted, you are getting valuable information.

Don't look this gift horse in the mouth.  A lot of people do, apparently, based on this article:  Slushkiller.  It's a very long article, but I recommend you take the time to read it.  One of the most important lessons I took from the article is that of perspective: don't take it personally (really).  Too often writers have completely the wrong perspective when we look at rejection notes.  This is ironic, because writers are supposed to be really good at seeing the world from different points of view, and distilling these perspectives into captivating prose.

Here are a few choice quotes from the Slushkiller article, to give you a flavour:

What these guys have failed to understand about rejection is that it isn’t personal. If you’re a writer, you’re more or less constitutionally incapable of understanding that last sentence, if you think there’s any chance that it applies to you and your book; so please just imagine that I’m talking about rejections that happen to all those other writers who aren’t you.

I frequently see denunciations from writers who say an editor can’t possibly judge their novel from three chapters and an outline. Sure we can, even if the chapters are short and the first one’s atypical. In many cases, three pages are enough. You don’t have to drink the entire carton of milk in order to tell that it’s gone bad.
So, don't take rejections personally.  Glean and learn from them when you can.  Keep writing, keep submitting, and you know all you need to know about how to get published.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Increase Your Writing Output

If you want to get published, you have to write. Writing - just getting that first draft out as words onto a page - takes time, and can be a slow and frustrating process. I've found something that may be able to help you.

Have a read of this great post by Rachel Aaron, called How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. Rachel discusses in detail how she created for herself a triangle with three core requirements: Knowledge, Time, and Enthusiasm.

I hope you get something out of it. I personally thought the Knowledge section was most applicable to me. How about you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Getting published takes patience, and lots of it. I'd like to share a little story from my own experience about patience.

Last year, sitting out on my front verandah with a little drink and a notebook, I was hit by a crazy idea for a short story. I started to scrawl in my notebook. After a few minutes I stopped. The idea was starting to scare me, and I backed out. After another few minutes of contemplation, I knew I had to continue: if the idea scared me, it was powerful.

I spent hours revising and honing the story to get it just right. I submitted it to Every Day Fiction on 5 December. And I waited.

Then, on 3 February 2010, I got a rewrite request. They liked the story, but it needed to work. The feedback they gave made sense, so I got to work. I submitted my revised story on 24 February. And I waited.

Then, on 22 May I got... another rewrite request. This shook me, and I spent some time re-reading the feedback, and thinking about whether to do another rewrite, or just drop it. I decided to go ahead, and submitted my re-revised story on 2 June. And I waited.

Then, on 29 June I got an acceptance! That was wonderful; but, before I could see it published online, I had to wait some more.

People Need to Know appeared online on 22 August 2010, 260 days after I'd first submitted it. It was a great feeling. Most of the feedback was postive, and it's rating reasonable well. People Need to Know taught me a lot about patience; one of the great lessons in how to get published.