Welcome to my writing accountability post. There won’t be much here, because outside the hundreds of typed pages of notes I took at Montessori training and the hundred and fifty or so handwritten notes I did at observations in November, other types of writing mostly did not occur this year.

Writing for the blog…well, you can see the archive for yourself. Dead for about eight months.

In the area of fiction writing, I finished one story and one piece of flash, for a total wordcount of 10,000. I know that seems like a bizarrely even number, but expr, it does not lie. I could add the fitful 2008 on the story that just isn’t working yet for a grand total of 12,008 words for 2009. Some writers can do that in one day, but I’m not going to detour into I suck land right this second.

The completed story (whose title is “Object Permanence”, btw) is mammoth for me, clocking in at 9,182 words. I can thank (or curse) my invaluable crit group for that bloat, because they kept reassuring me that it was ok for stories to be longer than six thousand words. It needs major reworking for some plot stuff, but in the main, I’m pretty happy with it. It seems rescuable rather than shelvable. I’m in the middle of another story right now, one that I had hoped to have finished by the end of the year, but gah, what I’m trying to do is so complicated that I’m really wrangling with it. It’s just going to take a little more time. The flash is a toss off, for the purposes of not being empty handed at crit group, and because the story apparently won’t be finished in time.

I edited and subbed one story from the vast stockpile of stories which need to be edited, and it’s now making the rounds of subs. I believe I’m 85%ish complete on the edit of Lie Down With Dogs, which I wrote in…November of 2005? Man. I’m editing a story I wrote four years ago! I really need to be better about editing stuff. As I said in a previous post, if I do nothing but edit in 2010, I may still have a dozen or so stories in circulation, hunting down their own hoard of rejections.

I have five stories looking for homes, though only two of those are out at the moment. A lot of markets will open back up January 1, and I’ll be able to fill out those submissions figures. I also have two reprints that I’ve started sending around, to no success, but I just want to say, sending out reprints is fun and stress free, because there’s no stakes on whether they’re accepted or not. The big news is I retired no stories this year. Some have been to more than ten places. If you’ve been reading for a while then you know I usually stop sending them out at ten rejections. So officially, of stories that have ever been good enough to submit, only one is retired. The others are all still out there, plodding along, trying to find a couple of bucks and a place to stay, even with their > 10 rejections. One of the stories in particular is one I really believe in, and I’m not going to stop sending it out until someone buys it! Witness my grim determination!

I made no progress this year on the next novel, unless thinking about it and smiling to myself is progress. Nor did I revise my YA novel Cualcotel, which needs a buff and polish pass but is (mostly) structurally sound before it can be subbed. But you know, editing.

So the 2010 goal is to learn to love editing (or learn to do it even if I don’t love it) and maybe learn to do some alternate story construction things like maybe outline or use index cards or something. Writerly suggestions are welcome, since I usually use the follow the rope down method of story writing. Because this story I’m working on right now? Needs something else. Some different methodology, some different trix, some different approach.

Well, that’s quite enough accountability for one post, isn’t it?

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So 2009 was a turning point year for me, in a number of ways, and now I’m going to set down all the ways in which my life changed, both for posterity and to share.

Throughout 2008 I started to feel pretty worthless insofar as the writing endeavor was concerned. Although I know about the million words of crap and the persistence mantra, I was feeling really worn out with my lack of success. My lack of progress, really. I had worked as hard as I could since November 2004 and the only thing I had to show for it, besides several hundred thousand closeted words, was three sales – one to a dead market which no one would ever read. Even though I felt like I was mastering writing skills, even though I felt like I had improved considerably, even though I wanted to write and only write, I still felt like a failure. My clock had ticked down, the amount of time I had agreed to let myself try without judging, had ended. So I was judging. And found myself lacking.

I had hung a lot on my identity as a writer. Because I was failing at that, or failing to see external markers I could tell myself were progress, I had no work identity where I was succeeding. And it was terrible for my morale.

I am fully aware that I had an envious situation. I did not work at a regular job. All I did was write. And it will seem so whiny and height of privilege for me to say that this was a bad thing. But it was a bad thing. For me. For someone else it might have been great. For me, knowing how lucky I was combined with how little headway I was making was utterly paralyzing.

So by the end of 2008, I had decided that I needed the affirmation of regular work, and I needed to be free of the label writer. I might still write (or I might not. I was having a lot of trouble getting words down and I was willing to let myself off the hook) but I would also have other things to do, and other plans for the future. Not writing plans.

So in a nutshell, I gave up.

And even though I felt guilty about that, the guilt nowhere equaled the prior horror, so it was preferable.

I started to think about the other things I could do, and the other things I wanted to do.

First of all, I picked up a couple of once a week jobs, one proofreading and one helping someone check her email and deal with her computer. I continued to teach Spanish (also once a week). But the big job I picked up, around April (also unpaid), was slush reading for Escape Pod.

Reading slush was fantastic for me in a number of ways. One of the things it showed me was that all the “almost” rejections I was getting were probably not consolation rejections. I was now looking at the dregs of the slush, and I was mostly better than that. Even the roughly twenty five stories I have waiting to be edited before I can stand to send them out because of their enormous flaws were better than a lot of what I was reading, stuff people had felt confident enough to send out, to a primarily reprint market (which Escape Pod is). So I got a type of external marker right off the bat, something I would never have gotten had I continue to write and send out as before. I got verification that when the editor says “the writing is good” or “we seriously considered this”, they probably actually mean it. Revelation!

There’s something else I got from the slush, which is I started to gain an exact sense of when stories go off the rails. I can now point to the paragraph, sometimes even the line, where the story just goes wrong. And I learned something about myself in this process. While it’s extremely useful for me to have examples of excellence, examples of brokenness really serve as the best teaching tool. I need to see flaws to understand how things fit together and how they work. Examples of excellence are omnipresent in published work. Reading slush is free access to writing with flaws (sometimes quite clear and astonishing flaws), without the onus of a critique (as it might be in a writing group), and it’s something I’d never had before. I did very little writing this year. Learning about writing, however? I did a lot of that, especially as concerns story payoff and structure, both of which fall into areas I need serious improvement and help with.

In addition to picking up a few non-career jobs, I also decided to start retraining myself for an alternate career. I don’t particularly want to go back to working in a library right now. I want to change things up. There were two options that more or less landed in my lap, and both were options that I’d been considering for a long time. One was yoga teacher training. The other was Montessori elementary teacher training, through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, which opened up a training course in Kansas City. Because I’m a crazy person, and both opportunities presented themselves in the same calendar year, I started both, even though it was fraught and I ended up being ludicrously busy.

Montessori training required me to leave my family for most of the summer. I drove back and forth between Kansas City and St. Louis practically every weekend. Often, on the weekends, I had yoga teacher training to attend, in addition to the mountains of laundry and the homework from Montessori training. It was rigorous, but I loved it. I missed my family like crazy. My wildly independent child turned clingy and kept telling me how much she missed me. My husband held things together at home, but with effort, and the strain showed. He endured, as he promised me he would. My mother came from Argentina, and changed her return tickets to cover the time I would be gone, which was a huge help. She kept everyone fed. I had worried about everything in advance, and it was difficult in ways I’m probably not accurately describing (though it spares you some angst, so that’s just as well), but we all managed, and here we are.

Yoga teacher training concludes at the end of January. I’ll have two hundred hours, which is the baseline level for teaching classes. I have no immediate plans to teach classes, because I have my hands pretty full as is.

I have two more summers of Montessori Elementary training, as well as observation hours and student teaching. I did my first observations in November, and I loved observing and loved the kids and feel very strongly that I’m on the right track. I am very excited for my own classroom, the sooner the better!

In short, I’m pretty busy, not only now, but into the foreseeable future. I’m not sure when I’ll be writing, though I feel good about continuing to do so, which is not how I felt before. I only wrote and finished one short story this year. I’m working on a second, which I hope to finish before the year gets out, but it’s coming out all in hunks and pieces, and I’m very shaky on this non-linear writing thing. I did, however, edit one story and send it out, and have almost finished editing a second. If I do nothing but edit stories in 2010, I can still stay in the sub (and rejection) game.

In September, I picked up an additional job, helping editor Rachel Swirsky at Podcastle with the organizational aspect of the podcast, which is vast. This is a paying gig, though it pays very little, of course. I’m not trying to be coy. It’s less than $50 a month. It’s also a gig that will change come January 1. I’ll speak more to that after the New Year.

Also in September, I started being courted by two local Montessori schools for their elementary classrooms. The trainer in Kansas City had assured us that there was a shortage of Montessori elementary teachers and that we would be sought after assiduously, but I took that with a huge grain of salt. It seemed like a line, you know? However, no lie, people were taking me out to breakfast and talking to me and asking me whether I’d consider their school and what would it take and so forth. This did wonders for my self-esteem, and created huge eagerness in me to finish my training and get my classroom (something I now realize might happen in reverse order). One of the schools lost their primary assistant, and they asked me if I would come in starting January and be the assistant in their primary classroom, getting to know the staff, the situation, and the kids which may one day be in my own elementary classroom. I accepted. On January 4, I will begin working at OakHaven Montessori School as a primary assistant. They are hoping to open their elementary classroom in September, and I believe they want me in it, as their teacher. I am so enthusiastic about this! I cannot wait. Think of me, and wish me well in beginning this new, great adventure. If you had told me at the beginning of 2009 that at the start of 2010 I’d be working at a Montessori school I would not have believed it. Life is full of twisty turns, many of them wonderful and fulfilling.

So this past two weeks I’ve been busy shedding all the part time jobs I’ve acquired. I’m done proofreading. I quit slushing for Escape Pod as of December 31. I no longer teach Spanish at my daughter’s school (which I’ll miss, because I love doing it). I am still on the hook for helping the antiques lady with her computer, though I’ve let her know it is no longer a weekly engagement. I’m going to keep trying to shuffle off that last job, and the easiest way will be to find my own replacement. So if anyone wants like three hours a week of work, one morning a week, (it can be more, depending on your ambition, there are potential projects) helping a woman read her email and keep her customer database updated, let me know. It requires more patience than computer knowledge, and the working environment is peaceful and slow-paced. Comment, or email me, if you are interested.

I’m also looking for a place to stay for about ten weeks this summer in Kansas City. I have a fallback option, but I’m trying not to wear out my welcome. So if you know someone who could benefit from a roommate or house-sitter this summer in Kansas City, please leave a comment.

So, to sum up, in January I will be doing sekrit, soon-to-be-announced, extra stuff for PodCastle and I will be working at OakHaven as an assistant in one of their primary classrooms. At the end of January, I will have finished my yoga teacher training and be able to teach, should I want to. I have two more summers of Montessori training left to go before I get a diploma. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but as I come into the new decade, there seems to be a pretty well-defined path ahead. I’m comfortable with that.

Also this year, unrelated to job acquisition, training, or job loss, my family got into a local CSA which we’d been on the waiting list for. Being a member of the CSA has been awesome! We’ve tried a number of new recipes, incorporated far more vegetables into our diet, and begun to eat more in tune with the seasons. We’ve learned about all new fruits and vegetables, too, such as sunchokes and daikon. The stuff we get from them (fresh mushrooms! carrots that taste like carrots! figs!) continually amazes and delights me.

So see? There was stuff happening, and plenty of it. I just wasn’t reporting it. But now you’re all caught up. Wish me well in 2010, I will be immersed in Montessori (teaching + training) and PodCastle, with a small helping of writing on the side and a little bit of yoga thrown in to keep things interesting. Also, since my new blog is so, so pretty, maybe I’ll keep up with it better, and you’ll hear from me more often. To be fair, though, my internet access while it was at training last summer was basically nil, but that could change this summer, and there’s a lot of the year that isn’t the summer. No promises, but the odds of more blogging are high.

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Be very, very quiet. There’s an actual story unfolding in my head. I thought it was just a flash thing, but it’s trying to be bigger than 1k words and trying to have more than one scene. When I went down to eat lunch it pestered me to jot things down on paper. I know, paper! How peculiar, that urgency, and the paper has a green broccoli stain on it because I was eating. I haven’t been inside a story like this for quite some time. I’d forgotten how absorbing and delightful it is. I’m not taking back any of the good things I said about teaching or anything, but yeah, love this part of writing. Seven different things collided in my head and then poof there was a story place with a story in it and I was also standing nearby.

Here’s the (mostly uninspiring, subject to change) first line, because I feel like I got to give you something for reading this far: “The class has eleven students in it on the first day it meets.” Yes, there’s a countdown, how clever of you to notice. And yeah, I know, present tense. How funny, right? I reserve the right to change it, but it’s working for the time being. Maybe because it’s ‘in conversation’, as Bujold would say, with horror? I dunno. I’m not sure whether anyone dies yet.

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You know what is awesome? Looking at a story I wrote two years ago and actively seeing what I was trying to master when writing it. Oh look, I’m practicing kinesthetics. I’m telling you whatever people are doing physically at all times. And for my finale, I’m going to have a three person fight in a closet.

I tend to think I don’t take (enough) risks with my writing, but there it is right there, three person fight in a closet, when I had trouble describing someone walking across a room. Not that it’s a good three person fight in a closet. It needs some work. But I was consciously trying to tackle something I knew I sucked at.

And you know, my kinesthetics, lo these many months later, aren’t exactly going to split open the world but they no longer suck either. Passable. Nice, from time to time, to be reminded of progress.

I’ve been talking to people lately about how I feel that if I write to my strengths, I’m cheating. I’m amused when readers, after several stories, get ahold of one where I went the easy way. They get a look in their eyes: “Why’ve I been reading crap from you when you can do this?” Their critiques are wildly complimentary. They suddenly realize I actually can write, when I put my mind to it. (Except I’m always putting my mind to it, see, even when it sucks.) Everybody thinks I’m crazy when I say I avoid writing what I’m good at. Of course you write what you do best, they say. Well, no, I try not to, I say. And I’ve had a hard time explaining why that is, why it feels like cheating. Maybe it’s just arbitrary constraint setting or fear of failure, but I think it’s something else. Reliance on what I’m already good at doesn’t help me get good at anything else. In fact, reliance on what I’m good at (narrative voice, primarily, though I’m fair to middling at setting and sensory details) can carry people along in a way that obscures other flaws. So I write three person fights in a closet, and clumsy trying too hard omni, and action scenes that come across as brittle and unrealistic. I avoid first person, which I do well, in favor of painfully constructed plots, which I do poorly. Because I want to be able to write every kind of story there is. I’m overly ambitious, and don’t want my smidge of talent in my way. And it’s not just all the shiny techniques I long to master, either. Ultimately, I get tired of writing the same way all the time. If I forbid myself the easy first person pull-you-along narration most of the time, then when I use it, it’s still fresh and pleases me. And I know I’m choosing to use it, not just falling back on it. It is a weirdness, and perhaps a flaw, but it’s what I do. Right now, for example, I’m working on two basic things: non-linearity and subtractive writing. I’m usually a classical unity girl, and while I love that and will still use it most of the time in short stories, I’ve also started breaking away from unity of time. I have been consciously putting in flashbacks, and writing things out of order, even if I rearrange them later. Usually I prefer an intensity that stays in the moment and goes always forward, but there are stories that need to be told out of order, and I want to do that kind too. Right now my cutaways are pretty stilted and obvious, but eventually, one hopes, I’ll get better at them. Subtractive writing is an experiment in methodology and probably merits its own post, when I’ve seen more results from my attempts.

As for my will to submit, I sent out two stories before the one I was panicked about bounced (and two days after I made the PANIC post, so I guess we can count it as accountability instead of procrastination – GO TEAM ME!), then turned the bounced one around not once but twice because I sent it to the fastest market ever, and got the one day rejection. So right this second I have four things out, counting the piece that bounced back to me from the “Haunted Legends” anthology. (So sad. But ehh, what you gonna do.) I dusted it off and sent it out again. It ended up being called “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” because apparently you can’t copyright song titles. Sorry, Gardel. I’m pretty proud of it, even though it didn’t make the cut for the anthology. I’m not saying I didn’t hate it for a while. I spent – oh, I don’t know – three or four days playing Civ III and pretending it didn’t exist and trying to talk myself out of sending it for the antho. But in the end, I sent it to collect its rejection. GO TEAM ME x 2!

So one could say I am down to 13 things needing rewrites, because I made good on “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” (though not without dithering and wailing). However, I just finished a new story (tentatively named “Ephemeral Marginalia”…I’m not totally sold on the title, it may be too librarian geeky and the story’s not about geeks or librarians), so I guess my inbox is back up to 14. Yes, I am uniquely positioned to make work for myself. At any rate, two of the currently out stories are nearing the last leg of their journey before surcease, so I need to revise at least two replacement things and get them out the door in the next six weeks. This is doable, as they say. Ideally, I suppose, I’d get another two things out in addition to the first two and then be looking at something like six subs out, a new record for me. And that would leave my to edit pile at around ten. If I can lop off one more I can reduce my stack to single digits. Whoa. Still, my track record on edits is abysmal, so let’s just wait and see how I do in the next six weeks before getting too optimistic.

Also there’s research for the new novel to engage in. Ha. Yes, I have a new idea I’m poking around at. In fact one of the 14 stories waiting for edits is set in the shiny new world of the maybe next novel. I wrote it the easy way, as a get a feel for it exercise. People like it and keep telling me to fix it and send it out. Take a number, story, get in line.

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I’m currently in a panic about the fact that the only story I have out has been out for 26 days on a market that, according to Duotrope, takes 33 on average to reject something (and that’s down! I swear a week ago it said 34 or 36 or some even number greater than 33) and I haven’t not had a single story out in ohhhh a year and a half, maybe? I don’t know for sure, I just know it’s been a long time and if the rejection arrives before I get the gumption to send out the two things that were rejected on 8 July and 24 June that are still hanging around for no good reason then I will have broken this streak however pathetic of always having something out and that seems terrible.

I realize that in the scheme of things, this is a stupid thing to be in a panic about. Panic’s not listening to my well-reasoned explanations.

Over the weekend I organized all the stories I have written that I could have out in markets if only I would fix them and send them and it came to 11 stories (well one is unfinished, so let’s make it 10, but another I just realized isn’t included and should be…how weird, I didn’t have hardcopy for it, though I think there must be hardcopy somewhere and I wonder where…so back up to 11 and oh…hardcopy missing on several things, I see that now that I think about it and check the hard drive — note to self for later: Adding to Naught, Easier Next Time, and the Would Be Super are not accounted for — well, let’s just say it’s 13) and that doesn’t count the story tentatively called “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” if that’s not going to impinge on Gardel too much or perhaps it will end up called after some line of Borges poetry if I can figure out which one in the next five days or so. Said story is in a separate pile on account of needing to be all expedited and out of here soon soon (so that total is something like 14…is that possible?)! And it also doesn’t count the trunked stories which I am not even looking at to rewrite because of the enormity of their suck, and there’s four of those, five if you count Hindsight which was the brave experiment in submissions now retired. So apparently I need to do some editing because this situation is a bit ridiculous and yet notice how even faced with this ridiculousness I’m still not editing.

Though when I do decide to edit, I’ll start with the one marked urgent.

And when my brain is doing this kind of breathless tallying and accounting is when I realize I’m in a panic.

I have no idea whether I’m making this post as procrastination or accountability. I’ll let you know later, if and when I manage to send the two stories waiting in the wings out to their prospective markets (which I have already picked! I know! It’s crazy! But I still have to steel myself to send things out and it’s not even related to the inevitable rejection though of course that counts too). If and when I manage to edit that story that needs to be out the door this week.

Also, as a tangential worry, why is it that when I go back and re-read these stories for editing they sound so utilitarian? Do I no longer have access to any beautiful words, images, moments? Blech.

You know, there’s a small bit of good news on the writing front. I sold a story, specifically my Bradbury/Alfonsina Storni homage. But shhh. Because the last time I sold something and told you about it, IT NEVER CAME OUT. So just…shhh. I’ll let you know if it’s ever published. Yeah, I know, crazy superstitious talk, but see above re:panic. Also, I dunno why I bother to file the serial numbers off if I’m just going to recite them to you here. Some student in some far flung parallel universe is currently looking right at this to support their thesis that the main character in that story is meant to be Alfonsina Storni with an eyebrow ring.

BTW, tally so far on the lyrics game is 2 points Sunjunkie and 2 points Jerm. Yes, it’s like basketball. You get two points every time you score. You can’t win if you don’t play, as they say.

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Which is why I am not a psychic.

No news yet, on anything subbed.

So let’s talk about something else, shall we?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been listening to Michael A. Stackpole’s “The Secrets” podcast. I think I downloaded it a long time ago, having seen it recommended (maybe) in Merrie’s blog. Anyway, it mostly raises my hackles and makes me roll my eyes, but it also makes me think, and I’m of the suspicious notion that thinking is a good thing.

To be fair, he says some things that I couldn’t agree more with, such as your writing should not be a black box. You should think about your writing and know how it works so you can fix things that break in your creative process. Granted, I’ve a tendency to overthink things, so of course I think it’s great to spend lots of time and energy thinking, whether about writing or anything else. Maybe it isn’t. But on this point, even if mistaken, Stackpole and I are in complete agreement.

He also gave me the great benefit of telling me what Cualcotel is. He was positing that the magic system in any fantasy must be introduced in the first chapter, because otherwise readers will wonder about the fantastical aspect. He said (and I paraphrase, the podcast episode is long since deleted), “If there’s not magic then it’s not fantasy, it’s just a history of an imaginary land.” And while his tone was derogatory, my heart flip-flopped with joy, because now I have a one line description for Cualcotel that’s just perfect: a history of an imaginary land. According to Stackpole, no one wants to read these, but that’s a problem for another day, isn’t it?

But he’s also irritating. For example, he does first chapter analysis on one of his own books, and claims you must run out and buy and follow along to get what he’s talking about. Meh, that sort of self-promotion rubs me the wrong way. Worse yet, he claims he uses his own book because he can’t know what another author was thinking when they were writing their first chapter. But the fact is, his analysis is of included elements, and you can clearly see whether the main character and conflict and such are presented in the first chapter of anyone’s work. You can tell whether the book has enough tension to make you want to keep reading. It’s just bogus reasoning. I’d have felt much better about “I’m using my book because I want to, that’s all”.

One of the thing he talks (and talks and talks and talks) about is not editing while you are writing. I’ve heard this a lot, and I sort of believe it. That is, I believe editing is capable of squashing forward momentum. That seeing what you have to fix can paralyze you from finishing. But he uses this writer/editor duality I see all the time (and now I’m moving from picking on him to the more general received wisdom of the writer/editor divide). This model, that one part of you writes and another part of you edits, is ubiquitous and it’s a model I’ve thought about a lot, and I just do not think it works for me. The argument goes that your editor side kills your writer side and the two should not be in the same room together and you should be doing either one or the other but never both simultaneously. This extends to advising people to physically write and edit in different places, or with different props or at different times of day (and Stackpole advocates this methodology) to reinforce which role you are in and keep the two better separated.

Now, I don’t know if it’s because I’m neurologically left brain/right brain balanced, or because I actually have no clue what I’m doing with this writing thing, or because I don’t fully understand the model as posited, or what, but this construct is useless to me. It’s an artificial divide. My writer and my editor are the same person. They aren’t divisible. Now I can see a mode of operation, yes, where one aspect dominates the other, but the interchange between the two sides (if it’s two sides, which I’m not completely convinced about) is continuous. It’s synchronous communication, not asynchronous. The corrective force, which I think is what people mean by their editor, must always be present in tandem with the output force, which is maybe the writer side, or nothing gets done for me. It’s like this river and these banks and dams and locks, and if I’m not sticking in the dams and locks and levees as I go then the whole thing breaks its banks, spreads across the land and ends up a shapeless bog. And you can’t put the bog back into the river. If I come to the end of writing something and I have a bog, I’m done with that. There’s no pushing the water back into course. I edit while I work because I think about what I’m doing while I do it. I wouldn’t know how to not think about what I’m writing while I write it. And maybe this is a basic sign of why I’ll never get anything published (as Stackpole says), but I tend to believe that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and that if the model of splitting off writing and editing doesn’t work for me, then I might just succeed at writing with a different approach. In fact, I just had an epiphany about editing, which is that maybe I don’t like it because it seems too one-sided. I’ve told myself there’s no writing involved. But there clearly is. Rewriting is writing just like writing is writing. Gah. This model is just terrible for me. Damaging. I’m done with it.

I also wonder how much of this writing blather is going to seem totally cute in that “I was so wrong” kind of way someday. But I don’t mind that.

Two more comments and then I’m done here. One of the other food for thought things I’ve taken away from Stackpole’s podcast is that he posits that every story must have a character arc. He is nowhere near the only person to say this, and I’ve heard it many times before, but he said it in such a way that it clicked with me differently. I think I may have a huge flaw in my writing in terms of character arcs. See, I’m always in the act of revealing a character for who he or she is, not so much in making them change, though sometimes they do. More often though, they are shown to have their true nature, a nature they may not have been aware of themselves. Often the growing self-awareness is what I use for an epiphany or a growth moment, but that seems like a cheater way to get through the growth/change bit. I have to think about this some more. Is revelation of character a valid tactic at all? It seems like what happens in a lot of lit fic, so it must be valid on some level. Even if it is valid, I should learn to do a more traditional obstacle/grow/change arc too, shouldn’t I? I should be able to do both. A direction to work in! Yay! A concrete place where I have to hone a skill.

And lastly, this is not about the podcast, but in response to yesterday’s comments. Thank you for your comments. I love comments. I’m glad that people want to be encouraging to me. However, I am amused by the perception of negativity my entry gave out. Hmmm. Well, it seems unlikely that all four things I have out will be accepted where they are. It may be that none of them will be accepted. That would follow the trend thus far, at any rate, with no sales. I know people who claim to be realists are often pessimists in disguise, but I have a feeling I’m owed a rejection from at least one of the markets I’ve sent to. I don’t believe that’s setting myself up for failure, or being hopeless, but following a natural set of statistical probabilities. I’ll admit I am wary of connecting long response times to potentially positive outcomes, because for me, at least it has never worked out that way, and a couple of times I was burned by hopefulness on markets that usually have quick turnarounds but happened to take a long time with my submissions. That burn has smarted much more than the tingly feelings, by the way. Anyway, whether what I get is rejection, acceptance, or something in between, these are outcomes I have no control over. I’ve already done the part I had control over, and if I were going to place my hopes anywhere, it seems like I’d have placed them there, in the earlier steps of the process, in the part where I could do something one way or the other. I honestly don’t know if I’m ever going to be published. Perseverance is not one of my strong suits, and is a critical aspect of success in the writing field. At any moment now, I could well declare this experiment over and done with and decide to go do something else. And, to me at least, that isn’t a hopeless sort of feeling, it’s a hopeful one. I’ve got other things I can do. I’m not stuck with this. I have an out.

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10 Mar 2008, by

Tingly Feeling

I have one of those highly unreliable precognitive tingly feelings that I’ll be getting a rejection today. If only it would come already!

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So I sent a sub to an online magazine back in September, and Duotrope made it red some time ago, before Christmas and I said to myself, “Self, you can wait to query because hello, who wants a rejection at Christmas. Also you’ve never queried anything before and you have no idea what you’re doing and sometimes these things fix themselves if you just wait.”

Thus I waited. I heard nothing. And January passed, and I subbed some more stuff (well really the same stuff, which had now been rejected and gone out again while this other sub failed to garner its rejection) and Duotrope told me again this sub had really been out there WAY too long.

“Fine,” said I, “Write query. You need the practice.” I consulted writer friends. How do I write a query? I got some advice. I tried to follow it.

I wrote a succinct query, which I took too long to phrase and was self-conscious about, then emailed it to the address listed as for queries on the magazine’s site.

I figured queries might get answered pretty quickly, specially if the answer was “oh right, we’ve been meaning to tell you no thanks.” or “uhm…we lost it, send again?” Like maybe within a week or two (which it has now been). Am I wrong on this? I mean to wait six weeks, I guess, which puts me to mid-March and then re-query. Can you re-query or is that bad form? Do I need to wait as long on the query about the sub as I did on the original sub before I do anything else (which would be about sixty days or so for this market, more like eight weeks than the six I plan on waiting)? Do I just cut my losses after six weeks and sub elsewhere and send along a note withdrawing (and how do you write a polite withdrawal note)? What’s the etiquette here? Help me out here, I’m flailing in ignorance.

ETA – I hope it’s not rude of me to mention the market by name. In general, I believe in openness, and non-response to me should not be taken as indicative of anything about the market generally. I realize from Merrie’s comment that my coyness makes it hard for people like me to track problems with specific markets using search engines, so I officially uncoy: Coyote Wild, which just put out a new issue and seems to be alive and kicking marketwise has been hanging on to one of my subs for a while now. I get nothing suspicious about them on Duotrope (responses to things submitted as recently as Feb 5!) though black holes shows a withdrawal that’s about as old as my sub. As for Speculations, I’m never quite convinced I’ve looked in all the right places to get market info, but near as I can tell, there’s nothing there about Coyote Wild. Who knows?

I am probably supposed to be learning patience from this. Patience, young grasshopper.

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