Thank you!

I often think I have the best friends and family in the world, and last night confirmed it. A group of my nearest and dearest surprised me with a birthday celebration that had been months in the making. And I genuinely had no idea until I walked through the door.

So I want to say thank you so much to my family for conniving on so many levels, and setting up such an elaborate sting. I’m sorry for the couple of spanners I inadvertently threw in the works as I changed plans over the last few weeks, but from what people were saying, that just added a bit of adventure to the conspiracy.

Thank you to my friends, some of whom travelled a long way to be there last night, and those who couldn’t make it sent beautiful and funny birthday wishes that made me realise I am just so ridiculously lucky.

Finally, thank you to the god of post-30s hangovers who seems to randomly apportion head-splitters and stomach turners based on some mysterious alignment of the stars rather than volumes of booze drunk, because despite the multiple champagnes I put away last night, I was not made to suffer this morning.

No submission

For the last three months I’ve been working on my YA comic fantasy to try and pull it into shape for the Strange Chemistry call for un-agented submissions. I got my first 10,000 words looking pretty tidy (a big thanks goes to my writers group), and this was all I needed to submit. It is the rest of the novel that has been giving me grief.

For starters it wants to be too long. I keep going to write a chapter to get them closer to the climax, and suddenly the characters go off and weave another tangled web. They give me enough hints for me to see what they are planning, and I like it, but I can’t fit it all in and still keep it under 100,000 words.

This is leading to the other problem of not having finished the first draft. In theory, if the Strange Chemistry people like the story they could then ask to see the whole manuscript. That might be in six months time, but it could happen the day after I submit the first 10,000 words. As it stands now I’ve only written the first half, and I’m getting less and less confident that it is actually as much as a half!

So after much anxiety, and trying to force my characters in directions they didn’t want to go, I’m throwing up my hands in defeat. This novel will not be going in for the Strange Chemistry submission this year. The last thing I would want to do is submit a great first four chapters and then submit a sub-standard first draft when they asked to see more, assuming I could even submit a completed draft at all.

I don’t know if it is age or experience that has taught me that it is better to wait for a year and do something properly rather than rush into certain defeat, or maybe I am just so attached to this story that I want to give it the best chance it can have at being published. Either way it isn’t going to be ready for the October 31st deadline, and I’m okay with that.

Remember; it is just one opinion

Over a year ago I sent a story in to a magazine and quickly made it through the slush reader rounds to get to the editors. The story was not picked up. They held it for a month longer than they said they would in the hopes that it would fit with one of the themes of the magazine, but alas, it did not quite match with what they published in that quarter.

So when I got my rejection I actually got a note from one of the editors who said that it was very well written and the fact it had got ‘this far’ was an indication of the quality of the story. The editor explained that the only reason they were rejecting it was because they did not like to hold onto stories for more than 3 months.

I put that story through two writers groups who offered small tweaks, but for the most part kept it as it was. The small changes suggested did add to the story, and I thought it was definitely a more polished and tight package as a result.

I sought, and was granted, permission to resubmit the story. Having previously been told ‘it is with regret that I let this story go’ by the editor of the magazine, I wasn’t expecting much grief from the slush readers, so imagine my surprise when I was knocked out in the first round just a few days after I submitted the story.

From all the feedback I have got on this story I know it is succinct, humorous and entertaining, but even in my writers groups (in both instances) there was one person who just didn’t like it. They couldn’t exactly say why, but they “just didn’t like it.”

I guess my allocated slush reader was one such person. It shows you, particularly in the world of slush, that just one opinion can make the difference between getting picked up and getting rejected. When it is just one person who sees your story, it is just one opinion that comes into play, so we need to remember that.

I won’t take this rejection to heart because I know that a lot of other people have enjoyed this story. Just as easily, one day in the future, a different opinion may see this story being published.

I need to keep this in mind for all my rejections!

Goals

I am a huge believer in goals. Every New Year I set my annual goals, and then based on those I set some smaller goals, and then every week I have a list of 20 goals that I wish to achieve. They can be as simple as paying a bill or as significant as submitting a novel.

In September I was part of WriMoFoFo which is all about setting a goal and trying to achieve it in four weeks. There were a lot of us who started the WriMoFoFo journey, but what surprised me was the number of people who dropped off. It made me wonder about people’s relationship with their goals.

Given I have a list of twenty things to achieve every week, I’m quite used to not achieving all my goals, and I’m okay with that. I could count on one hand how many times this year I have been able to cross off all twenty items in a week. I don’t think the point of goals is to make you feel guilty if you don’t achieve them, but rather to get you focused on trying to achieve them.

If I have a goal roll over on my list over four weeks (and yes, if I don’t achieve them they do roll over to the next week) I realise it is too big for one week and on some level I must be finding it overwhelming so I’m not doing it. My response is to break it down into a smaller goal.

Earlier this year, when I was struggling to write anything, I changed my goal to just turning on my computer. I had to turn my computer on four times a week. Yes, some days I just turned the computer on, checked my email and then turned it off again, but some of those days I wrote. The next week I made my writing targets.

Goals should not be set in stone, big goals may not change; I will always want my novel published by an established publishing house, but the sub-goals I use to get there are constantly evolving, and I think that is how it needs to be. Don’t let you goals overwhelm you, let them speak to you, let them guide you about what is enough to expect of yourself, and what is too much in one go.

The most important thing of all about goals is that they should be achievable, so if you aren’t making your goals, break them down. Every journey starts with a first step, don’t make that step too far to take, or you will forever stay standing where you are.