When I started ‘seriously’ pursuing my writing career the advice from all the authors around me was that you needed to prove yourself with short story publications, then that would fast-track your novels to the top of the slush pile. I know that was a long time ago, but now that I’m about to hit my 40th short story publication I don’t think the short publications are helping at all. My stories seem to sit endlessly in the slush waiting for their turn like everyone else’s.
This was highlighted when I recently queried a novel that had been with a publisher for over 7 months. From their response it was obvious that they didn’t even know they had the story. Due to a change in staff, no-one was reading it. Even today I don’t know if they found it, and I don’t know if they are reading it now. What I do know is for the 7 months it was lost in the abyss of slush I was not sending it out to anyone else. This was the same novel a previous publisher had held onto for over a year before they ‘regretfully’ rejected it.
Obviously, these days short story publications are not the way to rise to the top of the slush pile. Awards and social media success probably count for more than publications, but I’m sure (like every other job) networking is what matters most. I guess if I am ‘serious’ about getting published I need to give this a go. It’s going to be hard to do that in Adelaide, but for my sanity alone, I need to try something else in an attempt to get out of the slush pile.
I’ve been having a bit of a rough run with submissions recently, so I was excited to receive an acceptance for a short story that I though would never find a home. It was a bit silly, a bit rude, and a bit controversial (for me). You will be able to read that in the 250th Issue of Antipodean SF – published next month. Don’t worry, I’ll post the link when it goes up.
This week also marked the end of daylight savings, which for me translates to going to be an hour later, but waking up at exactly the same time. So, while I’ve been exhausted at work, it’s meant I’ve spent an hour in bed each morning thinking about what writing project I’m going to work on next.
There are two vying for attention; a novella that wants to become a novel, and a brand-new novel that I started working on two weeks ago. There is part of me thinking that perhaps I could work on both? They are quite different, and I seem to be able to alternate quite nicely between then when thinking about them, so why shouldn’t it be so when I write them?
The weather has cooled down, so I’m spending more of my weekends inside. I think a couple of writing projects might be just what I need.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (or something very like that). I feel as if that defines my writing journey of late, and possibly that’s why I’m getting so frustrated.
I keep sending my novels out to publishers, they hang onto them for a year, and then they send me a form letter rejection. I’m still waiting for the form letter rejections for the most recent two, but I’ve been waiting 7+ months on both of them, and I’m sure that if the publishers loved them, I would have heard about it by now.
I’m not quite ready to give up totally on the traditional publication path and head down the self-publishing road (but I’m pretty close). And don’t get me wrong, it’s not snobbery about self-publishing that stops me, but rather having to teach myself the ins and outs of hiring an editor, a cover designer, marketing etc. It’s a lot of learning and I won’t do a half-hearted attempt, so I will put that off a little bit longer.
Instead I’ve decided to do the next best thing; networking. I’ve just joined clubs, courses and the SA Writers centre over the last week. If I can’t make some inroads into the publishing industry by getting to know people over then next 6 months, then I’ll self-publishing by Christmas! And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll meet some people who can teach me about editors, designers and how to market.
I’m getting too old to do this waiting thing any longer.
I thought I was getting better at waiting. I’m really not. I’ve got a few pieces of writing out for consideration and they have all run overtime on the deadline for responses. But all I can do is wait. That is the lot in life for an unpublished writer.
I can’t help but feel that if I was a more dedicated writer, I would just get on with the business of writing so that I wouldn’t even notice the waiting. But I do notice it. Every day. At least three times a day.
In first year Uni we did an experiment on rats either reinforcing, extinguishing or irregularly rewarding a press on a button with food. The reinforced rats just tapped away casually getting fed, the extinction rats tapped for a while, then gave up and got on with something else. The irregularly reinforced rats madly banged away at that button trying to work out what was the secret combination to get that food reward. I feel like one of those rats.
So, I guess my mission this week is to find something (besides work) to distract me from my email so I don’t keep checking to see if anything has come in yet. And I’m going to try really hard to make sure that thing is not TV.
It really is time for me to start working on a new novel.
I was getting coffee with my work colleagues the other day when a song came on in the café that totally ripped me out of the here-and-now and dragged me back in time for just a moment. I’m sure my colleagues didn’t even notice the rip in the time-space continuum that gobbled me up and then spat me out. But I did. Those memories sat on my shoulders for the rest of the day.
Then on the bus I was transported to a fantasy land with a bunch of people I think of as close friends, despite having never met them. They don’t even know my name or what I look like. Of course they are characters in a book that I’m reading and they took me away from the congestion on the roads, for which I was truly grateful.
The arts really do have the power to take us somewhere else, to feel something else, to stop us in our tracks and make us suddenly see with different eyes and ears and senses. It amazes me how little time I make for revelling in other people’s creativity given how wonderful it can make me feel. I’m going to make a point of listening to more music and reading more books in the coming weeks. Maybe it will help with producing my own works of creativity.
I’m back, and how appropriate that it is Adelaide Writers’ Week weekend. I must confess that I didn’t go down to Saturday’s session. 2019 has seen record-breaking heat in South Australia and coming off the back of the hottest March overnight temperature on record, Saturday promised to be windy and a little over 40°C. There was no way I was going down the hill to sit in that sweltering heat after so few hours of sleep the night before.
But today (Sunday) promises to be much cooler (yes, apparently we now consider 31°C a cool day in this part of the world) so I’m going to head down and check out the Young Adult authors provided I’m not too old to be let in (I hope there isn’t an age limit for the audience).
Anyway, my own writing has slowly started to gather a bit of momentum again. I wrote another very short piece last week and have toyed with editing a few of my longer stories over the last month. I can’t help but notice that I’ve also gotten back into reading my book on the bus . I’m sure there is a direct correlation with how much I read to how motivated I feel to write.
So if you are in Adelaide this week, and you aren’t into super cars, check out Adelaide Writers’ Week in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden near the festival centre. It runs until Thursday, and it’s a totally free event with well-known authors from all over the world.
And if you see me there be sure to say hi!
I tried to turn my laptop on today and it wouldn’t come on. I pressed the button a couple of times and then sat there, looking at my blank machine, wondering how it could break down with no warning?
My laptop at work has the ‘on’ button on the right side, in almost the same place that my home laptop has its volume buttons. I think you can see the punchline here. It took a lot longer than it should have for me to investigate the faulty ‘on’ button to discover I was actually just playing with the volume.
The computer is on now (button on the left side did its trick), but it made me realise how much we function on habit. Don’t get me wrong, habit is handy, it lets you do things while freeing up your mind to wander elsewhere. But I wonder if sometimes we let it limit us, because we believe we are doing the right thing, but there is actually a better way.
I think I’ve got to the point in my writing where doing things the same way is not going to take me where I want to go, so I need to do something different. I need to start a new habit. I don’t know what that habit should be, but I’m going to try and look at each decision from all sides, and work out if there is a different way.
Just an aside; we had the hottest day on record on Thursday, and nearly every day this week has had an overnight minimum in the mid-twenties – so sleep deprivation might also have played a part.
I’ve recently started a new job and I have to admit I’m really struggling to manage the juggle with work and writing. My office is very tech-heavy, so they have covered all the windows to minimise reflections on people’s screens. The result is that it feels a bit like you are sitting in a cellar, and your eyes never get to focus further than the length of the room.
Now, I know I’m getting older, so I probably notice this more than others, but my eyes are exhausted at the end of the day. There are only so many walks you can take to the kitchen to look out the window there. As a result, in the nearly three months I’ve been working there I haven’t written a creative word on my work days.
This has been highlighted with the recent Christmas break, where I got right back into the swing of writing. I thought I was on a roll, but now that I’m back in the office, my attempts at writing during the week have turned into a quick game of solitaire, checking my emails and then closing down.
After my brief burst of productivity, I’ve realised I need to find a solution to this. I don’t want to limit my writing just to days that I’m not in the office. I’m a big believer in work-life-balance, so when I’m not at work I want to be doing what I want to do, and that’s writing.
I’ve started talking lunch time walks as well as the many sorties to the kitchen for peppermint tea, but I think I need to find something more, especially with nearly a week of over 35°C on the horizon. Any suggestions will be gladly welcomed!
This one slipped past me because I wasn’t expecting it until 2019. It was published last Sunday, but I didn’t check my email soon enough. This story, Bleed, is quite dear to me. It has a very personal meaning and was inspired by something in my life. Anyone who has read the story will be a bit confused by that, I’m sure, because the story is set in a time and place that is clearly not our earth.
It is a horror story, but only insomuch as there is a bit of gore, and bad things happen to people. It actually feels a bit more magical realism to me, but there’s not quite enough ‘real’ to truly fit into that category.
I’m not going to tell you the meaning behind it because, firstly, it is a stand-alone story and the meaning is not required to enjoy the story, and secondly, because this twice got rejected, once with the comment ‘this is good, and it will get published, but unfortunately not with us’ – and I wonder if it was because I told them what inspired it, and maybe it hit a little too close to home? The third time I subbed it I left the inspiration story off and it got accepted, so I think there is a lesson in that.
It’s published in Midnight Echo Issue 13 (which I was desperate to get into) which is the magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association – of which I am a member. It includes some other great fiction, so you would do well to get yourself a copy.
I hope you enjoy Bleed, and if I see you face to face, I’ll tell you the story behind it.
A funny thing happened on Saturday. I was lounging about, stuffing my face with enough chocolate to make me wonder if it is possible to get diabetes in a single week of poor diet choices, and I suddenly got up, came into the study, and turned on the computer. More amazingly, I opened a writing project I last worked on in October and I started editing it.
This is was a very rough first draft, so I needed to write new words and everything. Within the first sentence I felt like I’d never been away. Next thing I knew nearly two hours had disappeared and I came up for air, leaving the world in my story behind and finding myself again in the study.
It was wonderful.
This is such a nice way to end the year. It gives me hope for a more productive 2019. I have my list of writing projects I want to complete, and now it seems I have found the motivation to get back to putting words on the page instead of just watching my own private movies.
I hope you all have a very safe, relaxing and fun New Year. I’ll see you all back here next year!