Posts Tagged ‘Mur Lafferty’
It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of submitting our work. Rejection is painful. Even though I am a coach and a creative writer, I, too, find ways to ‘self-reject’ my work. It’s never a good idea. Always get your work under review, submitted, in the pile, seen. It’s a simple fact that if we creatives want to have an audience, someone has to read, see, or hear and experience our work. The only way we can do that is to submit our work to others.
In January, I taught a workshop called ‘Charting Your Path to Publication: Tips, Techniques and Lessons for Writers.’ An amazing group of writers came out to learn how to beat the odds of rejection when submitting to journals, magazines, etc. We talked about strategies to submit our work, the courage to send it out and the perseverance to keep going in the face of rejection.
I shared how inspired I was by a great interview with the writer Laurence MacNaughton on Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” podcast. He shared that he struggled for many many years getting his fiction published. He had many cardboard boxes filled with rejection letters. When he moved into a new home, he decided to open up those boxes and count his rejection letters.
He counted and stacked up 100, 200, and 300 rejection letters. As I listened to the story, I held my breath. So many questions ran through my mind. How many did he have? Where was he going to stop? How many rejection letters did I have a decade ago? He kept on counting and found himself at 500, 600, and then 800 rejections. He stopped when he reached a 1000 rejection letters. He stopped counting them even though he had more letters! He felt so bad about it that he stopped temporarily writing. He felt like anyone who could amass 1000 rejection letters should not write.
He said that that not writing was really hard and that he soon came to the realization that writing was essential to his mission and purpose on the planet. It’s what gave him joy. He decided to write, no matter whether he was published or not. He kept submitting his work and soon after that sold one of his novels. He’s now a full-time writer.
I was very moved by this story as it reminds us that all we can control is what we send out and although we will inevitably get rejected, we have to submit our work. And, we have to find joy in the writing itself, no matter what the outcome. As Laurence says, “Rejections mean you are doing what you need to do, you just need to keep going.”
Recently, I almost talked myself out of submitting work. Last fall, I saw this call:
Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.
I got goose bumps reading this call. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors. I teach her work and her nonfiction essay, “Positive Obsession” is one that I credit for inspiration in pursuing my writing life.
I put it on my calendar to submit, but as the deadline approached, I found myself saying:
“Every prominent speculative fiction writer is going to submit something—I can’t compete.”
“I want to write about the impact of her nonfiction on me and her use of affirmations to boost her confidence. The editors probably won’t be interested in that.”
I was about to talk myself right out of submitting due to fear. I was going to self-reject. Thank goodness a writing friend messaged me with the link and said, “Hey, I know you’re a Butler fan, you’re submitting to this right?’
That little encouragement got me in gear. I decided to write the essay. I told myself, if it gets rejected, I can pitch to the speculative fiction magazine. Someone could want this essay.
I sent it off, pleased with the essay, but not expecting anything.
I’m thrilled to say that my essay WILL appear in the anthology. I am so honored to be in this collection. See details below.
Always give others a chance to evaluate your work. Never self-reject!
We are excited to announce the contributors of original letters and essays for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today. Essays include original pieces about Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” and whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works. All of these original pieces show the place that Octavia Butler had, has, and will continue to have in the lives of modern writers, editors, critics and fans. Our contributors include:
Michele Tracy Berger
Lisa Bennett Bolekaja
Mary Elizabeth Burroughs
K Tempest Bradford
Jennifer Marie Brissett
L Timmel Duchamp
Tuere TS Ganges
Stephen R Gold
Rebecca J Holden
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Aurelius Raines II
Amanda Emily Smith
Sheree Renée Thomas
Jeffrey Allen Tucker
Ben H Winters
K Ceres Wright
Luminescent Threads will also include reprints of articles that have appeared in various forums, like SF Studies, exploring different aspects of Butler’s work.
Luminescent Threads will be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017.
I crossed the 50K word finish line yesterday and validated my manuscript with NaNoWriMo. I am still buzzing with excitement. These are the factors that contributed to my success:
–Writing affirmations: I started most writing sessions by writing a kind note to myself. This ritual kept my doubting inner critics relatively quiet. Go here for more on the power of affirmations for writers.
–Learned new writing tricks: I stayed on track by writing about 2,000 words every day. I, however, got stuck by the time I got to 40,000 words and headed into Thanksgiving weekend way behind.
I was running out of time. Luckily, I found some folks on the NaNoWriMo forums who were setting up timed writing sprints. I’ve done timed prompts before while writing longhand. Doing time writing sprints on my computer were new. I participated in a 2,000 word sprint where you write as fast as you can for 10 minutes trying to make the following word counts in each sprint: 400, 300, 200, 100. You take short breaks along the way and then go in for a second round of sprints using the opposite order: 100, 200, 300, 400. In about two hours you can reach 2,000 words. Several people kept time and we checked in as we reached our word counts.
Using this method on Friday and also utilizing the #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter I was able to write about 7,000 words in about six hours. Definitely a personal best. Discovering these writing sprints felt like a miracle. I am grateful to the many writers who organized these events and cheered others on.
–Utilized online writing forums: The NaNoWriMo forums were amazing and my go to resource. Encouragement, creativity and humor were in abundant supply.
–Periodically reviewed a very popular blog post: on how Rachel Aaron, an author upped her daily output from 2,000 words to 10,000 words. I highly recommend this post. She provides some great tips that anyone can employ. Works wonders.
–Used Scrivener-I had heard great things about Scrivener. They are a sponsor of NaNoWriMo this year and I decided to give their special NaNoWriMo template trial offer a go. I literally spent only ten minutes looking at their intro video before diving in. The ease! The joy! It made a huge difference to be able to have all my chapters in one place, and easily visible as icons. I also loved their ‘corkboard’ feature that displays the chapters (or scenes) as movable index cards. This feature was a tremendous help with organization.
–Received daily doses of encouragement from Mur Lafferty: I wrote about Mur Laffterty’s excellent podcast a few weeks ago. She like many creative artists are on Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows direct and ongoing support of artists. I was already in her Patreon circle when she announced that she would be sending a daily short NaNoWriMo audio message to her Patreon supporters. The 3-7 minute commentaries on topics including narrative structure, staying motivated, and character development were fantastic. I came to rely on those daily writing vitamins to keep my spirits up. Check out Mur’s writing and podcast. You might also want to check out Patreon to see if there are creative artists you’d like to support.
–Drew on the momentum of daily writing: The success of NaNoWriMo was built on the headwind I generated in the summer writing a minimum of 250 words a day and using the tracking tool of ‘The Magic Spreadsheet’.
–I didn’t try to ‘pants’ this one: I spent most of July and August writing an outline and character sketches for this book. This preparatory work saved me.
Do I have some plot challenges? Yes. Do I need to add more about the setting, conflict and some of the characters ? Yes. Will I need to do a lot of editing? Yes. But, I am pretty proud of my NaNoWriMo draft. I love my characters and my plot. And, having never written a mystery before I discovered I enjoy writing in this genre. I also like how I just figured things out along the way (without agonizing over details) because of the intensity of writing at high speed. And, I loved being inspired by people who participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote way beyond 50K.
In January I will continue work on this project and shoot for a solid first draft in early spring. I’ll also try to keep what worked for me during NaNoWriMo going.
If you are still in the writing trenches trying to finish NaNoWriMo, I cheer you on. If you’re not going to finish by tonight, celebrate all the hard work you’ve done thus far.
Now, I’m off to order the official NaNoWriMo winner T-shirt and print out my winning certificate!
Posted November 10, 2014on:
NaNoWriMo update: I’m pleased to say that after the first week of NaNoWriMo, I am on track with a word count of over 15,000 words. And, I haven’t overindulged in caffeine or pulled any all-nighters. I attribute this success mostly to drawing on an outline that I wrote during the summer. As I said in an earlier post, I tend to be a discovery writer (or ‘pantser’). However, for this project I am experimenting with using an outline. I have found Elizabeth George’s Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and The Writing Life extremely helpful on the topic of outlines. She encourages writers to do a step outline (basically a list of scenes), for each section of the book and then write a plot outline. Since I am working on a mystery, where plot is essential, these have been helpful tools. I also have been experimenting with the well-known ‘Snowflake technique’ that helps with structuring a story.
This foundation has been a lifesaver, especially since I missed three days of writing. The other thing I do before I begin writing is to compose a nice note or affirmation about my writing. It’s usually something short and sweet: “Michele, you create magic when you write.” I find that taking the time to say something positive helps my mental outlook. For more thoughts on writing affirmations and how to use them, see this post. Also, NaNoWriMo’s organization and communication with us is great. I have enjoyed receiving emails this week from NaNoWriMo that tell me about ‘writing sprints’ organized on Twitter. The NaNoWriMo website is a treasure trove of help, support and encouragement. When inspiration (and willpower) during the month flags, writers can check out the “Pep Talkers” section, where bestselling authors including Brandon Sanderson (“Mistborn”), Jim Butcher (“The Dresden Files”), and Kami Garcia (co-author of the “Beautiful Creatures” series) will provide encouragement.
One of the ways I treat myself (and also sometimes procrastinate) is to listen to podcasts about writing. I thought I’d share my favorites with you. I hope these stimulate and inspire your creative work. I’d love to hear about any writing podcasts that you adore, too.
I Should Be Writing: host, Mur Lafferty
‘Winner of the Podcast Peer Award and the Parsec Award, this is a show about a writer going from wanna-be to pro. Focusing on the emotional road blocks one finds in a writing career, this show speaks to over 8000 listeners every week. ‘
What I love about it: Mur is a speculative fiction writer and this is one of the longest running podcasts of its kind. Mur’s honesty about the ups and downs of the writing process really speaks to me. She’s very encouraging and a master at sharing tips on how to keep one’s self writing (and why it is important to do so). She periodically conducts interviews and also an occasional feedback show where people can send in questions that she answers.
New Letters on the Air: host, Angela Elam
‘New Letters on the Air is the half-hour radio companion to the literary quarterly magazine New Letters. Each week the program features intimate conversations with contemporary writers who reveal secrets about their creative methods, read a few favorite passages, and inspire the listener’s imagination.’
What I love about it: This podcast makes me feel like I am sitting in the audience, listening to excellent writers talk about craft and read their work. I don’t get to enough readings and this podcast introduces me to many literary poets and novelists that I might not know about otherwise. Angela asks smart and thoughtful questions of each guest.
Writing Excuses: hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells
‘To educate aspiring writers in the ways of the author. Writing excuses is a fast-paced, weekly podcast covering topics related to writing genre fiction.’
What I love about it: This podcast’s tagline is ‘Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart’. All joking aside, this is an insightful podcast hosted by some of the most well-respected and successful writers and artists working in fantasy, horror and science fiction. They work well as a team and cover a wide range of topics about novel writing. And a bonus is that at the end of every episode, they offer a writing prompt.
The Dead Robots’ Society Podcast: hosts, Paul E. Cooley, Jason Macumber, Terry Mixon, and Scott Roche
‘This podcast is by aspiring writers for aspiring writers. The Dead Robots’ Society was created by Justin Macumber in an effort to offer advice and support to other aspiring writers. It was inspired — in part — by Mur Lafferty’s podcast “I Should Be Writing.” Over the course of the show’s storied life it’s had a bevy of co-hosts.
All the hosts, current and former, have writing experience of some kind. They gather on a weekly basis to share stories of their individual journeys and discuss topics important to the world of writing. Occasional forays into the territories of brown dragons, taco eating cowboy space ninjas, or random discussions involving monkeys are all considered rumor at best and none of the hosts are willing to admit any of that actually happened.’
What I love about it: These hosts are funny, bawdy and pretty rowdy. They cover the business of writing (especially about self-publishing and working with indie presses) and also how to stay motivated.
The Roundtable Podcast: hosts, Dave Robinson and Brion Humphrey
‘The Roundtable Podcast is about nurturing ideas, fostering inspiration, and getting the creative juices flowing. It’s also about mistakes and blind alleys, harsh reality and uncomfortable truths.
Each week we invite publishers, editors, and authors to get on the line with a writer who presents an idea on the table… an idea for a story they want to write. And then everyone digs in, asking questions, pointing out problems, and proposing solutions. Characters are dissected or dismissed, plots reinforced or torn apart altogether, and hopefully what started as an idea, becomes something more.’
What I love about it: I’m a new listener to this podcast. I’m captivated by the variety of formats they have: interviews, workshops and themed conversations. They try to create ‘literary alchemy’ with each podcast. I think they do.
Posted June 16, 2014on:
This month, I’m offering some tips that can support your writing practice mid-year.
Tip 2: Increase Your Submission Rate & Strive for 99 Rejections
Years ago, writer Marjorie Hudson, shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should strive to gather at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I reached that number, no problem. Later, when I reviewed my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, in a serious and organized way.
I love Chris Offutt’s essay, ‘The Eleventh Draft’, where he discusses how he dealt with the fear of rejection:
“The notion of submitting anything to a magazine filled me with terror. A stranger would read my precious words, judge them deficient, and reject them, which meant I was worthless. A poet friend was so astonished by my inaction that he shamed me into sending stories out. My goal, however, was not publication, which was still too scary a thought. My goal was a hundred rejections a year.
I mailed my stories in multiple submissions and waited eagerly for their return, which they promptly did. Each rejection brought me that much closer to my goal—a cause for celebration, rather than depression. Eventually disaster struck. The Coe Review published my first story in spring 1990. The magazine was in the small industrial town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a circulation that barely surpassed the city limits. The payment was one copy of the magazine, and the editor spelled my name wrong. Nevertheless, I felt valid in every way—I was no longer a hillbilly with a pencil full of dreams. I was a real live writer.”
The common suggestion is for writers to have at least five pieces submitted at any given time. Last year, I submitted pieces to a total of 21 different contests, anthologies, and literary journals, etc. Three pieces were accepted for publication and another story placed in a contest. And, I received my fair share of rejections. However, I also received a few lovely emails from editors who although declined the piece submitted, encouraged me to submit something else. The submission and rejection cycle is also one of building relationships with editors whose work you admire. Think of it as deepening your apprenticeship.
This year, I have submitted to 9 places and can claim an even higher rate of success with four pieces accepted for publication and an honorable mention in a contest. I’m hoping to beat last year’s submission record by the end June. The more work you have out, the easier rejection becomes. It’s also incredibly gratifying to take action in support of your writing life.
How is your submission rate going? Are you close to 99 rejections?
June is a great time to research new markets and submit to them.
BTW: Have you checked out my post on the ‘Magic Spreadsheet’ and how it can support your daily writing practice?
PS, If you’ve surpassed 99 rejections go and celebrate and also check out Mur Lafferty’s excellent podcast about going beyond 100 rejections and keeping the submission process fun and creative (Episode 317)
Posted June 9, 2014on:
June provides a great time for us to review the goals, commitments and visions we made at the beginning of the year. Do we even remember the commitments we made in January? Do our goals still take our breath away? Have we already accomplished some of them?
When you think about your writing goals are you feeling a sense of ‘Woo-hoo’ or ‘Uh-oh’? I hope you’re on the side of joy and excitement. If not, then it may be time to take stock of your writing strategies thus far and make some adjustments. There is still plenty of time to meet the writing goals that you set at the beginning of the year. This month, I’m going to suggest some tips that can support your writing.
Tip #1: Track your daily word count using the ‘Magic Spreadsheet’ (or your own system).
I discovered the Magic Spreadsheet from author Mur Lafferty. For many years Mur has hosted a terrific (and addictive) podcast for writers called I Should Be Writing. One of her MFA buddies, Tony Pisculli got inspired to design a support structure that would encourage one of the hardest practices of the writing life to maintain—daily writing. The story goes that he heard that author Cory Doctorow say that if you write about 250 words per day, in a year you’ll have a book. When it comes to writing, small increments of time and energy can yield tremendous results. And, Tony thought on most days, one can write at least 250 words.
So, he designed a system (a spreadsheet) where people can enter their daily 250 word count. He also added elements of ‘gamification’, meaning that it has fun elements–there are points awarded, levels to gain, etc. He circulated it to his MFA community and then over the last two years many other people discovered it and joined in. Currently, it is hosted on Google.
I think the Magic Spreadsheet is brilliant and is a great service to writers. This idea appeals to me on a variety of levels. I love group related activities that provide public support and accountability. I love the idea of friendly competition (it’s all on an honor system), and I love anything that kind of resembles a video game. Score, score, score!
The only thing that you do is enter your name, a few details and then move across the spreadsheet to enter your daily word count and with a click of a button, the program calculates all the other stuff. It’s like magic!
People are using the Magic Spreadsheet to make progress on their goals of finishing short stories, novels, plays, and even a few dissertations. You get more points for every day you write and every day you make the 250 word count (but you are of course free to enter in higher word counts).
A few days ago, on my birthday, I found a space on the spreadsheet and entered my name and word count. I wanted to start the spreadsheet on my birthday with the intention of writing every day from now until my birthday next year. I’m a pretty consistent writer, but have never tried to write 7 days a week, no matter what and with a minimum word count. It was a great way to kick off my birthday!
If you’re interested, you can listen to two podcasts here where Mur Lafferty interviews Tony about the Magic Spreadsheet’s origins and about the technology behind the scenes that makes it possible. You can also find all the info about the Magic Spreadsheet and how to join in here. There’s info at the link about the Facebook and Google+ groups. And, BTW, it’s all free! How is that for support?
Give the Magic Spreadsheet a try or set up your own system. Setting a specific and manageable word count (or page length) and sticking to it consistently is a fantastic way to build your writing muscle that is fun and sustainable.
We’re at the beginning of a long holiday season. This can be a time for relaxation and much needed connection with friends and family members. It can also be a time when our creative work goes out the window. Here are a few tips to keep one’s creativity ignited.
- Work in smaller chunks of time. During the holidays there are many demands on our time with planned and spontaneous social engagements. Just like keeping ourselves healthy with more frequent workouts during the holidays is advisable, the same could be said for creative work. With all the imbibing, late nights and celebrating, trying to find solitude for creative work can be in short supply. Decide to work in smaller increments of time.
- Stay connected to discussions about creativity. If you’re traveling for much of the holidays and that interrupts your creative routine, find ways to stay connected to your interests. I’ve become a big fan of Mur Lafferty’s ‘I Should Be Writing’ podcast and plan on catching up on several episodes during holiday travel.
- Design a ‘Creativity Permission Slip’. While you are writing your holiday cards, take a moment to design a big beautiful ‘creativity permission slip’. This permission slip empowers you to take at least an hour a week for yourself and do something related to your creative life. Post it in your creative space.
- Play with a Creativity TA-DAH List. We all know our ‘to-do’ lists grow exponentially during the holiday season. What about having a ‘ta-dah’ list? Right now, if you throw your hands in the air and say TA-DAH!, I bet you’ll smile. Motivational speaker and humorist Loretta LaRoche, in Relax: You May Only Have A Few Minutes Left, recounts being at a conference on health and wellness that felt deadly serious. Later, in the hotel, Loretta saw a girl of about three waltz down the corridor, twirl her arms and yell ‘TA-DAH!” Many of the adults stopped in their tracks and grasped that “the child knew what they had paid hundreds of dollars to find out: how to enjoy life in the moment.” Your ta-dah list could be composed of anything that makes you smile during the next five weeks. It could also be a celebration of every creative thing that you’ve done this year. Let the ta-dahing begin!
- Treat yourself. Go and purchase the one gift that will support your creativity that you’ve been meaning to give to yourself all year. Think of it as a down payment for the great work you will produce in 2014!
How will you keep your creativity flowing during this holiday season?