Category Archives: Writers/Illustrators of the Future

What “Rejection” Really Means

A Guest Post by David Farland

For the last few weeks I’ve been scurrying to finish up judging on a large contest. I’ve had to “reject” thousands of stories. I hate the word “reject,” because it doesn’t really express what I want to say.

Very often I will read the opening to a story and it is obviously the first work of a very young writer. It may have a multitude of problems—from simple typos, to a lack of understanding as to how to set a scene, to clunky dialog. I know that I can’t accept the story for publication, but at the same time, I wish that I could shout some encouragement to the budding writer, much the way that my mentor Algis Budrys did to a young Stephen King.

I think that people need encouragement. It may be the only thing that will spur a young writer to greater effort.

So what does the word “rejection” mean to you as a writer? I think it’s simply: “Try harder.”

A lot of fine works get rejected. The bestselling works in nearly every genre experienced rejection. Lord of the Rings was rejected by several American publishers. Dune was rejected by all of them. Gone with the Wind made its rounds through every major publisher. Harry Potter was rejected by all of the biggest houses, and Twilight was rejected by a dozen agents before it got picked up—yet all of these novels became the bestsellers in their fields.

So does that mean that these were all bad novels? Of course not. It means that the author didn’t find an editor with a matching taste, a matching vision, right at the first.

Very often when I read a manuscript that is close to being publishable, I think, It’s a shame that the author didn’t try a little harder to . . . That’s what “rejected” means to me.

I was talking to international bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton last week, and asked her to confirm a rumor that I’d heard. With her first novel, she received over 200 rejections before she made a sale. She said, “When people tell me that they’ve been rejected five or ten or twenty times, I just tell them that ‘I don’t want to hear about it.’”

Laurell has the perfect attitude toward rejection. Try harder.

davidfarland_storydoctor

How to Keep Your Writing on Track When Your Life Goes Off the Rails

A Guest Post by Kary English

2015 was one of the worst years of my life. As dramatic as it sounds when I type it now, the truth is that I lost six months of productivity because there was just too much to deal with and still be able to write. Let me give you a run down of the series of calamities I had to deal with.

I endured the wrath of the internet for six to eight months while the Hugo kerfuffle played out.

My best friend of more than 10 years succumbed to cancer. I had to leave a writing workshop mid-week because we’d been trying to squeeze in a final trip together and her doctors said “Go now.”

A family member slipped far enough into Alzheimer’s that she no longer knows us.

My son’s school was rocked by a shooting threat.

My husband had to take a pay cut, and then our landlord chose a major holiday to tell us that we had to leave our home of more than 10 years. Combined with the high rents in the town where we live, that meant uprooting my son from a school he loves, leaving all of our friends and travelling more than 200 miles to find a place we could afford.

Now that I’m through it, that I’ve survived it, it doesn’t seem as bad. But at the time it was completely overwhelming. Luckily, it taught me a lot and when Nathan asked me to guest post, I decided to share the lessons I’ve learned about how to keep your writing on track when your life goes off the rails.

 1) Be gentle with yourself

Self-doubt, impostor anxiety, survivor guilt, perfectionism, procrastination, distraction, denial. I can usually make three-of-a-kind or better from that list, and that’s on a good day. Add in a major life upheaval like the ones I was facing and the result was overwhelming.

Be gentle with yourself. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re weak, lazy or a failure. Beating yourself up if your productivity suffers only makes you feel worse, so let me repeat this again: be gentle with yourself.

If you’re grieving, give yourself permission to grieve. If you’re exhausted, give yourself permission to rest and recover. If you’re stressed and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to relax, do nothing and take care of yourself first for awhile. If you need help with something, give yourself permission to ask for it and accept it when it’s offered.

2) Get outside

Many writers are introverts, so when life gets bumpy, it’s tempting to hide out from the world until things get better. Don’t pressure yourself to socialize if you’re not up to it, but try to get some fresh air and sunlight even if it’s just a walk by yourself. I’m lucky enough to have a beach and a nature preserve within walking distance, and regular visits are not only good for my mental state, they’re good for my productivity, too.

3) Compartmentalize as hard as you can

When life gets chaotic, I need two things to keep working: time and focus. That sounds easy, but when life goes off the rails it’s almost impossible to get both together. Your solution may be different, but I cope best through vicious compartmentalization. I block off a section of time, turn off my phone and my internet, and for the space of that time, even if it’s only half an hour, I focus on my writing.

Sometimes I can accomplish this in my own home and sometimes I can’t. When I’m at home, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend in addition to being a writer, and sometimes those roles conflict. When I’m at home, my name isn’t Kary English; it’s “Mom-can-I” or “Honey-where-did-I-put.” If things have been chaotic, there’s probably a mountain of laundry and other tasks that beckon with whispers (or shouts) of guilt and procrastination. So sometimes the solution is to go elsewhere–a coffee shop, my car down at the beach, or even a week in a hotel when I can afford it.

When I’m not at home I can let those other roles drop away for a little while and be just a writer.

4) Take a break if you need it

Sometimes the words won’t come no matter what you do. If that happens, it’s OK to take a break from writing. If you have to take a break, plan it. Make it explicit by telling yourself that you’re taking a break, and it’s OK not to write. Set a date to re-evaluate your situation and mark it on your calendar whether it’s a week, two weeks, a month or longer.

If you’re like me, not writing makes you feel guilty even when you have a crisis to deal with, and taking time to write makes you feel guilty for not dealing with the crisis. Making the break official relieves the guilt and lets you focus your full attention on the crisis. The check-in date is there to remind you that you haven’t quit; this is just a break.

If you find yourself feeling guilty about taking a break, go back to #1: Be gentle with yourself.

5) This too shall pass

No matter how bad something seems, it will end, things will stabilize and your ability to produce will return. Believe that, and trust in it.

2015 was pretty awful, but 2016? 2016 is going to be an amazing year.

Kary English:

Kary English grew up in the snowy Midwest where she avoided siblings and frostbite by reading book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. To the great relief of her parents, she seems to be making a living at it.
Kary is a Hugo and Campbell nominee, Amazon bestseller and Writers of the Future winner whose work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Grantville Gazette’s Universe Annex, Writers of the Future, Vol. 31 and Galaxy’s Edge.

Stay Fit

A Guest Post by C Stuart Hardwick

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how infirm! In action how like a potato!

My first stories were played out in childhood, in the badlands and ghost towns of South Dakota, in tree forts and sandboxes, woods and bicycle trails, onto magnetic tape and 8mm movie film. We did not stop to create stories, we left them behind like breadcrumb trails leading back to alternate worlds.

Flash forward a few decades to when I finally decided to get serious about writing stories down. I was already married, with kids and a white-collar job. I was already suffering from a life of too much TV, too much office work, and too little sun. The last thing I needed was another few hours a week sitting in a chair, but that’s just what you need to do to be a writer. What to do?

First, I set up a standing desk. I figured, standing’s better than sitting, right? For two years, I did most of my writing at a laptop perched atop a high chest of drawers in my bedroom. I had to buy a rubber mat to keep from wearing holes through the carpet. I wrote half a million words that way. I went through my creative writing courses at Berkeley that way. I didn’t loose any weight, but at least I didn’t gain any.

Then in late 2012 several studies came out warning of the health effects of sitting. It turns out, not only do those cushy middle class office jobs make us fat, they cause potentially irreversible spinal curvature and stiffening, reduce hip flexibility, cause insulin overproduction, soften bones, obliterate posture, and cause deep vein thromboses and varicose veins. Oh, and they make us stupid.

See, humans didn’t evolve in office buildings. We evolved on the African savanna, where we were marathon hunters. Sure, it’s nice to have a comfy pad under our backside with a cup of jo and an air conditioner. It’s comfortable. But it’s not good for us. These studies were proposing something radical—we should get up and walk.

American’s should ditch the office chair and switch to a treadmill desk they said. We could loose a few pounds a week just by walking instead of sitting, and address all the other health impacts at the same time. We are not evolved to sit around, nor to stand around, but to hike.

Hardwick_walking deskSo okay, I decided to give it a try. Treadmill desks are stupid expensive, though, so I made my own. I put a laptop and $10 worth of wire shelving on a $600 Horizon T101 treadmill. I learned to touch type while walking at 2.2 MPH on an incline—just enough to barely crack a sweat. I started loosing weight.

After two months, I was so impressed, I decided to splurge on an upgrade.

I bought a dedicated workstation and bolted it to the treadmill with a monitor arm and a theatrical clamp (I blogged about it here: https://cstuarthardwick.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/upgraded-treadmill-desk-2/). My weight kept falling. In addition to the treadmill, I also started spending time on the exercycle as well, and I used MyFitnessPal to track my net calories. In six months, I lost 45 pounds.

But? There is no but. I felt great. I looked great. I thought great. Walking on the treadmill takes a certain amount of brainpower and I usually stop when working on something really mentally taxing, but it’s highly conducive to writing, especially to finding and maintaining “the flow.”

And then I went and hurt my leg and had to take an extended break. Now that I’ve started back up, I’ve worn out the tread and broken a siderail (stepping off to drink coffee), but that’s okay. New parts are on order. While I wait, I’m taking advantage of the springtime weather, taking to the neighbor hood trails, and taking Kevin J Anderson’s advice and giving mobile dictation a fair chance.

And that’s good, because some new papers have come out suggesting that many of the ailments of modern Western society may stem from inadequate exposure to sunlight…

Take care of your body. The writing muscle can’t work if the other muscles keep flopping over. We only get one stab at this life thing.

 

C Stuart Hardwick:

C Stuart Hardwick is an L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future winner and a Jim Baen Award finalist. He writes scifi and fantasy, lives in Houston, and is married to an Aquanaut. You can follow him at www.cStuartHardwick.com, or on Twitter, Quora, or Facebook.

 

I Finally Finished a Novel

Nearly three years ago, I attended Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs. I had been writing for about a year and was excited to learn how to become a published author.

It soon became apparent that I was ahead of my time in attending. Not that it didn’t totally propel my development as a writer, but one fact kept slapping me in the face—I had never finished a book. I had started several, they had great ideas, great premises; yet I hadn’t finished any of them. I would write a few chapters, get stuck, and abandon the piece indefinitely.

Several in the group claimed to have written terrible novels of which they were too ashamed to let see the light of day. But they had finished them all the same. I envied them.

I left Superstars with the resolve that I needed to finish something, anything, regardless of skill or quality.

Well, three years later, I’ve thrown out hundreds of thousands of words. I almost finished a novel about a year ago and almost completed it, solely out of principle, to be able to claim that I had finished a novel. But after taking a writing seminar from David Farland, I knew it was garbage. I abandoned the 90% finished work for a new project.

This year I did a lot of things and learned a lot of things that have helped my writing. Each of these has a synergistic effect on my writing. First, I took another class from David Farland (this time online). I set monthly goals. Some of these goals required me to submit my short stories for publication. I hired an editor to perfect a couple short stories, and learned from this experience a great deal about self-editing. The culmination of these led to the completion of a novel. I completed a novel.

In February, I’m returning to Superstars, this time having completed a novel. Also, from my goals and endeavors, I am now a published writer. I had no less than three of my short pieces published (one in a paying market). I received my first rejection letter from Writers of the Future. And this year was my first to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wrote about 42,000 words (8k shy of winning).

These are exciting accomplishments, but the grandest of all, the one that will make me a successful writer one day, is the accomplishment of not giving up. I’m still writing.

I’m planning on taking another David Farland class or two, attending Superstars, winning NaNoWriMo, and writing throughout the year, finishing at least one other novel. I’ll submit each quarter to Writers of the Future. And I’m looking for an agent for my finished novel (despite being my first, it’s actually pretty good).

 

jace 1I live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve got an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can visit my author website at www.jacekillan.com, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.