The Fictorians

Rejection: Everybody Hurts Sometimes

10 October 2014 | 3 Comments » | Kristin Luna

Rarely Oftentimes, the writing life feels like an uphill climb. First comes the Dear Sir or Madam rejection, then the personalized rejection. Then, the editor gives you personal feedback and/or reasons why they couldn’t publish your work. After that, you cry into a Blue Bonnet-sized bucket of chocolate ice cream and ask the gods why you can’t just be good enough, already. All of that time, all of that work! What you wouldn’t do for a hot, luscious, sexy, multi-paged contract in your inbox. You are the Charles Barkley of the writing world: pretty good, just not good enough to win a championship. You’re a Baby Ruth when all you want is to be a Snickers bar.

I know it may be hard to believe (har har), but you’re not alone. You’re actually in really good company.

Every now and then Pretty much every week or so, I read about a classic or popular book that had been rejected a bajillion times by every publisher on the planet until one said yes. Here is a list of those books, just for you to keep handy. May it bless you and keep you, and may it help pry your fingers off of the tub of Rocky Road.

1. Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Rejected 140 times, one publisher claiming it was “too positive.”

2. Dubliners by James Joyce. Rejected 22 times, only sold 379 copies in the first year (James Joyce bought 120 of them).

3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Rejected 121 times.

4. Carrie by Stephen King. Rejected 30 times. We have Tabitha King to thank for it seeing the light of day, as she dug it out of the trash when King threw it away.

5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Rejected 38 times. Mitchell won a Pulitzer for her efforts.

6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Rejected 26 times. Awarded a Newbery Medal.

7. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Lewis amassed over 800 rejections before selling a single piece of writing.

8. The Diary of Anne Frank. Rejected 15 times. Recieved the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

9. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. After receiving so many rejections, Potter was forced to publish the book herself.

But my favorite story of all time goes to Dune. You can read an interesting story from Frederik Pohl here, but here’s the abridged version of Dune‘s publishing history. Frank Herbert spent years trying to get a publisher to pick up Dune, and received about 20 rejections. After years and lots of revisions, he sold the book to a small publisher that was known for mechanical manuals for automobiles and motorcycles. It’s now one of the most celebrated science fiction novels of all time.

Keep your head up, and keep on going. You really don’t know when or from where your big break is going to come.

Moderating the Fear & Loathing Panel

9 October 2014 | 2 Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Guy Anthony De Marco.

I’ve always enjoyed going to conventions. After getting back into writing professionally following a 20-year hiatus, I decided to see if I could get on a couple of panels at my local cons. It looked like a lot of fun, and since I was used to talking in front of people due to my time in the college teaching trenches, I thought I could at the very least be entertaining.

The first convention I approached was already booked, but the programming chairwoman noted there was one panel on H.P. Lovecraft that only had two people on it. She graciously invited me to participate, and I accepted after I sent in my credentials.

Around this time, my son expressed an interest in going to a convention, so I invited him along. I was quite sure he would enjoy himself.

Unfortunately, at this point the villain made his entrance. This antagonist was dressed in the suit and tie of the convention chairman.

The two folks who were already on the panel were the Guest of Honor and an author I personally admired. I sat through a couple of panels with my son, parked in the front row. He enjoyed most of the panels, as did I. When it was almost time for my panel to start, I started to stand up.

The con chairman walked up to the front table and said (on an open mike to a packed room full of fans and attendees) that there was someone “that nobody had ever heard of who wants to be on the panel. He won some award from a small pro organization and nobody has read his stuff. Do you want this nobody to sit on the panel?”

I was taken aback, and my son was too.

“If he bothers to show up, we’ll see if he’s just wanna-be and sort him out,” the panelists said.

I sat down in shock. The panel went on for only twenty minutes before it fizzled out and they ended it. Most of it was a bashing session by the Guest of Honor. They never even got around totalking about things like how much Lovecraft valued his friend, Algernon Blackwood, or his formative years before he became a writer. I had actually put in hours of research, looking for stuff that the average reader might not know.

My son was very angry as to how I was treated. He doesn’t attend conventions anymore.

At this point in our story, I was full of doubt, fear, and yes, even loathing when it came to being on panels. It’s only natural to feel despondent at getting rejected, particularly in front of a room full of strangers. In some ways, it’s the same set of feelings that convince some writers to give up writing after their first rejection by an editor. I could have just shriveled up and hid under a rock. For my sake, and to set a good example for my son, I decided to swallow those negative feelings and applied to be on some panels at MileHiCon in Denver.

This time, even though they did not know who I was or what I wrote, they treated me well and placed me on a couple of panels. The experience was night-and-day different. My son didn’t attend, since he had decided conventions were not worth the effort. Too bad, because I think he would’ve enjoyed attending MileHiCon. The panels went very well, and the programming chairwoman said she heard positive feedback. Ever since then, I’ve been invited back every year to sit on panels.

So, what’s my bottom line? You are going to have setbacks in your career as an author. You will have times where you are treated like dirt. You very well may feel unworthy because of someone who disrespects you—sometimes in front of a huge audience.

You can duck your head and decide not to stick your neck out, or you can give it another try. As long as you act professionally and avoid any negativity originating from your camp, you have an excellent chance that your second “debut” will be the one you remember fondly. I ended up becoming fast friends with several of the local authors from those panels, including frequentFictorians contributor Quincy J. Allen.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

DeMarco_Web-5963Guy Anthony De Marco Bio:

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.

A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at WikipediaGuyAndTonya.com, and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

What Color Should an Introvert Wear?

8 October 2014 | No Comments » | Ace Jordyn

unnamedCrowds wear me out. As do conventions and even large meetings. At first, I thought I was an introvert but that didn’t always make sense because I like people and I like conventions. But they tired me out and so I searched for coping strategies. How could I even enjoy myself, let alone talk to anyone, especially agents and publishers, if I wasn’t on my game?

I embarked on a journey to find the perfect wardrobe- inside and out. Outside was easy – some interesting jewelry, clothes with a unique flare. Inside I needed to know if I was an introvert trying to maneuver in an extrovert world. Despite doing the research and planning for events, I found I still wore out easily and I began to suspect that it may not be about whether I was an introvert or an extrovert. How could it be? I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people, given workshops and have been a guest speaker only to now find myself dreading crowds. I was getting tired everywhere, all the time – at meetings, critique groups, writing retreats and workshops. What was going on?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – that was the diagnosis. It crept slowly into my life stretching like a shadow on a lazy summer day, creeping until it melded with the dusk. It eroded my energy, my confidence and my ability to fully participate in events and conferences. Worse yet, it decreased my productivity because I tired easily. My greatest fear now wasn’t what color I should wear, it was about whether I’d have enough energy to maintain a productive and fulfilling writing life.

There is no known cause and there is no cure. One of the current theories is that the mitochondria (our cells’ power plants) aren’t functioning optimally. I’ve learned coping strategies to manage the symptoms and to reduce ‘flare ups’. Writing goals have been adjusted and are being met. I’ve learned to limit activities and to be more strategic about interactions. I’m managing it so it doesn’t manage me. It’s not perfect and I do suffer from over-exertion but I sometimes choose to do things knowing there will be consequences.

When it comes to my writing life now, to being at conferences or at workshops, I know what I need to do to function. Part of it is understanding that over stimulation is tiring, that there is only so much I can do and participate in and then I must rest. It’s manageable and if I’m careful with my energy, I can be as productive and outgoing as I want to be. As for what color to wear? It really doesn’t matter anymore. I know my limitations and whether I wear brighter colors or quieter ones, my confidence is back because I’m in control and I can pick my moments.

My apologies to fellow CFS sufferers because I don’t mean to minimize the effects of CFS or to imply that there’s a simple solution. This blog isn’t about coping strategies, management and symptoms. It’s about letting people know that sometimes when you feel like life is overwhelming and that you don’t have enough energy to do the things you want to or to even enjoy them, sometimes it’s important to step back and take stock. Ask those questions about physical and mental health, consider if you’re taking on too much, examine expectations – take charge so you can choose the colors you want to wear on any day so you can achieve your goals in your writing life.

Art Is Pain: A Brief Overview of the Role of Catharsis in Fiction

7 October 2014 | 2 Comments » | Evan Braun

Writing is scary. Like, really scary.

It’s also liberating and beautiful and a host of other very positive things, but like all art, the process of creating it is often full of pain. When I first learned of this month’s theme, I realized I’d struck gold. After all, it sometimes seems as though I have enough insecurities to fill an entire week of posts.

Most writers (and probably all of the truly good ones) mine heavily from their own lives to spin their tales—and more importantly, the characters that inhabit them. No question about it, real-life influences keep books feeling fresh, relevant, and relatable to the reading public. The dark side is that sharing of one’s self in such personal and intimate ways also requires gut-wrenching honesty. And artists are, as a rule, slightly more tormented than average. Put this all together, and you have a recipe for maximum creative angst.

In psychotherapy, it’s referred to as “catharsis”—the discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition. The term also applies to drama, with more or less the same definition. A play, a movie, a book (any kind of art, really) explores highly emotional themes, often through tragic narratives, all in an attempt to get the audience/viewer/reader to feel some combination of strong emotions, and by feeling these emotions express the pain and torment within themselves in such a way that relieves them of it, so that they don’t have to actually carry out similar tragedies in the real world.

But it’s not just the consumer of the art who goes through the cathartic process. To an even greater degree, the artist experiences it through the act of creation.

I have to admit that I often get emotionally involved in my stories. When I’m writing something sad, I work myself up into a state of sadness. It’s not always conscious, either. I don’t make myself sad so that the writing will better convey the sadness. Rather, the act of writing about sadness takes its toll on me. The same goes for a wide range of emotional states. And this effect is amplified when I’m writing about scenarios that are relevant to my life; if my character is experiencing a sort of sadness I myself am sincerely steeped in in my personal life, it’s awfully easy to get worked up about it. (The challenge in editing then is to remove some of the melodrama from the first draft.)

I’ve probably made myself sound sufficiently insane now. A bit schizophrenic, perhaps.

Well, you’re welcome. Delving into my own pain is a sacrifice I willingly make to enhance my reader’s potential enjoyment of my work! This doesn’t just make the books better, though. While the writing process is somewhat painful at times (and perfectly enjoyable at other times, yes), it’s also incredibly fulfilling.

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