Lessons Learned

10:44 AM Thursday, August 11, 2011

How many rejections should you receive before you stop trying?

I imagine every writer from the beginning of publishing has asked this question. So what is the answer?  

I would have thought that it would be somewhat of a gut instinct. There have been stories I pushed 20 or 30 times before I found someone who was interested in publishing it. Yet, there have been many (most really) that I only put out there 5 to 10 times before abandoning my efforts. 

My decisions to move on were based mostly on my own feelings for the story. With some, I knew deep down they didn't have what they needed (yet) to make it to publication. Others, I knew the moment I stopped typing that someone out there would be interested. It was those stories I pushed the hardest. I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to write someone an email saying that I was sorry, but that I opted to go with another publication!

I have to say that my view has changed when I found out a little more about Kathryn Stockett, the author of the novel, The Help. When I'd first heard anything about Stockett, I have to admit that I was a little jealous. Who's first novel goes on the New York Times Bestseller list and stays there?  Not fair!!

Then I read the book.  That's when I understood why she was there.  But still I was envious that this woman would write so well from the beginning, where I have had to struggle to learn.  She must be a natural! A fluke! 

Turns out I was wrong again. Here is a bit of her story, told by her, in this article.  years of writing. 3 years of rejections and rewriting.  60 rejections!  This woman was delivering a baby and wouldn't put her manuscript down.  That's dedication!

Yes, her persistence paid off.  But of all the things I'll take from her example, it is that working toward perfecting and polishing your manuscript is essential!  After every rejection, Stockett didn't just give up, nor did she send in the same thing to the next publisher. She evolved. She learned from one rejection to another, making changes and polishing her manuscript until she got what she needed.  

Lesson learned. And I think I've found myself someone new to look up to.

How to Set the Mood

9:40 PM Thursday, August 4, 2011


This was a very good post by Cheryl Reit on how to create setting in your story. 

Check it out!

Here is yet another book to movie that makes me shiver with anticipation, and pray that Hollywood doesn't screw it up, at the same time.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett comes out on the big screen on August 10. Unlike other books of genres like science fiction (The Minority Report), fantasy (The Lord of the Rings), or dystopian (The Hunger Games), I am hoping that The Help can easily make the move onto the big screen while staying true to the story line.

Here's our list of characters:

 Emma Stone as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan

The persona is there. I haven't seen much of Emma Stone's work, but I think that is why it will be easy to buy into her playing this character.

Viola Davis as Abileen Clark
According to IMDb, Viola Davis has quite an impressive resume. In spite of that, I think I have only see a couple things she's been in. Based on those, I think Davis will do a wonderful job playing Abileen Clark.

Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson
Again, another actress with a long resume of work I've barely seen (I think I've been under my rock for too long). Based on what I do know, I am a bit worried that Spencer will be able to bring enough attitude to table. Minny's character is mouthy and irreverant, I'm hoping Spencer can be the same.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly
Ok, now "Victoria" I recognize! She played the part of the vicious vampire very well. I look forward to seeing her more subtle, but no less bitchy, side as Hilly Holbrook. 

Jessica Chastain as Celia
I don't know much about Chastain, and judging from her IMDb profile, probably not many people have. I think she's a gorgeous woman, but that's not what I believe Celia Foote is suppose to be. I hope the she can "white trash" it up a bit for the movie; however, based on the set photos, it doesn't appear to have happened. 

Thankfully, I don't think I'll be terribly disappointed if this movie gets screwed up a bit.  The book was written well enough to have stood on the bestseller lists for this long without it. And it will stay forever imprinted in my mind just as it was written.

The Author Interview

10:53 PM Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Author Interview... *yawn*

Sorry to all my author and blogger friends, but sometimes I find these author interviews rather repetitive and boring. What I'd really like is to hear the wacky stuff that really goes behind the scenes.  If I were to interview authors, I'd have to ask them the  goofy, sarcastic, questionable questions to keep things interesting. Maybe something like these...

  1. Which one of your characters would you most want to be?
  2. If you could go back and change anything about your story, what would it be?
  3. Which one of your characters would you want to have a... um...physical relationship with?
  4. Which one of your characters would you want to have an emotional relationship with?
  5. What is your "drug" of choice while writing?  Or, what "drug" were you coming off of when writing this book?
  6. What is your writing to Twitter-goofing-off ratio? (in hours, minutes...)
  7. Are there any parts of your childhood secretly written into your story? Which ones?
  8. What is the biggest unknown, or most embarrassing fact about this book?
  9. Which one of your family members suffers the most while you write?
  10. Have you ever based a character off someone in real life that you hope they never find out about?
  11. What is the one question you've always wanted to be asked, but no one ever has? What is the answer to that question?
  12. What was your favorite day dream/fantasy that ended up being written in your story?

    These are just a few. I'm sure I'll come up with more in time. 

    If your an author (fiction, nonfiction, books, short stories, whatever...) feel free to answer these questions and I'll give you your own post. 

    After reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, it easily became one of my all time favorite books. So when the movie was announced I was thrilled. Even though, like most people, I always find the book to be much better then it's big screen counterparts, I still enjoy going to see what Hollywood envisions when they read. Sometimes I buy it (Harry Potter) and sometimes I don't (The Scarlett Letter. Ya know, the Demi Moore one. *puke*).

    Now that The Hunger Games has been cast, here's how I'm buying it so far:

    Lyndsy Fonseca as Katniss Everdeen
    Love this! I mean, look at that picture. I think Hollywood was reading my mind on this one. 'Nuff said!

    Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
    This one's a maybe. At first, this image on the movie's website didn't impress me. This is absolutely not what I was expecting. Yet after seeing some of the set photos, I will agree to keep an open mind with this one.

    Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
    Yeah... no. Sorry, but I'm just not feeling this one AT ALL!  From the very beginning of the series, I was TEAM PEETA all the way, so for me they couldn't screw this one up. But they did!

    I like Hutcherson's I'm-from-a-richer-class-of-people-but-that-doesn't-make-me-an-ass looking face. However his face also says I'm-a-little-kid-trying-to-show-you-I-can-play-a-grown-up-part-in-a-major-film.  Not buying it. I mean, what is he? Twelve? (Ok, I know he's an adult.)  Also, I know I've seen him in movies before (wasn't he twelve then too?) and was never impressed enough to deem him Peeta worthy.

    Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
    Harrelson wasn't what I had in mind (I think that was probably more Donald Sutherland-ish), but I think I could buy into it. Maybe it's all the episodes of Cheers that makes seeing Harrelson as the drunken advisor not so hard.

    Amandla Stenberg as Rue
    What an adorable kid!! She makes me wanna cry knowing I have to watch her play this part.

    Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
    I admit, my brain automatically cast Tim Gunn from Project Runway in this part. I was surprised when heard that Kravitz was cast, but at the same time, I immediately bought into it. I am really looking forward to seeing him play this out on screen. He better not screw it up!

    Donald Sutherland as President Snow
    If I were casting this film, I probably would have cast Sutherland as Haymitch Abernathy. However, I may have been wrong if I had. I think Sutherland will be an excellent President Snow!

    7 Bullets

    11:00 AM Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    My story "7 Bullets" 
    has officially been fired out of the gun!

    Read my newest flash fiction here!

    You can also listen to it on AntipodeanSF's new weekly radio show.

    Leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

    Sci-Fi Insight

    9:26 PM Thursday, March 31, 2011

    So my current WIP (aka my love, my nemesis, my pride and joy, or my royal pain in the @#@, depending on the day) is a science fiction story involving a royal coup and earth being a penal colony. See this post if you would like more detail. This is my first sci fi story,and I have to admit, there are times I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew (*cough, cough, gag, gag* Anyone know the Heimlich Maneuver?!)

    It's a tough genre! World building isn't an easy thing and to those for whom it comes naturally, I tip my hate (uh... I mean hat) to you. Unfortunately, I've had to pry much of it out of my brain with a crow bar. However, I am lucky enough to have my family who helps me hash out many of my ideas and inconsistencies. They are proving to be a handy bunch!

    Tonight I was trying to work out a way for one person to view the thoughts, feelings, and memories of another and bouncing ideas for this off my hubby. Now, you have to understand that my hubby is not a sci fi nut, nor does he do much illogical thinking. With this idea, he kept trying to come up with ideas that were of this world and in line with our modern technology. He wasn't understanding what I was trying to explain, that this technology, paranormal activity, or whatever it was gonna be, did not have to be a logical idea that we know and understand in our day/time/place in space. But in my attempts to explain this to him, I learned one simple truth.

    Science Fiction does not have to be real, 
    it just has to be explained

    And explained well, I might add, which is where many of the challenges arise. Still, every little insight is something to celebrate along the road to creating a well written story. I have since worked out my issue and come up with an interesting concept for this exchange (I told you they were proving handy).

    What I want to know now is how do you come up with ways of working through story concepts?  Also, like my idea with science fiction, what insights have you learned about writing?

    5 Minute Fiction Contest Again

    4:39 PM Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    I'm a finalist this week for the 5 Minute Fiction contest again this week!!

     If you get a chance, head over to @scifrey's blog,
    read all the entries, and vote for your favorite. 

    Like always, there were many good ones again this week! 

    My story “Three and a Half Minutes” was published this month in Zouch Magazine. It’s my first published piece, so of course  I'M SLIGHTLY EXCITED!

    Head over here and check it out!

    If you wanna see more of me (well, of my writing anyway), my next story can be seen in the May in Issue 155 of AntipodeanSF.

    Go check it out, then let me know what you think.

    I read this article over at From Sarah, With Joy which asks six questions on submitting to literary magazines.  The questions were:

    • How do you keep track of what you've submitted where and when?
    • How do you find new magazines to submit to?
    • How do you tell which magazines tend towards your type of work? [something more efficient though perhaps less effective than the obvious answer of reading the magazine.]
    • What do you put in the cover letter when they ask you to write a cover letter.
    • How do you know when a piece is ready to submit?
    • How do you know when to give up on a piece, and what do you do with it then?

    These are all questions I have been struggling with myself as of late, and while I don't have all the answers, here's what I have come up with:
    1. Keeping track. I keep track of what I've submitted via email. Why? It's just evolved that way. Gmail uses color coded stars that I have assigned a meaning to (blue for submitted, red for rejected, green for accepted, etc.) I email most submissions but the ones that use an online form still send me a confirmation email which I then assign a color.
    2. Finding publications. I find places to submit the same ways Sarah mentioned in her post. Duotroupe.com is probably my main one. Sometimes I run across others mentioned via Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, and I bookmark them in a folder in my browser.
    3. Which magazines get my submission? I usually read the publications description and submission guidelines, then go with my gut. Admittedly, it's not very efficient.
    4. Cover Letter. My cover letter usually includes (not necessarily in this order):
      • My author bio
      • Anything they've specifically asked for (word count, page number, etc)
      • The website, blog, etc where I heard about them
      • The title of the story I'm submitting
      • Most important– A thanks for reviewing my work
    5. Done? I never get to the point where I think a story is ready for submission, but there is a "good enough". It occurs 3 to 5 rewrites after several people critique it. Many times I just get impatient and start submitting to places while I'm still editing it (just being honest).
    6. Giving up. I've never actually given up on a piece (maybe I'm still too new at this). I have set stories aside for future use.  If I run across a place I think may like it, I try to resubmit it again (after revising it again too). However, I know writers who have used Smashwords.com for works that weren't publishable. Offer the story for free and see what reviews come your way.  Maybe you'll learn what worked and didn't work about the piece for future reference.

    What other suggestions/answers can you come up with?

    What I Learned from #NaNoWriMo

    5:41 AM Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    This is my "Better Late Then Never" NaNoWriMo Post.

    What I learned from NaNoWriMo this year:

    1. Don't be afraid to start without an outline. I spent many months last year trying to outline my entire novel so I knew what I was going to do. Complete. Waste. Of. Time. I never got an outline done before NaNo started so I was forced to start without it. It was a good thing to. Many of the things I thought I would end up writing, never went into the book. As I wrote, the story took on a life of it's own and told me where it was going. Chapter after chapter, I became free to explore the world I had created and enjoy it as much or as little as I chose. It was liberating! Great way to keep it real.
    2. Be flexible. Like I mentioned above, things didn't happen in my storyline as I thought they would. That turned out to be a great thing. I changed many significant ideas making for a better story then I had hoped for. But more than just being flexible in my story, I learned to be more flexible with my writing time. I found time to write where/when I previously thought I couldn't. It's amazing how much you can accomplish in ten minutes!
    3. Word count matters...to an extent. Having a word count goal each day (or month, or week) can be a great motivator. It forces you to get your ideas down on paper and make progress. However, I think words for the sake of words, it not a great idea. Quite frankly, there were days I was writing crap just to reach that word count. Is that a good idea? I don't really know. I suppose it's what you do with all those word in the editing and revising process that follows.
    4. Write daily. Let me first say that I am a busy woman. I have 5 kids, a self-employed husband, and a part time job. Time is precious. Before attempting NaNoWriMo, I didn't write daily. Maybe I'd have a good week and get some things down. Maybe my keyboard would be silent for a few days. It was sporadic at best. I am far from perfect now, but at least I am closer to taking that time each day to write. Sometimes, I still can't get to the computer, but those days my thoughts are never far from my writing.
    5. Diet Coke/Coke Zero is my friend. Really... I should by stock!

    25,155  words later, I'm better at this then I was before, but I have to admit, the thought of editing all those words is a bit daunting...

    Wow! After three months away, here I am again. I think that NaNoWriMo and the holiday season hit me a bit harder than I expected this year. January has been particularly brutal with it's gray color and no holidays to look forward too.

    I've been in a bad, bad place with my writing.   Two weeks ago, I even went so far as to decide to quit writing all together.


    It's true.  After a year of trying unsuccessfully to publish, I decided that it was time to hang up my keyboard for a while. So what changed? I got some wonderful news that rekindled my writing flame.


    Now, before I begin to make you think this is something bigger than it is, I will disclose that it is not an epic novel or future New York Times Bestseller. It is a flash fiction piece I wrote last year that has found it's way into an Australian publication. It is due out in May, so I will save any more details for another time.

    Even though the piece is small and will go almost completely unnoticed in the global writing community, it is amazing it has lifted my spirits! I now feel a renewed validation that maybe everything I write isn't complete crap. Maybe, just maybe, I write things that other people want to read.  It's a good feeling.

    Now I'm left with a couple of questions.

    First, is one year about the right time to be working at this before getting something published?  What is the average for flash fiction? Novels? Novellas?

    Secondly, I wonder how many authors out there are about to quit before getting the good news? Are there others out there like me? Or are there more that quit before they get to that point?

    Just some points to ponder.