How to blow some steam off

Ever since I said to myself “you’re about to finish the draft, Chris” the process has slowed to a near stop. Well, not really to a stop but words come to me a lot harder and I fail to meet my daily writing quota. Which, for a near-perfectionist on selective issues (yes, I know it sounds weird but I’m not a perfectionist in everything in my life) like me, it’s annoying. Mind you, I’m not as much a perfectionist as Patrick Rothfuss is, so no, I don’t go as far as making 80 drafts for one story (11 is the highest I’ve ever done for a short story and my average seems to be around 8-9). It reaches the point where I feel guilty for not meeting my daily word limit, which in turn makes things worse ’cause I push myself harder and that only leads to even fewer words. So, I thought, it must be the fact that too much pressure has accumulated inside. Which isn’t productive.

So, I decided to try (and I stress the word try because it won’t be easy and chances are I’ll fail at it miserably) to do as many of the following things as possible.

1. I will try to stop being so caught up into how much better other people’s work is than mine.

Ever since I started I always, ALWAYS compared my work to professional writers’ work. Yes, it’s good to have their skill and their work as a guide but perhaps a perfectionist in writing (like me) goes beyond that, thus making writing a living hell for him/her.

2. I will try to share my work with more people in my old critique group over at Scribophile or get me a beta reader (people willing to help, please comment bellow, thank you šŸ™‚ )

I haven’t uploaded anything or written anything new since June, which is when I wrote the first line of draft for the novel I’m working on. I’ve put on hold all other short stories I had in my mind and dedicated myself to finishing the novel. It paid off, since I’m about to finish BUT at the expense of getting a pat on the back by getting a positive critique or comment about my work every now and then. All I had to go with was my inner critic and, being a perfectionist when it comes to writing, that critic may be a little bit too harsh. Probably. Not sure yet.

3. I must try to get in touch with “free writing” by using creativity prompts, usually visual stimuli like fantasy/scifi/horror images (in my case that’s what I like the most).

This used to be an exercise for me, before I started working on The Darkening. To help me write on a daily basis, I usually scoured tumblr and deviantart hoping to find an image that would stir something in me (btw, I love the word “stir”. I should make a mental note to pay attention on the number of times I have used it in my novel). Then I would sit down and write a small story, usually no bigger than 1000 words. I used to love doing that but it’s been ages since the last time I did it.

4. I must try not to worry about me having gone way over my original word limit for my novel.

There’s very little I can do about this but I have to somehow convince myself that when I start revising The Darkening, I will be able to cut the story down between 100k – 105k words. Right now I’ve reached 130k and I’m still not done. 5 more scenes… God help me, if I make it and an agent asks me to trim it by 10%-20%. I’ll probably cry if I see such a request or just throw my pc out of the window.

5. I must try not to think of the pressure the unavoidable rejections will put on me, when I’ll be querying agents.

I don’t think I have much to say about this. It’s just something I have to learn to live with. All the rejections in the world when it comes to submitting short stories are probably not enough to toughen me up when agent hunting comes. *Chris gulped nervously and made a horrified face.*

Have you got any other ideas about the issue? Some miracle technique that allows you to blow some steam off when you need it? If, so please let the rest of us know and comment below.

Published again!!!

So many things happened in the past week and all of them great!

I have good news my friends; I’m going to be published again. Voluted tales, a literary magazine, has honoured me by accepting a short story of mine and it’s scheduled for publication before the end of the year. I don’t have a definitive date yet but once I have one I will let you know and give you a link to the story itself. For the time being, if you are interested in taking the time in checking the magazine out, their web address is at here.

I’m very excited about this acceptance, as this story is dearest to me and also the one that sparked the novel I’m currently working on. I spoke about it here. It’s the one short story I have worked the most on and it’s also the very first one that I ever sent out to magazines, not to mention that it’s also the second story I had ever written in my life (the first one was just so I could practice some exercises I had read about and I needed a completed story). As a result it’s also the one that has accumulated the most rejections. I was lucky enough for some of them to be personal rejection letters, which had very helpful comments that I later used to improve not only that story but also the ones that followed. It was thanks to this story that I managed to be published earlier in the year by Beyond Imagination. So you can understand how partial I am to this story.

Over the past months that I have been trying to find a home for it and ending up getting rejected, I very often thought about hiring an editor to help me pinpoint the mistakes I was unable to see. It would have been of great help to me to see how proper editing is done and see the small details he/she would add and make the story shine. I think it would have helped me considerably, cause I would have learned something new. Guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that to happen but at some point down the road (not too far down the road, mind you) I hope will have the chance to work with such a professional. I think I can learn things from it.

In other news, the novel I’m working on progresses somewhat slower but hasn’t stopped. Writing on a cellphone is not easy (my eyes can testify to that, lol). I finished two more scenes, so that’s about 6200 words in total. It’s not great but it’s not bad either. Currently I’m stuck because of my nemesis, the dialogues. I can never seem to get them right or at least good enough. If you have any insights to offer with material on how to write good dialogues, please share šŸ™‚

I also came up with an idea for another story (whether it will be a book or short story or something in between is something that I haven’t decided yet). Never before had I ever felt the need to wake up because of an idea getting lodged into my head (no, it wasn’t a dream), but it was enough to get me out of bed and start taking notes about it, while my eyes were still closed. To be honest, I hadn’t had a new idea for a while (I have taken notes on many things and ideas since I started writing) and this one was god-sent. The only bad thing is that I can’t (or rather, I shouldn’t) work on it any more, until the current project is finished. Otherwise I’m risking not finishing anything. I am very excited about it though. Seems promising but only time will tell if it will be good enough.

Finally, a friend I came to know through this blog that has supported me considerably during my darker mood swings or when I got discouraged by rejections, has just published her first novel. Her name is Dee King and her book is a YA novel. The author’s blog is here. You can find all the necessary information about the book there. If you have the time or the curiosity, stop by her blog and check her book out. I’m really proud of her. Finishing a book is not an easy thing to do, as I’ve now come to understand šŸ™‚

Since last week

This past week here in Greece has been quite hot, at least for my taste. To be honest, I don’t like being in a hot environment. By hot I mean any temperatures that exceed that of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). I should say at this point that I don’t have an A/C unit in my house (please, don’t ask) and the heat in here goes beyond 33 Celsius (91-92 Fahrenheit). However, that temperature (33 Celsius) can only be achieved if I keep my super ATX PC tower (I have an inborn dislike for laptops, lol) switched off! By keeping the thing switched off, means I can’t write and this makes me feel guilty. Why? Because of the heat it generates.

When I bought the PC four years ago (back when I still had a job), I bought it having in mind that I wasn’t going to change it for at least 5-6 years, preferring to invest money on it then by buying something that would last longer and save some money in the long run. Have you ever regretted not doing something? It’s the worst kind of regret, I think. At that time I had thought to myself that a water cooler system wasn’t going to be all that necessary. I can honestly say to you now, that I regret not having spent the extra money on it. As my PC is now, its exhaust releases temperatures that exceed 45 Celsius (that’s 113 Fahrenheit!!). Can you imagine what it’s like having to spend several hours next to that oven (it’s my PC’s summertime nickname), squeezing your head for ideas while writing? I can assure you, it doesn’t work for me. Oh, yes, I should also point out that the above temperature (113 F) only applies when the PC is on but idle, meaning no heavy programs run in the foreground.

During summer time the PC stays switched off.

Luckily for me, last year I had to change my cellphone (I stress the ‘had to’, cause I’m not inflicted by consumerism). It’s one of these rare moments that I’m thankful for. That one sliver of brilliance (oh, modest me; lol) and epiphany that struck me then; spend the extra money and buy one that can support USB OTG (on the go). Of course OTG is an old tech but my previous cellphone didn’t support it (when I had bought the previous phone I had decided to spend with moderation, you see, thinking to myself “well, why one earth would I need to have OTG?? It’s not like I will use it.” DUH!).

Now that the PC is always off (or almost always with no more than two hours operating time max) I can actually hook my keyboard and mouse on the new phone and use it to write. Naturally, it’s not the best experience having to type on a 5-inch screen BUT think of the alternative. Re-read the temperatures I gave you earlier. It has drawbacks, one of which is that I can’t write more than 1000 words on it, because of the headaches I get by trying to read things on such a small screen (small when it comes to written work that spans thousands of words, perfect for almost anything else). Also, the word processor I use on the device isn’t as sophisticated as the one on the PC (and I don’t think any sane person would expect it to be, either). I can’t see the formatting, I can’t colour-code bits of the text, I can’t insert comments and notes to myself for when it’s revision time BUT I can do one thing; I can write! And I need that. At least at the moment I’ve written 32000 words (though it should have been more) which leaves about 70000 more to finish the first draft. If I ever get anywhere with my writing (though I have to be realistic and see the odds stacked against me), I could be something like Peter V. Brett (author of The Demon Cycle – great fantasy books by the way), who wrote his first novel (probably part of the second as well) on his cellphone. He calls himself “thumb-typing expert.”

Another thing that happened this past week was that I got a strange rejection for a short story. It was the type of rejection I had never encountered in the past and I didn’t know what to make of it. It read:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for submitting “XXXXX” and for your interest in XXXX. While we have to pass at this time, we wish you the best of luck in placing this story. It’s wonderfully inventive and poignant, and we hope to read more from you in the future.

Best wishes,
XXXXX, Founding Editor

The strange part for me was the last sentence. I had never been rejected with a smile before (they usually send formal letters of rejections) and most certainly never told to send another story to them in the future; not in that way at least. I was at a loss as to whether this was just another way to sweeten the pill or if it was the style of the story that didn’t fit with the style of the magazine. The latter would mean the story was ok and that I had chosen the wrong magazine for it. The first would imply that the story sucked.

I got so caught up in it, that I failed to see the bigger picture:
1) they described the story as “inventive and poignant”, which I can’t see any reason why they should do that, unless the story was at least ok-ish.
2) they made me realise how important it is to better research the magazines I sent stories to. I just get so excited when I finish editing a story and I deem it ready for the world to see, that I obviously forget to better research the potential market for it. And that leads to more rejections.

OK, I thought about that rejection too much already and it’s getting to me again. I’ll stop here šŸ™‚

If you’ve had a similar experience with rejections or “thumb-typing” or bad writing conditions, comment below.