101 – writing tips

Rejections and Reactions

If you’re a writer, you should keep this word in the back of your head at all times: Grace.

If you’re a reader, the writers who don’t understand the definition of that word will be very easy to spot.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about how people respond and react to rejections. Because whether you’ve published one story or one hundred stories, there’s never a reason to not be professional. To have grace.

You see, there are those who write, and then there are those who submit. That first group is quite content to scribble volumes for their own eyes and never ever become published. And then there are those of us who are mildly sadistic at best and may actually enjoy torture at worst. We submit our words and then pace, while waiting to hear back from an opinion we purposely asked for.

Are we always happy with that opinion? No. Should we have a tantrum, whine, bitch, piss and moan? No. The golden rule of rejections? You absolutely should not, under any circumstances, ever ever do either of these two things:
1. respond to the rejection
2. whine about it publicly

That first faux pas? Responding? No. Just no. Why would you? You do nothing to change the mind of the editor who sent you the rejection (and keep in mind, on some level you should be thankful for receiving one in the first place, since many publications only contact you if you’re accepted). The editor had to read a lot more than just your story. If you respond, even to say thank you, you are wasting their valuable time. And if you think they won’t remember that, you’re wrong. If you think they won’t tell their editing and publishing friends, you’re wrong. Slowly, for those in the back, do not—do (period) not (period)—respond to a rejection.

And that second one? Seriously? Let me just remind all of you of one tiny, very very important fact: the Internet is forever. Don’t believe me? Waybackmachine.com. But also, and more immediately, screenshots have become the law of the land.

Recently, there was an amazingly bizarre call for submissions. You may have heard about it—they were asking for pizza stories. I saw the guidelines and I giggled, and then a little voice in the back of my head said, “Heyyyyy, don’t you actually have a story about pizza. You put it in the trunk because, well, pizza.” I did indeed. I had written it several years before and never ever thought I would publish it, so I literally trunked it without submitting. (Not something I would necessarily suggest anyone do.)

I hemmed and hawed for all of twelve seconds and then got curious. It had been a while since I’d seen it. What the heck, I thought, and I pulled out the story.

I read it. I read it again, out loud. I even read it to my daughter (you should know, she’ll be the first person to tell me something sucks… well, right after my mom gets done telling me why it sucks). And I thought, huh, this isn’t bad. The language was a little out of date, and you could tell it was an older story by my archaic style and voice, but with a little polishing… who knows, right?

I polished it. Sent it to my prereaders. Edited it a final time. Submitted it. And waited.

And it got rejected.

Why? It was a form rejection, so I’m not sure. Truthfully, I’d be willing to bet the stories they kept leaned toward blood-fest, scary, or more “traditional” horror veins, rather than my normally quiet, chilling or unnerving style. Nothing wrong with that. It just didn’t work for them. It doesn’t mean I can’t write. Remember, a rejection isn’t a statement on you as a person—it just means that one story, at that one point in time, didn’t work. It doesn’t even necessarily mean the story sucked. And it certainly didn’t mean I should do either of the items above: respond or react.

But others out there were either never told, or they outright chose to ignore the golden rules. Suddenly there were people posting online, openly, angrily, about how they were going to make their own pizza anthology out of their rejected submissions from this one.

Re-read that. Slower.

Yeahhhhh… you read that right. And the editor responded beautifully—telling them to feel free to do so, as it will be the worst thing no one’s ever read. I laughed. Oh my god, did I laugh. I mean, I gasped at the balls and willingness to knowingly damage their own careers. But then I laughed, because wow. Then I went to KillerCon and hung out with said editor for a good chunk of the weekend. We laughed and laughed about all those souls having little hissy fits online.

Once more, for those in the back: the Internet is forever.

And what else? Do you remember? Yes, those you annoy with less-than-professional behavior will tell others, sharing your foibles with all their editing and publishing friends. As I write this, there are currently three different threads on my various social medias discussing someone who reacted poorly in public. Three. Today. And that’s just in my little corner.

This world we call a genre is a small little island of misfits. It’s not a family, though parts can feel like it. The circles can be tight, but most are welcoming. And at the end of the day, it’s far too small a community to think you can do anything remotely close to responding or reacting, and not have it become a scary lesson whispered to newbies—to frighten them as they’re tucked in at night.

Grace, people.

Find it. Hold it tight. Never let it go.

If you are rejected, look at why. If they sent a form letter, it may simply be that it didn’t fit the theme or feel or gore factor or whatever other thread there was connecting the accepted stories. If they were kind enough to tell you why and there’s a critique or suggestion, look at it, consider it heavily, and then adjust and/or edit as you need. Either way, with or without comments, your job at this point is not to say thank you, it’s not to whine on your social media, it’s to resubmit the story. Get it out the door. No rejected story should ever spend the night. They are not welcome company, but rather relatives who don’t know when to leave.

Except when they need to be grounded. This particular piece needed to stay home. Not because it was crap, but because it was very specific. Pizza. And I know what happens to the market after an overly specific anthology sends out their rejections—because once upon a time, many of us giggled and some gasped in horror, as every open submission call out there received rejected stories about “pirate cats from outer space.”

No, specific themes need to sit for a bit—maybe forever. Some can be reshaped into something more generic, some cannot. Either way, I had a pizza story and it got rejected. What did I do? I didn’t respond. And I didn’t react.

Dallas (Jack Ketchum) once told me the most important words ever when it comes to a rejection, “Move on. They have.” Wise wise words, from a wise wise man.

For those who need it, maybe put a post-it note on your screen, keyboard, wall, whatever—wherever you’ll see it and remember. You can write his words if you want. Or you can write “don’t respond, don’t react.” Or you could even write “be professional.” Or you can reduce it to just that one really important word. Say it with me… Grace.

 

Killercon Austin

I didn’t post that I was going to Killercon Austin before the convention, because I wasn’t. And then that changed. So instead of getting a heads up, you’re getting an afterthought. Not really a write-up, just a written version of my proof-of-life pictures.

I was a teenage… no wait, wrong story! I was a last-minute decision/stowaway. Just coming from Scares That Care, I had almost no inventory left—a handful of these and maybe two or three of each of those. But I boxed them, shipped them, and hopped a plane to sit at a table. I sold out rather quickly (which was lovely and unexpected and delights me). And then, because I wasn’t a planned guest—I had no panels, I had no reading, I had no responsibility—I just enjoyed the con.

And enjoy I did. I got to see, hang out, and barely behave with old friends. I was fortunate enough to make some new friends. I enjoyed wandering and chatting and panels from the audience side. It was wonderful. And yes, I’ll be back.

I’m here to tell you, you need to go to this.

If you are a beginning writer wanting to learn, go. If you have books to sell, go. If you are a reader, go. Killercon is an amazing little convention that mixes the traditional horror crowd with the bizarro gang and tosses the splatterpunks in there to mix things up. It’s all horror. All love.

And (shhhh, come closer) the dates have been chosen for next year, but it’s not officially announced. (August 16-18, 2019 shhh…) Stalk the facebook page or twitter account for the official “go!” post.

In case you didn’t get it yet, Killercon was a great convention, full of friendly faces, and run smoothly by people who care about writing, writers, and readers—props to you, Wrath James White, you made it look easy! To everyone who helped or were otherwise a part of the background, good job. And to those who came and participated… wasn’t that fun?

Thanks for letting me make that decision at the eleventh hour and show up… I’ll see you all there next year!

 

Hiding in the Corner

 

Just a quick note for those wondering about the silence of the blogs. It’s not truly quiet, it’s just been hiding behind a microphone for a while.

All my normal snark and sassiness, my opinions and epiphanies, still happen—they’re just shared on the podcast rather than written out on the blog like the old days.

But here’s the thing. The decision has been made to stop doing the podcast. My time needs to be focused elsewhere. I will be doing one final episode this summer, after I get all caught up on the other demands on my list, and then it will be gone. Finished. Over.

You can still listen to all of the aforementioned snark and sassiness, as the episodes will remain online for a while. Check out the Buttercup of Doom on the podcast page of the menu here, and listen while you can…

I may or may not snark on the blog as I have in the past. I will most likely post mini writing101 podcasts on my patreon page. And of course, I’ll be writing. Which is what I should have been doing the whole time. But things are shiny and sometimes we have to investigate them for a while and see what happens. I did. But now this writer, is returning to her regularly scheduled pipedream.

NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimoDid you know Six Days was actually started, and the first 50k completed, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those unfamiliar with the acronym)? It was. And it’s that time of year again…

6days16-cover300I would like to wish all the participants the greatest of luck. Write everyday. Don’t panic. Don’t edit. Just write. Editing can come later, in December. For now, just write. A little before work, a little on lunch, a little after dinner, a lot on a day off, whatever you can squeeze in… because every little step it a step closer to your goal. And new reading material for me, so get to it!!

And while I am not officially participating in a tracking, overt manner, I’d still like to celebrate 2016’s NaNoWriMo… so for the month of November, I give you the ebook for SIX DAYS at a 75% discount when purchased through payhip (<— use that link). Simply enter the coupon code: NANOWRIMO16 when checking out.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo, you can read it in December… right now you’ve got writing to do. Get to it, and again, good luck!

(and yes, that’s a new cover… there’s more new things coming as well — audiobook coming soon!)

Passages

butterfly-wordsWriters write. It’s what we do. Whether it’s a coherent tumbling of sentences that happen to fall into a pile of paragraphs and make sense, or it’s just a random thought bouncing along a breeze like a flitting butterfly—we write. We jot ideas onto postie-notes and the backs of envelopes. We scramble for our voice recorders and voice-to-text apps. We will stop talking in the middle of a sentence, eyes glazing over, as we wander off to some thread of the muse’s whim. We may or may not always come back from that last one, and we do apologize for the interruption. But it’s what we are and what we do.

And we have to react. We have to jot it down and get it out. Whether we’re exorcising it or just sharing (there is a difference, “Blood Type” blog coming), the snippets must go or we’ll go crazy. You can only have so many voices in your head before you snap—just ask Sybil.

The following is one of those moments. It has been sitting, untouched though often thought of, in the “Random Passages” folder for years. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it will ever be anything. But it’s there, like a lost child in an overcrowded department store. So for #throwbackthursday #tbt, I’ll toss out some ancient words originally scribbled on the back of a napkin…


CHILDREN OF THE GODS

The most dangerous things in the history of the world have been children playing with things they don’t understand. A child’s imagination was responsible for the original flood, as he pulled his hand through the mud and drowned the little pile of ants he had collected. A little girl’s whim toppled a mountain and destroyed a town when she wished fire would rain from the skies. And possibly most unknown, but with the most impact, was the little boy who made an entire civilization disappear with a handful of straw braids and his mother’s ink pots. By twisting magic together into one braid, and declaring what each was capable of, Carson destroyed Atlantis. And changed the future of the Earth, forever.


Thursday has become about sharing. Today I share with those who read my drivel, and nod to others who have the disease. But hey, you can all play along. Think outside the box for #tbt. Put the pictures away and share something else from the past. Here’s mine. What are your mental hallways harboring? Do you have ancient unheard words in your hard drive haunting you?

Everywhere…

typewriterheadEvery writer is asked: Where do you get your ideas?
Quick answer: Everywhere…

The longer answer is: anything we may read, hear, see, a combination of them, or a completely warped version of them based on either playing the “what if” game or letting our muse naturally twist their reality into something we call fiction to keep the white coats away. *whew* (ideas and the muse are always run-on, editing fixes that in the prose!) Or just, you know, our random thoughts.

A prime example of the simple ideas: sitting in an airport for more than an hour people watching, or simply reading the news.

More complicated twists of reality come from a place deep inside us. A place the medical profession would like to dub with some terminology—if not a diagnosis—treat with drugs we can’t pronounce, and call us sick and unusual. But really? When each writer on the planet is capable of doing it, is it really all that unusual? Who’s to say we’re not the normal ones and there’s something wrong with all of you?

Nevermind. I know we’re the crazy ones. I just wanted to see if I could either a. say that with a straight face, b. get any of you to believe it.

Why do I know we’re (or at least me) the crazy ones? Because this happened:

I talk to myself. All the time. Always have. I don’t know if it’s part of my writer mind or just my own personal psychosis, but I do. A lot. This morning, as I rambled on about nothing while getting ready for the dayjob, an innocent (sort of) comment from my own mouth twisted on the way out and hung in the air around me. But let me back up and let you watch it happen…

First, I talked myself through several outfit changes (convincing myself I looked great in something, only to change out of it). I babbled to no one but the girl in the mirror (who in all seriousness really makes me angry some days, but that’s a different blog) while I attempted to tame the locks I consider unruly but many girls actually pay to perm just this way. And then I kept myself verbal company while doing my makeup. Now I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so as you can imagine, that was a pretty short conversation. But that’s where the magical spark happened.

“Hmmm… pale lips. Always with the pale pathetic stupid colorless lips. Need color. What shade? Something light. Not actual ‘look at me’ whore red or anything, just a little bump of color. Enough for the coroner to notice.”

Really? Where’d that last part come from? What the hell happened to me that made that a completely natural thing to say? Mom? Is there something I’m not remembering?!

I accepted the comment as normal for me and went on about my morning with a strange smile—almost pleased with my crazy. I put on the silver pieces, grabbed lunch & the laptop, and hit the road. But before I reached my exit, thirteen minutes later, I realized I hadn’t heard a single thing on the radio during the drive. I was too busy letting the muse twist that comment into an entire storyline. Poor Maggie. She’s not necessarily blue* and she’s definitely not out of lipstick*… but she’s got a path coming into view through the trees that will not be any fun at all…

THAT is where story ideas come from =)

 

* and that is how you sneak in a few pimps for other writers =) Go ahead, mouse over the links, click, check ’em out!

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