Since deciding to create a blog focused on writing, I have found myself mainly writing, and not so much blogging. This is obviously a good thing, but it does mean that the tumbleweeds roll regularly through this space.
Much has changed since I decided in December to give anything and everything a try. Much good. I’ve gone from software engineer to doula, and that’s the right choice. It’s been an exciting, busy, freeing shift.
I’ve started working with a writer’s group that’s been extraordinarily good for me – it’s critique-style. Friendly and rigorous. I think, for me, seeing the reactions of ‘audience’ up close and personal was an element I needed to be comfortable with my own work, whereas that hasn’t always been a need. I’m learning through body language. I’ve been in group with one of the writers before, online, and her help was useful – only I’m finding that when I see her say the same things in person, I understand more completely the nuance of the interaction, and I feel far less confused. What a bizarre thing.
We’ve been meeting once per month, reading and critiquing pieces we’ve pre-submitted. The writers in the group all produce work I look forward to reading and are witty, outspoken people, so I’d have fun anyway: but, unfailingly, I’ve come away feeling good about what I’ve written, really clear on what’s broken, and pointed in a direction that a fix might be found.
One short story I’d brought to critique had already gone out twice. The first response I got was “oh, this is intriguing, but no, send something else,” and the second response was a rewrite request with a deadline I couldn’t make – “send this again with a plot, please.” I’d been monkeying with the plot, feeling sort of despairing, and brought a rewritten version to the group. With extra eyeballs and opinions, I found my way out of the smokey tangle of my own hangups.
I parked the story for two months – I’m better at that now – and when I read it again felt truly satisfied with it.
That’s new for me. In other work I’ve done, I feel good about it *until* I park it. My first drafts come in a roar: the sense I’m getting down is imperfectly rendered, but I can’t hear the sour notes because my head is rushing with inspiration. When I try to edit the first time through, inspiration is what I’m hearing, not what’s actually there. After I’ve parked it I’m shocked at the dented places where it doesn’t ring true, and I start ripping and rending sentences to try to make the tone come back.
This story finally sounded right.
I’ve been using Duotrope’s Digest as a submissions tracker and a market research jumping-off-place for a year and nine months. I feel like I’m constantly submitting, I must admit, but according to this it’s been 17 times in that time, with 6 pieces. Generally, I look for markets that have print publications, have a somewhat picky editorial and acceptance process, and make token or greater payment. I figure that these will be generally legit places. I’ve been doing pretty well – the last 5 rejections were personal and positive; one almost-but-not-enough-space, three personalized like it but not quite enough send-something-elses, and that rewrite request.
Recently I also got notice of acceptance to a market that met my print/picky/token payment requirements; “Huzzah!” I thought, “That’s the piece that’s never gotten a positive personal rejection and I don’t know how to fix it! Maybe I fixed it on the last run through, which is good, because I don’t think I’ve got anything left for it.”
However, I’d misunderstood the market when first reading about it.
The token payment at this market is a discount on the purchase of the print book: the print book appears to have many authors and be printed through a publish-on-demand online system. This suggests to me I’ve been accepted to something akin to a vanity press. I’m not terribly distraught about losing that particular piece, but it does mean being a bit more careful in the future, with pieces I’m a little more attached to.