After a series of rejections and a real-world physical move that kept me off-kilter, I’ve started writing again. I must have an on/off switch. Where it is located is a mystery. My head? My heart? My spirit? My imagination? Why the switch moves from on to off and back again is also a mystery. Some writers seem not to have a switch, and they keep writing like a Pony Express horse striding for delivery. Are the racehorse authors mostly successful or are they impervious to rejection?
“Without geography, you’re nowhere!”
The impetus for my writing is an anthology where I want to place a story. I’ve had success with the editors before. What I like about anthologies is that often a theme is stated. Writing to themes provides a challenge for me. Many writers say they must write every day. I’ve found that unless I have an idea and a notion of where I’m going in a story, there is no point to writing daily. Mediocre writing occurs without a worthy character, the spark of theme, or the progression of plot. Unless I want to ponder my navel and spout adolescent angst—been there done that sort of writing when younger—writing without a goal isn’t worth the time. My journal type writing I’ve thrown out in fear that my children may read it after I’m dead and wonder if their mother was a closet airhead.
I got an idea for a story fitting the anthology’s theme. I wrote it and wondered if I hit the mark. When a beta reader also wasn’t so sure, I thought again. I wrote a second short. I knew I hit the mark, but then I also realized the idea had sprung from an example provided by the editors. Was that too unoriginal since I’d borrowed the premise from them? I wrote a third story. Like Goldilocks, the third hit the mark—just right. At least I think so—but so often hitting the mark is in the eye/mind of the judge. Writing isn’t an objective business. I get that. I do, really.
But what happened here was that I started writing and couldn’t stop until I thought I had it right. I probably wrote more in a week than I had continuously in three years. Doesn’t seem like much, but to me it made all the difference because it also sparked ideas for more short stories and longer works, perhaps a series. The experience also reassured me.
The problem with novel writing is not knowing when I get it right. I can read other authors’ books and know, but with my own—I don’t. While the goal of writing to theme provides incentive, one week of writing does not consume so much time that I feel overwhelmed by it. Novel writing takes months, and sometimes years. I lose track of the goal and get bogged down. In writing short stories, I know where I’m going—I have a theme and a goal. When I get the idea, there is a certainty of the beginning, middle, and end. With novels, I now know I’m not a pantser even if I’ve written two novels that way. I can’t anymore. The outline is at least a road map, a compass when I get lost and beleaguered.
Perhaps having success with short stories also compels me to write more. While I’ve met only rejection in novel writing, a certain fear makes me brake. To write, I must have a Rhett Butler attitude or I won’t do it. If I care, I give power to those who judge. It’s a defense mechanism for foisting off rejection and keeping the cojones in place. Don’t let them take that away from you. Or, stated in a much nicer way from a young and successful artist:
“If they don’t like you for being yourself, be yourself even more.”
How have you tamed your reaction to rejection?
Do you think success breeds success and failure breeds failure?
Do you write every day? Is it necessary?
Nominated for an Anthony Award in 2015If I make the cut for the next anthology, I’ll post it on the WWK Marquee.