Coping With Rejection

You go through the I quit sequence.  Am I just rubbish, the worst writer in the world?  You go through the I’m never going to write again thing.  Then you read some published stories, in some print mag, or online ezine, and you think, ‘No, I could never write as badly as that.’

Plaque on seat beside River Colne, Wivenhoe, Essex
This is a real plaque on a seat beside the River Colne in Wivenhoe, Essex. I’m sure ‘fat bloke’ was written with great affection.

Rejection, hurts: in love; in friendships; at work; when making job applications, when making offers of help which nobody takes up; in conversations when you are interrupted or when others don’t respond to what you say.  As well as in writing.  You are warned to expect to be rejected, that it’s all part of the game.  You try.  After all, you’re just a newbie.   Then, you have a few successes,  but still more rejections than acceptances, and each one still hurts.  You’ve invested time and effort.  You’ve exposed yourself by sharing things that are personal and private.   They don’t want it.  How dare they not want it?  

A little voice inside you asks, ‘Is it just me that feels this way?’  Now you’re berating yourself again, for not being a proper professional writer.

View of River Colne, in Wivenhoe, Essex.
View of River Colne, in Wivenhoe, Essex.

Towards the end of last week, I asked my Facebook friends how they coped with rejection.  Many of them said they would ‘go for a walk, let their shoulders ‘slump a bit’, have a rant or a sulk.  So it’s not just me that feels rejection so keenly?

They added that they would get some more feedback on their work, perhaps from another author or professional feedback from an editor. One said she would look carefully at what the editor who had rejected her work had said about it, but, if that editor had said only, in so many words, ‘not for us’ (as they often do), that’s difficult.  They would also look at their work themselves and see how they could improve it, and again at markets to find a better fit for their story.  But several warned against over-analysing.  ‘Don’t dwell on it too long.  Life is too short, and there are more books to be written,’ wrote one published author, and another equally successful writer posted, ‘I just think that’s fine… [My books are] not everyone’s cup of tea.’  Don’t you love the chuzpah?

A non-writer friend reminded me that J K Rowling had one of her books rejected when she subbed under another name.    Moreover, wasn’t Harry Potter rejected nine or twelve times (depending upon which website you visit)?   These are the sort of stories that keep us scribblers going.  My friend Patsy Collins suggested that it helps to have several pieces ‘out there’, so that there’s always the chance that the next response will be a yes.  You have to believe that.

And, I say, keep doing other things.  You are not all writer.  I went for a walk by the River Colne yesterday, with three great friends.  I’ve used my photos to illustrate this post.

Bluebells beside the River Colne in Wivenhoe.
Bluebells beside the River Colne in Wivenhoe.
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Making Use of Bad Experiences

Hangman GameA heartfelt thanks to all who responded to my last post about this blog.  Many of you wrote very fully and provided some really useful advice, not all of which I have had time to implement yet, as Beloved Daughter and grandchildren were staying last week.  I haven’t yet moved over to WordPress.org either.  But I am still working on it, all of it.

This week, I want to post about bad experiences, those that are so awful we don’t want to think about them.  I say that these are the things we should write about.

In November 2014, I wrote about stress once… and twice.   I rabbited on about trying to break into womag, but I didn’t because I was too wound up to write anything at all.  Some writers area galvanised by stress, anxiety and depression, but I have to be calm.  At that time, I was working full-time as an IT lecturer at a further education college.  The underlying reason for those posts, which I couldn’t bear to write about, even on my blog, was that I had received a unfair learning observation.  My lesson, in web design, to Level 3 (A level equivalent) students was by no means perfect but I certainly didn’t deserve to be told by my observer (A) that ‘You don’t show that you care’.   It was apparent, during the observation feedback meeting, that A did not understand the technical content of the lesson, and therefore assumed that ‘no learning had taken place’.  I needed to take two weeks off  as sick leave, because of stress.  When I eventually returned, early, because I was going off my head at home worrying, I had to endure a meeting with A’s line manager (B), who wanted me to have a thirty year old mentor.   Six months later, I left (officially ‘retired’ from) the FE college, and, after another six months, I started teaching part-time at an adult learning college.

Fast forward to last Friday, to me sitting down a mandatory staff development session at the adult learning college.  ‘Hello Rosemary,’ says a cheery voice.  ‘Are you teaching here?’  I looked up  to see A and B standing at the front, about to lead the session, all smug and smiley.  Oh, Dear Reader, it was as if the last two and half years had not happened, as if I was back at the FE college and being told that, after teaching for twenty years, I was the worst possible sort of teacher.  As I sat in that room, for six whole hours, I felt as if I was with two women who had seen me on the loo with my knickers around my ankles.   If that’s too graphic for you, I apologise, but I feel very naked and exposed writing about this.   Part of me feels I should abandon this post altogether.

Only now can I start to distill in my mind how I felt at that time, how my blood coursed through my veins like a raging river torrent, not a babbling brook, but water in flood, tumbling, fast and furious, over stones.  The water was muddy, having churned up everything underneath it, as the blood in my veins felt dirty, bilious with bitterness and anger.   I recall not being able to sit still, or stand still, gobbling my food, gulping down my words, not able to complete a sentence.   I was unable even to think through a complete thought or sentence.  Everything I did, at work, at home, I questioned.  Every drop of confidence drained from my soul.   But, like Gloria Gaynor, I survived.  Immediately after the feedback session with A, I went into my timetabled class of teenage boys and taught them Photoshop, even managing to forget – for a time.

No, I’m not going to write about FE teachers suffering bad learning observations.  (There would be a limited market for that.)  What I am doing is editing the novel I wrote for Nano, the first part of which concerns my mc being rejected for Cambridge.  She is very angry, and upset, and those terrible, terrible experiences back in 2014 are informing my writing.   Of course, these are my experiences, not hers’ and she is different (much younger), but tapping into these emotions has helped me write her grief.

…I’m still scared of publishing this.  I’ll find an image first.

Your Advice, Please (Yes, Really)

Bored smiley
Bored smiley. I’ve come to like smilies.

Am I boring you?

I am aware that this blog, and its companion book review site, Dear Reader, are not pressing enough people’s buttons, or, to put it another way, they are not pressing my like buttons.  I’m not saying this in a sorry-for-myself sort of way, but rather in the hope of constructive comment, please.

What I Might Be Doing Wrong

  • My posts are just plain boring.  (I’m not ruling this out.)  At the moment, I’m mostly writing the second draft of The Novel, and I’m aware that there’s not a lot to say on my writing front.
  • My writing style is not interesting.  A friend of mine suggested I improved the first line of my posts, perhaps by asking a question or the sort of statement or comment which makes readers really sit up.  I’ve tried to do this.
  • I myself am not well enough known to attract readers.  The received wisdom is that you raise your visibility through social media, but I’m doubting whether ‘they’ know what they’re talking about.  I wonder if it’s the other way round.  I like to follow the blogs of established writers, but I am not one – yet.
  • I’m not using categories and tags correctly.  It is said that the categories are the list of contents and the tags are the index.  However, this writing blog doesn’t seem to lend itself to categories.   I’m aware that I use fewer tags than most people, but over-tagging is one of the things bloggers are warned against.

What I Think I do Right:

  • I do include pictures.
  • I do try to keep the word count down to 500 words (apparently the optimum), even though I know a lot of bloggers write at much greater length.
  • I do include hyperlinks.

What I Know I’m Doing Wrong

I haven’t updated the pages, specifically the About page, on Write On for a very long time, but is that in itself enough to turn people off?

Technical Stuff

I am not using the sorts of titles and words which Google’s search engine picks up.  This is very likely, as WordPress.com doesn’t allow you in there.

Tomatoes, grown by me, some time ago.
Tomatoes, grown by me, some time ago.

I am going to move both blogs over to WordPress.org in a minute (or, rather, when I can pluck up the courage), so as to be able to use its SEO (Search Engine Opimisation) tools, so, within the next few days, these two blogs will have different urls (web addresses).  (I don’t know exactly how this works and I suppose I won’t until I do it.)

Now for the good bit, the Yippee moment.  (They say you should always end on an uplifting note.)  My short story ‘Tomatoes and Their Part in Brexit’ has been accepted by Alfie Dog Fiction and will be published on 28 May.   And yes, I will definitely remind you nearer the time.  You see, I do know something about promoting my writing.

Yet Another Review on Dear Reader Blog

There’s a new review on the Dear Reader blog – of  An Insubstantial Death by Hilary Creed.  Do take a look.

Another one, book-lovers.  Previously, before I created the Dear Reader blog, I was aware that all I was doing on Write On was writing book reviews.  Now I have my dedicated book review site, and there are some really good books on there.  What I don’t like, I don’t review.   Maybe those of you who are readers might like to follow Dear Reader.

Also, writers out there, I’m happy to review your book.

Rosemary’s Guide to Subbing

Dagger, possible murder weaponA proper post this time.  And, before I forget, the deadline for the  Association of Christian Writers/ Alfie Dog Fiction Crime Fiction Competition is fast approaching – Tuesday, 18 April.  1000 words, please.  More information on ACW website.

Do you remember the first time you ever submitted a story to a magazine or ezine?  What were your thoughts as you posted Cartoon writerthe envelope/clicked the send button on your email application/ clicked submit on the online submission form?  That your literary career began here?  That your work could never be good enough?  Or relief that you’d actually done it?  On Saturday, for the first time for a long time, I subbed a story, to Alfie Dog Fiction.   (My last successful submission (Burnt Down) was also to Alfie Dog Fiction btw.)  As I’ve been concentrating on The Novel, I’ve let the subbing slip (yes, I know, I know), so the process was fresh enough for me to stand back and survey what I was doing.  Below is Rosemary’s Guide to Subbing:

  • Research possible markets (print magazines and ezines).  You may find calls for submissions from some of these: (online) Duotrope (you have to pay) or  The (Submission) Grinder (free), Patsy Collins’ blog (free competitions) or Morgen Bailey – Creative Writing Guru.  And watch the classifieds in (printed) writing magazines, such as  Mslexia,  Writing and Writer’s Forum.   This takes time.  Ideally, you should browse markets in general and get an idea of what sort of writing is getting published, before you have a particular story to place.
  • Don’t dismiss the weird themes.  Nordic folk characters as vampires and set in Milton Keynes.  You don’t have a story like this tucked up your sleeve?  Write one, quickly.  The editor for this ezine will receive fewer submissions and you could be in with a chance.
  • Enter writing competitions.  Competition managers actually want to hear from you.
  • For each market, look at the submission guidelines first.  Is there some very good reason why you can’t submit?  Are submissions only open to writers under 25?  Do they only take poetry and you only write fiction?  Has the deadline passed?  (Many websites are very bad at taking down calls to submissions which have expired.)  For ezines, check the last update; if it’s over a year ago, move on.
  • If the market still looks suitable, read what’s on there already.   Don’t just read; ask yourself some questions.  Are stories reality-based,  fantasy or dystopian?  Upbeat or downbeat?  Literary, with lots of descriptions and navel-gazing, or written like two people talking to each other?  How much dialogue?  Any swear words?  Any explicit sex?  Are settings all in one country (usually the USA)? Are mcs of a particular type eg women, middle-class?  Most importantly:  who is the magazine/ezine’s audience?
  • Market still looking suitable?  Time to open the file containing your story… and to look at the submission guidelines again, this time, in intense detail.  Save a new version of your story, then edit it to fit the submission guidelines (document format, margins, line-spacing, whether to display your name or not)… to the letter.   Do this before you get distracted by editing.
  • Even if you think your story’s ok, read through it.  Reps and incongruities will suddenly hit like lamposts in the dark.  Edit again… and save.  If you find a portion of the story doesn’t work, don’t delete it;  cut it and paste it into a blank document, which you can then save.  (You might change your mind.)  When you think you’re almost ready, read your text aloud. Edit again.
  • Re-check the submission guidelines.  Does the editor/comp manager want you to send story as an email attachment or in the body of an email?  (Very important, as editors say they delete attachments as potential malware!)  For a comp, the very worst thing you can do is to include your name on your story document. 
  • For an email submission (most submissions nowadays), create a new email (on your own email application) and type the appropriate email address.  Some are written without @s, as in editor dot submissions at webzine dot co dot uk, which is meant to be helpful but is actually quite confusing. 
  • Are you required to include a cover sheet?  If so, what should be on it?  Check!
  • Write introductory blurb (if required), the shorter the better.  And anything else required by the editor/comp manager.
  • Write bio (if required).  Don’t keep reusing an old one, as there’s bound to be something that doesn’t quite fit.  ‘Rosemary has had stories published in the urban fiction magazine, Radgepacket’, although true, would not go down well with a Christian ezine.
  • For a competition asking for an entry fee, work out how you’re supposed to pay.  You may have to pay before you can enter.  Use PayPal if possible, as this seems easier all round and, if the website was dodgy (or no longer functioning), you would be protected.
  • For email submissions and online form submissions, check that you’ve actually attached story document (and cover sheet, if required).  Yes, I know.  We’re grown-ups, but we’ve all done it!
  • Now press the Send/Submit button.
  • Make a cup of tea.  Ah, that having written feeling!