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On writing: The inevitable rejection

July 16, 2013 28 comments

So, back in January, I accomplished one of my goals for 2013: I submitted a short story to Cemetery Dance magazine. With high hopes I’d pressed that submit button, sending off my short story of which I was so proud. And then I’d waited … and waited … and waited. After a while, I’d waited so long I didn’t really even feel like I was waiting for anything anymore. But to be fair, they did warn that due to the deluge of stories it would likely take several months before I’d hear back from them. Well, they were wrong. It took over five months! But, on the positive side, I did hear back.

While I’d like to tell you I received a personal note from the managing editor of the magazine/publisher, Brian Freeman — you know, something telling me all about how it was a wonderful story but they just couldn’t quite fit it into this quarter’s magazine but they’d sure like me to submit again — the truth of the matter is that I received a “form” rejection from some unknown underling in charge of reading through the slush pile (at least I assume it was the slush pile … who knows, maybe I made it further along). I suppose I can understand why it happened, though. With the sheer volume of material that’s submitted to some of these magazines, especially one of the caliber of Cemetery Dance, it’s nearly impossible to personalize rejections. Otherwise, nothing would ever get published. But still, it would have been nice …

To put a positive spin on things, though, you could say that I accomplished something else in 2013: I got my first rejection 🙂 At least that means I wrote something, and that I overcame inertia and fear and actually submitted it, knowing full well that in all probability it would get rejected. But I consider it a part of my growth as a writer. After all, if you can’t handle rejection, there’s no reason to be a writer, unless, of course, all you want to do is keep your stories to yourself, hidden somewhere on your computer. But that’s not me. I’d like at least one other person besides my lovely wife to read something I’ve written.

I’d like to thank all those who left encouraging comments on my original post. I appreciated each of them. One in particular, though, had some advice that I plan to follow. I’d like to thank Michael over at Parlor of Horror for taking the time to give me some good suggestions on what to do with my stories. So thanks, Michael 🙂

I’ll post the rejected story soon, then some of my other work. Eventually, I’ll even post some of my W(s)IP. I’d also like to find a writing buddy at some point, or an alpha reader, preferably someone serious about their writing and their interest in reading over works in progress. I’ve also heard about some folks having great success with online writer’s groups, so I’d like to pursue that as well. I’ve already got an account on scribophile.com; now all I need to do is become active within the community.

Should make the remainder of the year interesting, and hopefully productive.

–dp

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On life/writing: missing in action

April 26, 2013 18 comments

Yep, that’s right. Missing in action. Guess that sums it up. Over the last couple of months, I took a nosedive in the creativity department and lost pretty much all my energy for writing. Why? Not sure, but I think it was a couple of things that combined to disengage me from the writing world.

I think it all started when the family gathered together on what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, which was February 25th (he passed away on November 30th of last year). We’d planned it as a celebration of his life, and I think, at the time, that was what it was and what it felt like. I remember, on the 24th, me, my mom and my sister, were sitting at the kitchen table on the evening before my dad’s birthday, talking and reminiscing about life in general and about my dad in particular. Time passed, memories and tears were shared, and before I knew it, when I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was just a couple of minutes before midnight. When the clock struck twelve, I stopped the conversation and told my mom and sister that it was dad’s birthday. We all smiled, clinked our glasses, and wished him a happy 80th. Afterward, we continued our time of sharing while we sat at the table, then finally, around 3am, went off to bed. It felt good. It felt right. I think my dad would have been happy to see us there, talking, remembering, and celebrating.

I don’t think the real impact of  my dad’s birthday, or even his death, hit me until I returned home. It wasn’t like getting zapped by a lightning bolt, though. It was more a gradual, suffocating despair, like a blanket floating down and covering a bed, that led me into a deep malaise from which I’ve yet to fully recover. Along the way, it managed to sap from me any real zest for life, any sense of wanting to do anything but just manage to get by day to day. And so I did, with each day coming and going, as I tried to make sense of life and sort through thoughts that I just couldn’t get rid of.

I suppose I could have made it through all that well enough, and probably been able to continue creating, putting words to “paper”, hopefully allowing the ideas threatening to paralyze my thinking to escape in some manner, had it not been for what I think was the other essential element leading to my creative demise: deadlines at work.

In my world of software development, much of my time is spent in “normal” work mode. Schedules are set, tasks are worked on and completed as part of an overall goal, and life is good. Good, that is, until the date of a product release approaches. Suddenly, then, all those features that aren’t quite done yet, or those important bugs that must get fixed immediately, or those important customer requests, all become high priority and all must get done NOW. Suddenly, each day is filled with relentless mind-numbing work, where attention to detail is critical, yet hours are few. So days and weeks become longer, with little to no downtime. The end result? A brain so overworked that thoughts much more complex than staring at a DVR recording of the latest episode of such and such are almost unthinkable, and the idea of sitting in front of a computer for even one more minute than necessary is impossible to even conceive. Unless, of course, that time consists of theta wave inducing surfing of the web for nothing in particular.

But now, where am I? Well, I find myself at the end of the recent release cycle craziness and returning to “normal” work mode, which is good. As for the passing of my father, and its effect on me, I think the jury is still out. I’m beginning to feel like I’m emerging from the fog of apathy his death has caused, and I think life is beginning to make sense once again. If it weren’t, and this is reassuring, I most certainly wouldn’t be sitting here at my computer at this hour (8:41pm), typing away at a blog post, which while it isn’t the most creative of activities does at least require some level of interest and energy to produce. So I’m encouraged.

Where does that leave things? For now, I think I’m ready to resume blogging. And I think I’m ready to resume reading blogs and actually participating in the discussion they evoke. And, more importantly, I think I’m ready to get back to working on accomplishing those goals I set for 2013. Inside, I feel a twinge of excitement, a small flicker of desire to create once again. And it feels good. It’s been a while since things have felt good, since I’ve had the time to even think about anything beyond making it through the day and getting work done for my job. In a way, I’d like to think these words, from the seventies song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, apply to my life:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day.

I Can See Clearly Now

Time will tell.

–dp

Short story submitted: first writing goal of 2013 accomplished

January 9, 2013 24 comments

So, I did it. I just submitted one of my short stories to Cemetery Dance Magazine.

Of course, this was only after my wife read through it several times for me and made some wonderful suggestions. I then spent days going over and over it to make sure it was as good as it could possibly be. Finally, after mustering all the nerve I could, I uploaded it to their submission site and pressed “send”. Off it went, into the submission slush pile.

While I hope for the best, I realize that my chances of getting selected are pretty slim. According to them, they get around 500 submissions per month, so the odds aren’t all that good, even if I wrote something that managed to get their attention. But, even though they will most likely pass on it, I still feel good about what I wrote and figure everyone has to deal with their share of rejections. After all, the world of writing is tough, so if I can’t handle some negative responses then I might as well stop writing.

To keep me busy while waiting to hear back, among other things I plan to polish another short that I think is pretty good. Their guidelines say they want only one submission at a time, but that it’s okay to submit a new story if a previously submitted story is rejected, so I plan to keep on submitting until they stop accepting.

I’ll provide an update when I hear something. If I get rejected, I’ll lick my wounds and submit another. Then, I’ll post the first short story here for those who would like to read it.

Wish me luck!

–dp

On writing: my plans for 2013

December 29, 2012 10 comments

This year, I’ve decided to be approach my writing and the upcoming new year differently. In the past, I’ve pretty much just barreled into the year headlong, with no forethought and no clue to what I wanted to accomplish with my writing other than knowing that I wanted to write. All well and good, but I figured this year I’d try something that would help keep me focused and help me track my progress.

So here, in no particular order (that’s for you, DJ), are my writing goals for 2013:

  • Write a novel in a new genre (I’m a dark fiction/horror person typically).

  • Which one you might ask? Why a romance/love story, of course. What provoked me to stray so far away from my comfort zone? Well, in the past, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt compelled to write very short pieces of fiction (flash fiction to be exact) that were centered around love (check one out here and the other here if interested). But the real inspiration for this idea came to me over the last year as I spent time with my folks while my dad was ill. Sitting around with them and talking about their lives and how they met and all that happened over the years, it just seemed to lend itself to a beautiful love story. I have no idea if it will work, but I feel it strongly enough to give it a try.

  • Complete and edit Whispers.

  • This is a novel I started during NaNoWriMo 2010 and mostly finished during the months that followed. It’s a story about a young couple, their son, and an evil secret that forces them to face an ancient and malevolent force.

  • Write one new short story.

  • I’ve got many ideas, but I’m not sure which one I’ll choose, yet. I suspect I’ll just sit down and let inspiration take over.

  • Complete and edit The Last Descent,

  • This novel is about 2/3 complete and was written back in 1989/1990. I wrote it while I was waiting to hear back from publishers about my first book, The Light. (I talked about this way back here). It’s an apocalyptic story, one of those “end of the world” books, where people make some big mistakes and end up setting evil loose on unsuspecting world. It’s got a lot of great potential. My biggest obstacle so far has been trying to get my mind wrapped around the story as currently written so that I can figure out exactly where I was trying to go at the time. It will be a challenge, but if I can get it done I think it can be a great book.

  • Submit some of my work for publication.

  • My first attempt will be with Cemetery Dance Magazine, which is currently accepting unsolicited short story submissions. I have a few I think are pretty good, so I thought I would give it a try. I haven’t collected any rejection letters recently, so why not 🙂 Wish me luck!


Yes, these are pretty ambitious goals, but I figure the only way I’m going to get some serious writing done is if I set the bar high. If I don’t accomplish them all, well that will be okay, because even if I only accomplish a few of them I’ll have made tremendous progress. So, I plan to revisit these goals throughout the year and comment on how I’m doing. The prospect of doing so will, I hope, encourage me to do more of what I really want to do: write.

Anyone else setting goals for their writing next year?

–dp