Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Getting Real About Rejection

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been rejected as a writer, but over the years it amounts to hundreds. Hundreds of times that my work, and by proxy, myself, was not good enough. Thanks to my Duotrope stats, I know I’ve been rejected by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine ten times, twice with a personalized letter of rejection from the editor. Thanks to QueryTracker, I know my last novel was rejected 14 times, 7 of those times by agents that requested the full manuscript. My current manuscript has already been rejected 8 times, once by one of the agents that requested the full.

Now let’s look at Churchill’s quote. Have I lost my enthusiasm? Honestly? At moments, yes, but for the most part, no. I love writing. Of the 8 rejections I’ve received on my current novel, two were personalized emails saying that while this particular novel wasn’t for them, my writing was strong, I have a good novel, and some agent is going to want it. Is that success? During my good moments, yes. During the others . . . not so much.

Usually, when I write a post, that’s it. I read it over for typos, then schedule it. Not this time. Not this post. This post found me in the dark place writers sometimes go, that nasty little spot somewhere between self-doubt and city razing rage. (I suspect Godzilla must have been an aspiring novelist.) The unhelpful, ranting parts of this post were deleted. Rewritten. Deleted again. Because I know the game. I choose to play the game. But that doesn’t mean I always like it.

Sometimes those near misses feel even harder than the outright rejections. It’s like getting the candy bar out of the wrapper and into your mouth, tasting its chocolately goodness against your tongue before having it cruelly yanked away. No chocolate for you. Just the hint of it, that’s all. It’s a special kind of torture (especially when put in terms of chocolate!).

Believe me when I say that I understand that rejection is part of the process. Even all those manuscripts that find agents and publishers and homes on the shelves of major bookstores still get rejected by readers and reviewers and people who pass them over for reasons as odd as the cover being the wrong color. There’s no escaping rejection, I get that.

Sometimes I stare at my computer screen, wishing I’d self-publish and offer my books for free on Amazon in exchange for constructive criticism from the readers. Wouldn’t that be a more proactive way of developing my craft than stacking another abandoned manuscript on the dusty pile growing in the corner? Sometimes I Google masochism words trying to find the perfect one to describe the torture situation. And sometimes, I type away lalala all smiles and grins and faith that it’ll work itself out simply because I’m writing, which is (in my opinion) the best of all superpowers and as far as evil villains go, rejection isn’t that bad.

On those dark days, though . . . send chocolate and puppy memes. And tequila. Lots and lots of tequila.

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Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Head Space And Mind Frames

Writing takes you inside your own mind. Like, deep inside, into the dark nooks and shadowed crannies where the wildest parts of your imagination are free to roam. It’s the place where monsters are created – both figuratively and literally.

As much as I love immersing myself in the land of make believe, in toiling over my craft and creating new works of fiction, I have to ask myself – what happens when you spend too much time in any dark place? Imagine a plant without sunlight. An animal penned in a small cage. A writer chained to their desk.

What do all these things have in common?

They don’t grow.

And a large part of writing, the biggest part, perhaps, is drawing on your experiences to infuse your work with connections that your readers can identify with. An experience or an emotion that they share with your character that makes them sit back, take notice, and invest themselves in the outcome of the story.

I totally understand needing to be in the right frame of mind to write, or having to clear your head space to work out how to successfully pull off that devious plot twist you’ve dreamt up, and I’m SO guilty of zoning out of a dinner conversation while planning the chapter I’ll write the next day, but every writer has to find a way to turn the facet off (and on) at will.

If you have trouble shutting down with your computer, try establishing a pre- and post-writing ritual. Something that you do every time you start and finish writing. Developing healthy writing habits can help prevent against both writers block and long, sleepless nights spent crafting the most perfect sentences that you’ll never remember.

Because it’s cold and lonely on the dark side of the moon.

 

Litsy 7 Days 7 Covers #CoverCrush challenge

post imagepost imageIf you spend any time on Litsy (and if you don’t, you should!) one of the highlights of the past couple of weeks has been the #7covers7days #CoverCrush challenge. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – for seven days you post a book cover you love, no explanation needed. I love seeing post imagepost imageeveryone’s favorite covers, and I think this could be especially helpful for #indie authors who design their own book covers.

I thought I’d share the covers I chose with you. (Even though 95% of my books are in storage, I still had some great picks on hand!)

IMG_20190922_160800

IMG_20190922_160855Litsy is an awesome community of book lovers, kind of like if Instagram and Goodreads collided. They’ve also recently created a web version for anyone who doesn’t like relying on their phone to post.

So there’re no excuses anymore – if you love books and reading, this is the social media app made just for you! (The link will lead to my profile IMG_20190922_160622– if you sign up, add me so I can welcome you to the community and introduce you to other book lovers!)

What I love most about Litsy is that you don’t have to worry about being popular or what to say to people because everyone there has a common interest – they’re passionate about reading!

A Twist To The Plot

It seems that each year just keeps getting busier than the next – and this one’s been no different!

We’ve finally gotten settled after our huge move from the north woods of New Hampshire back to our home state of Florida, and boy does it feel good! The sunshine, the sea air, and salt on margaritas instead of driveways (who can argue with that?).

After years of having no window in my kitchen and an office that overlooked the driveway, the first thing I did was plant a butterfly garden. I’ve only broken two dishes so far, and only one resulted in an injury needing medical attention, so it’s definitely been worth it. (The pup’s definition of irony – when the human plants a garden so they can chase butterflies, then yells at him for chasing the butterflies. Pursuing a butterfly with a camera versus fangs is simply a lack of fun on the human’s part.)

I turned a new leaf in my writing and started penning YA mysteries! It was a plot twist I didn’t see coming (but should have). My first is finished and currently in the query process. My second is just around the halfway point of the first draft, and I’ve got more ideas than I could possibly develop, so I think I may have found my new niche! (Which means all the adult manuscripts I’ve written over the years may turn up free on Amazon – if you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter.)

I’m just about back in the groove of things, so regular blogging should recommence soon.

For those of you who don’t know, my main website www.shannonhollinger.com is no longer on WordPress. Stop by and check out the new look or sign-up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any important updates. Better yet, do both!

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Focus & Motivation

I don’t think that any writer needs to be told that getting published is a long, lonely journey up a very steep road. There are days where it feels like trekking up Mount Everest itself, gasping for breath, each inch gained a battle,  passing the bodies of those who came before you and failed along the way. I’m not going to lie – sometimes it feels pretty grim.

I occasionally wonder if it wouldn’t be saner for me to trade my writing time for less stressful activities – reading, relaxing, becoming a brain surgeon . . .

But no, I keep on plugging along. Year after year spent writing, editing, and then the much dreaded querying. An endless cycle of insanity hard work that I hope will one day pay off.

So, how exactly is one supposed to stay focused and motivated against the constant struggle?

I don’t know.

Personally, I think the answer may be to occasionally lose your focus and motivation.

As much as I love and prefer working on novels, when I need an ego boost I’ll work on a couple of short stories to submit. They’re much easier to get published, and there’s something about seeing my name in print that lights a fire under me to keep gambling for the jackpot – a book deal with a major publishing house.

Then there’s that old adage, “If you love something set it free . . .”

I’ve had several prolonged, forced breaks over the years, and each time I get to return to Related imagemy writing schedule, my fingertips voraciously gobble the keyboard. Seriously – I literally wear the letters off the keys. So, I don’t think breaks are a thing to fear. I think they’re good. Healthy, even. Your love of writing will draw you back, and you’ll find yourself refreshed, full of renewed vigor, words spilling onto the page like a surging river bursting through a floodgate.

There’s not a one sized fits all solution to any writerly problem. If there was, everyone would be using it. I think a large part of being a writer is finding what works for you. Again and again and again. Figuring out how to control your muse will keep you in it for the long haul.  The important part is that you keep trying and keep writing – even when you aren’t!

 

Bad Moon Rising . . .

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, “Bad Moon Rising,” is available in the July issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine! Mystery Weekly is, in my opinion, the more approachable, hipper, sassier younger cousin of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines!

If you like short mystery and crime fiction, you should give this magazine a read. If you’re a short fiction writer, this is a market you need to check out! (FYI – it’s a qualifying market for the Mystery Writers of America – so if you’ve got your eye on active membership or that Edgar Award, definitely consider submitting!)

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ The Scene Of The Crime

Image result for scene of the crimeWhen writing fiction, how much thought do you put into your setting? Do you craft scenes drenched in atmosphere? Do your places drip with detail, oozing menace, gushing romance, shining with delight? Or is your setting simply the place where your fascinating characters bring your stellar plot to life?

TreeI have to admit that while I occasionally focus on developing an atmospheric setting in my short fiction, in my novels the settings tend to simply be the trunk on which my plot branches and my characters grow their leaves.

My goal this year is to take more care in creating my settings. By skimping, I’m missing out on a vital opportunity to further flesh out my writing. To take my characters to the next level by allowing them to evolve over the course of the story.

Ask yourself – do your characters feel the same way about certain environments at the end of your story as they did at the beginning? Mine certainly don’t, and by sharing this evolution with my readers, I can make my characters more three dimensional.

Seize any opportunity you have to make your readers care for, identify with, and become invested in your characters!

How do you bring your scenes to life?

Back in the Saddle . . . Again

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and looking back, I see that it’s been almost three months. In three months, you can hike the Appalachian Trail if you trek fast. A cougar kitten can gestate and be born. Or, like me, you can move across country and acclimate from one extreme (New Hampshire) to another (Florida).

It’s been a happy homecoming, rejoining our family in the land of sun, where feet of snow can be a distant cold fond memory. While I didn’t keep up with my writing as much as I’d have liked during the transition, I have gotten back to work, and am pleased to announce that I’ve had short stories purchased by Mystery Weekly Magazine, to be released later this summer, and Dual Coast Magazine, out this month. I look forward to picking up my discussions on the different aspects of the craft of writing with my Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing series and sharing my experiences of the rejection agent process 😛 . I hope you’ll join me along the way!

 

 

Read My Latest Short Story on the Saturday Evening Post Website!

A black cat under a full moon

My latest short story, “It’s All About the Cat”, is featured on the Saturday Evening Post website for their #NewFictionFriday! This is the 6th short featuring my character Detective Shaw to find publication – this time in the form of a cozy little mystery! Head on over and read it now for free!