How To Deal With Rejection… Part 1

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

The astute amongst you may have noticed my absence from the blogosphere of late. I set myself up with a regular feature which was not that challenging to do – a regular 100-word flash fiction story published every Friday – and yet still I managed to skive off my (self-imposed) blogging duties…

Tsk. I suffered from something many people may identify with. When writing is the way you are earning your crust, anything that involves writing which doesn’t mean a payment at the end of it becomes a terrible chore.

The Christmas Card Fiasco

Witness, for example, dear friends the length of time it took me to write my Christmas cards this year. Despite the fact that I repeatedly vow that this will be the year those cards are completed on 1 December – or an announcement is made via Facebook that this year I am contributing a designated amount to charity and all Christmas greetings will be of the electronic, no-cost, no send variety – it took me until the last minute (today) to write actual cards and send them. Hey ho…

Part 2 of the writing aversion explanation – I naively thought myself immune from rejection. Years of job applications and many months of applying for freelancing jobs with middling success I foolishly thought to have created a rhino-like skin for myself. Rejection, I declared loudly and proudly, bring it on and I can scrunch up that little ball of ego dent, fling it behind me and emerge unscathed. I am writer, hear me ROAR…

Rejection? It’s To Be Expected

Yes indeedy, those were my thoughts. Three agent rejections of The Book later… Now, as all writers will know rejection is to be expected; indeed one might be a tad suspicious if the first novel writing attempt was welcomed with open arms. Dear lady, we at Dodgy Agents Ltd love your book – now just sign here, here and here and please do no expect to see any royalties ever or any kind of payback whatsoever. That kind of thing.

But, but, but. It still stings… I have taken to chanting myself a mantra of “One down, 26 to go. Two down, 25 to go, three down, 24 to go”*, etc etc. And then if that doesn’t work out, well the self-publishing route has worked out well for some. But it would indeed be foolish to think of the self-publishing route as the road to riches or even fame. Two or three marvellous exceptions (oh god, I’m going to have to name drop Ms 50 Shades of Grey here aren’t I? On a more positive note, there is Hugh Howey and the entirely fabulous Wool) do not prove the success of self-publishing, but it is still an option.

Sometimes, you need to go back and look at the original goals of your ambitions. I, like many people, said I wanted to write a book. I did not necessarily specify I wanted to publish a book – and for people to then buy said book, and indeed buy it in their thousands. No, no, the original goal was merely to write a book. Mission accomplished, hmm?

But Happily Publishing Still Does Happen…

On the plus side (and it is always good to cope with rejection by looking at other areas of your life), there has been a very welcome development in another project I got involved in. I started up a discussion on LinkedIn writers and editors group, encouraging people to contribute a regular flash fiction story of 100 words every Friday – the Friday flash fiction challenge.

The good people of the LinkedIn writers and editors group responded with gusto and this discussion thread has been running now since 27 September. Every Friday, there are new contributions. With almost 300 posts though, it was getting somewhat unwieldy so one contributor, Russell Conover, suggested a WordPress site for everyone to contribute to. That site is now up and running – feel free to take a look.

Content marketing is said to make publishers of everyone. The world wide web may well have its issues (loss of privacy, social media addiction, health and well-being problems associated with sitting in front of computers for too long, the ease in which our governments and large corporates can spy on us etc) but sometimes the loveliness of the internet just gives me a glow. Here is a group that started on LinkedIn, that grew and grew and that now publishes its stories on a regular basis. We are mini novelists one and all.

 

*Based on a rejection threshold of 27.

The Many Adventures of Flash Fiction Writers

So, some weeks ago, I started writing flash fiction on a regular basis. Mainly, it gave me a regular topic to blog about it. Always a bonus, as when you start out on blogging you usually fire off blogs left, right and centre at the beginning of your online life. Two months down the line and you get to the stage where you can’t bear to switch on your computer, so racked with guilt are you over your failure to write, entertain or annoy the masses.

I hit on a regular topic idea and heaved a sigh of relief. Heaven, I thought to myself, I have at least one thing I can blog about once a week. Folks may read it, folks may not, fellow bloggers may like or comment… or they may not notice. But my conscience will be squared. Hey, I signed up to this blogging deal, which meant writing when there is theoretically nothing to write about, and doing something on a REGULAR BASIS.

LinkedIn Flash Fiction Challenge

Actually, those preceding two paragraphs friends? I wandered off on a tangent. My main point is – at the same time as starting a regular Friday flash fiction post, I also started a flash fiction challenge on LinkedIn, asking fellow writers and editors to contribute to a 100-word flash fiction piece on a Friday as a kind of relaxing way of switching off.

It proved to be incredibly popular – lots of people joined in, lots of people contributed on a regular basis and I really enjoyed everything that I read. It takes talent and skill to write a 100-word story, and people also made their contributions topical. One lady chose to plagarise existing stories in a really witty way, another person went for plays, whilst several people opted for seasonal themes such as Halloween.

Publish, Publish, Publish

Three weeks in and people on LinkedIn started suggesting I take it further. One person said a website, another dreamt up a book of flash fiction stories for charity, another individual gathered together most of the stories for me and in general people seemed willing to sign over their permission for stories to be published. (I thank you).

So watch this space. It looks as if a Friday Flash Fiction challenge website may well appear. Here is what I hope. We post up lots of stories, which people like and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people all over the world start to contribute…

And now for this week’s Friday Flash Fiction challenge:

The Glamour of Writing

In her youth, Jenny had imagined the life of a writer as glamorous.

As she scribbled out her endless short stories which detailed the adventures of a teenager not dissimilar to Jenny, she imagined a grown-up writer’s life to be more or less the same. She would wait for the muse to strike and she would write about whatever took her fancy.

And get paid for it.

Alas, reality had since bit. Writing jobs often involved creating thousands of words about display cabinets or toner cartridges. And getting paid more than a pittance was the exception and not the norm. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Brain Break – the Friday Flash Fiction Challenge

Greetings friends, I thought I’d introduce a spot of regularity to my blogs. It’s what experts recommend after all…

Usually, my blog modus operandi is to wait for the muse to strike me. Honestly, that lady hits hard when she eventually gets here, but she is a fickle creature; I leave the door open for her and she only deigns to appear on rare occasions. T’uh! So I remembered the lessons of my newsletter writing years where regular columns, features and photo caption competitions were the stuff we editors and writers relied on to fill our pages.

Participation – from you, you and YOU

Hence, lovely audience, I am hoping for a little participation from you, yes you, in the Friday flash fiction challenge. I stumbled upon this idea one Friday. Having spent several hours writing about products for a client, I felt my brain needed a break. It needed to shift from research, facts and key word placement (subtly done, I promise) to fictional creativity. But only a little.

I opened a new document and typed out a 100-word story. I rather love flash fiction (and there’s a great guy out there who posts a 300-word flash fiction story every day) and its neat exposition, rising action and climax, otherwise known as beginning, middle and end. I then posted the story on the LinkedIn writers and editors group and asked for contributions, so thought I’d try the same idea here in lovely, lovely blog world.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

There are writers amongst my esteemed and valued audience, but then aren’t we all to a certain extent? Someone replied to my Friday flash fiction challenge with Veni, vidi, vici – which of course counts as it falls within the 100-word limit.

Anyway, here’s my own effort and a promise to post one a week every Friday. I’d love it if you could contribute – post your efforts below. Thank you!

The Case of the Disappearing Cat

Alice loved her cat. He was everything to her – friend, companion, substitute child and hot water bottle, so when he went missing she howled.

She paced the streets seeking him out and sticking posters on lamp-posts, but it was no good. He had disappeared.

She was, however, approached by a private detective agency. They had noted her patience, tracking skills and determination to leave no stone unturned. Would she like a job with them?

Would she ever! Alice signed up with joy. A day later, her cat returned. The agency was glad to see the back of him.

The Standing Desk – A Revelation in Health?

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view...

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view…

Ladies and gentlemen, a small but significant development in the offices of Highheelsandpinkglitter has taken place in the last week or so – I have been experimenting with the standing desk.

Throughout my working life, which now spans more years than the years I spent not working (why, why, why?) the bulk of my time has been spent stationary in front of a PC/iMac/laptop. Hence, according to experts who know stuff about the human body, my hamstrings have seized up and my glucose levels are in a permanent state of elevation. Boo.

Last week, I decided to embark on a standing desk experiment. Now, one can buy desks that are specially adapted to standing – fancy bits and pieces you can juggle around to hold your keyboard and monitor at precisely the right angle for your upright position, but I decided to go for the more basic, no-cost version.

I fetched two file folders from upstairs, positioned them on the kitchen counter and propped the laptop on top.

So, my wrists are in freefall  – I am not sure if this has long-term health implications for them, but heck standing does feel a lot more comfortable than sitting all day. Particularly as I, ahem, had elected to do so at the dining table sat on a dining chair and not one of those proper back support computer chairs.

I started a discussion on LinkedIn – does anyone else use a standing desk? A lot of people replied; yes, they do, yes they prefer it. A lot of them included useful links to sites which outlined the virtues of standing rather than sitting, or lists of famous authors who have done so (and when they died – now, not all of them reached a grand old age).

Anyway, here are the reasons why you should ensure that you’re not sitting down for the majority of your day:

Sitting for too many hours a day is harmful to health. It increases your risk of cardio vascular disease and cancer, and offsetting this with exercise (two and half hours in the gym a week) doesn’t seem to counter the risk.

Certain studies have shown that it is better for your health to be active all day – stand as much as you can, walk around, take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, do household chores, get off the bus one stop early etc – than sitting all day and then going to the gym for an hour. I know what I’d rather do…

Whole body muscular inactivity – or sitting for long period – can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, Low HDL (or good) cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sitting all day causes weakness in the gluteus maximus (I’ve always loved the Latin name for one’s bottom), which results in lower back pain. It also causes poor posture because of poor alignment of the neck, shoulder and back, fatigue in the limbs, painful leg cramps and clots.

And finally, standing burns roughly 50 calories an hour more than sitting. Now that figure stacks up and anything that increase my calorie count over the day is good with me.

For further reading, there’s an interesting account of a standing desk experiment here, and for a great infographic, see this one on mashable. And finally, if you do elect to stand for your working day, it feels like the most incredible luxury to finally sit down at the end of the day… (Promise).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing the Decks – And Trying Not to Puke

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

Recently, I heard someone opine that the first draft of a novel was basically a ‘word vomit’.*

Ooh, I get what she meant, but as someone who has just written the first draft of her first book, ‘word vomit’ made me want to cry. I must endeavour to toughen up if hearing some other person’s description of the writing process makes me react in such a pathetic way.  It was not a personal comment on my own attempts, for heaven’s sakes!

Having triumphantly typed out ‘The End’ almost 14 days ago, I have ignored The Book ever since. I didn’t dare look at it and, as I had really galloped towards ‘The End’ at the rate of knots, not caring about casualties such as spelling, grammar, credibility or sense, I certainly feared to view it again.

So, adopting my best school prefect voice, I said to self today – “You MUST look at this. You MUST read it again. You MUST change stuff if necessary.” So in between writing bathroom blogs and bugging the editors of air conditioning websites (yes, really), I read Book Part 3.

And, er, it was not quite as bad as I feared… Now, next week’s Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is reading parts 1 and 2. And perhaps putting chapters up on Readwave and asking for feedback.

Declutter – It’s Good For You

In another bid towards encouraging creativity (or putting off bidding for jobs online – you decide…) I finally got round to clearing out the spare room. I now have the dedicated office I promised myself way back in April. It’s a minimalist space where creative energy will flow, uninterrupted by endless tripping over of piles of washing in various states of dryness and dodging piles of paperwork. That’s the theory!

A women’s magazine I’m rather fond of (Woman & Home) had an article about de-cluttering in its latest edition. The aim, apparently, is to own no more than 100 things if you want to be free. Store all your music, books and pictures on your PC or online, go for a capsule wardrobe and the rest is easy. Idly, I wondered to myself, do ‘toiletries’, ‘skincare’ and ‘make-up’ count as three things, or should one count up the individual items? If the latter is true, I may well have reached the 100-item limit five times over. Woe!

Just to demonstrate that I can do a 100 limit, I did recently write a piece of flash fiction. It was for a competition. I didn’t win, or get mentioned or anything really, but it’s the taking part that counts, don’t you reckon? Here it is:

I’m a Deelan – Oh My Lord!

On Thursday I came home from work, disheartened.

My cat didn’t greet me at the door, but a handsome stranger was waiting in my kitchen. “Bobbee,” he said, “do you recognise me?” I shook my head. “Who has kept you company all these lonely months? Who has slept on your bed every night while you cried yourself to sleep?”

“You are Jazz?!” I exclaimed. “My cat?”

“I’m a deelan,” he said, “a human who can change into a cat and you are one too. Look!”

He clicked his fingers. I changed into a cat.

If any of you have your own examples of flash fiction, I’d love to read them so please feel free to post in the comments.

 

*LinkedIn – the writers and editors group. Very good for brain storming, and asking for advice on the creative and the more prosaic, such as ‘hey, what printer do you use and why?’

A Top 10 List to Help with Writer’s Block

Oh, oh, oh! I have a deadline to meet dear readers. Once it seemed like many moons away. Now it gallops towards me faster than a…

Stuck for a metaphor here. Faster than my own attempts to neck a glass of red wine come Friday evenings? Faster than the cat comes screeching into the kitchen when he hears the fridge door opening?

Trouble is, it’s a self-imposed deadline and we all know how they work – or don’t work, truth be told. I’m still writing, but The End doesn’t seem quite as nigh as it did the other week when I was flushed with the glory of 8,000 words.

So as I lay in bed last night battling insomnia (again, though my friend Kylie’s good advice to concentrate on saying one word over and over again in your head has proved useful), I came up with a good old Top Ten list in my head and thought to myself: “Aha! I can procrastinate, blogger-stylee, while hopefully helping my fellow writers battle their own bouts of writer’s block/lack of self-discipline.”

  1. Drum roll… Ahem, just write. Set yourself a target of a number of words which you think you can easily achieve. Write that number – and only that number – and bask in feelings of achievement.
  2. Have an imaginary conversation with your lead character. I invited Katie to sit down across the table from me. I asked her how she was and how she would like the book to end up. ‘Happily,’ she said, ‘oh and can I snog one of the big boys from Year 6?’ I tutted, but said I would look into all options.
  3. Write your ending in synopsis form. I’ve actually written plans all the way through writing. The basic structure was always there, but as the book has developed, sometimes I’ve needed to add things in so I would write another detailed plan. It was useful because it included background on characters and why they were doing what they were doing.
  4. Go back over other chapters and tweak. It makes you feel as if you are doing something worthwhile.
  5. Go for a run. Or a walk, or a cycle ride. Basically, just get out in the fresh air and puff and pant a bit. Physical energy often stimulates mental energy.
  6. Think around different options for your book. I’ve been talking to my brother-in-law about an app which would serve as some kind of publicity tool, but thinking in different ways is good for creativity in general.
  7. Join a writers forum/group. I’m part of the LinkedIn writers/editors group and the people on there do have incredibly fascinating conversations. There’s all kinds of help and advice available, even if you just want to get a few people to shout at you online: GET WRITING YOU IDLER! (They wouldn’t; they’re too kind.)
  8. I’ve had a few astonishingly patient people reading my book for me as I go along, and I ask them from time to time if they think a chapter works and if they think a particular storyline is plausible/credible.
  9. Go and read other people’s writing blogs. I follow a few of them (the bottled worder,  Daily (W)rite thebookofalice, writings of a Mrs, Gabriel LocateroFrancis Barann, Sophie Bowns and a few others and it’s heartening reading about other people’s writing methods and practices.
  10. Drum roll… Ahem, just write.

What do you think? If you have any top tips for continued creativity, I’d love to hear them.