Frustrations...

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
Jason Parker
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Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:00 am

Let's say you're learning to drive a car. You drive. You make a few mistakes. You make adjustments. Pretty soon you're driving from Point A to Point B fairly well. Right?

When it comes to selling my short stories, I'm having trouble getting clear feedback so that I can make the right course corrections.

Problem 1: When I get rejected, I never get feedback to understand why I was rejected.

Problem 2: I could use a site like Critters or Fanstory and get a lot of random feedback that I don't know if I can trust or not.

Problem 3: Books on writing contradict each other, so you can't go to them for corrective feedback.

Problem 4: The techniques of fiction writing vary from author to author, they contradict each other, and their own books on the subject of writing contradict their own fiction. So how can you get feedback there?

Problem 5: Let's say you get a writing coach. His or her feedback will probably be different than another writing coach's. You don't know who to trust because you don't know what you don't know. wotf017

How are you supposed to course correct and improve without good feedback (without knowing whether the feedback you're getting is good or not)?

I suppose that's my biggest frustration. I know I could improve much faster if I could get the right data back.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby disgruntledpeony » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:38 am

You're approaching this from the wrong angle. Learning to write isn't like learning to drive a car. It's like learning how to draw, paint, or sculpt.

It takes years of practice to get good at any kind of art, and different people have different styles. That's why we have everything from comic books to Michaelangelo's David. Are they all art? Yes. But different people appreciate them for different reasons.

There is no correct answer on how to write well. The key is to expand your horizons, try new things, and see what works for you and what doesn't.

I do recommend exchanging critiques with other writers, whether on Critters or elsewhere. Feedback from other writers, while not perfect, is very useful because they see your story at a different angle than a casual reader. Also, critiquing another person's story can teach you a great deal about your own writing process. The important thing to remember is that you get the final say on what is or isn't right for your story, and the same goes for them. Critiques are suggestions, not rules that must be followed. (I haven't tried Critters yet, but I've heard good things.)
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Thu Jul 21, 2016 9:08 am

You guys and gal have been good to me, but I don't think I'm going to find what I'm looking for here at the forum.

I don't feel like I'm growing as a writer. Or at least I'm not growing into the sort of writer I want to be. This post I just made is proof that I'm trying to become the writer I think I should be instead of the writer I was born to be (yeah, pretty cheesy, I know, but it's from the heart).

Best of luck to all of you!

Now I shall go back into my cave and write the way I want to write.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Thu Jul 21, 2016 9:44 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:There is no correct answer on how to write well. The key is to expand your horizons, try new things, and see what works for you and what doesn't.


Amen. wotf009
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby disgruntledpeony » Thu Jul 21, 2016 12:23 pm

Jason Parker wrote:You guys and gal have been good to me, but I don't think I'm going to find what I'm looking for here at the forum.

I don't feel like I'm growing as a writer. Or at least I'm not growing into the sort of writer I want to be. This post I just made is proof that I'm trying to become the writer I think I should be instead of the writer I was born to be (yeah, pretty cheesy, I know, but it's from the heart).

Best of luck to all of you!

Now I shall go back into my cave and write the way I want to write.


Good luck! wotf007 Just keep in mind that growth takes time and patience. No one approach works for everyone, and it will probably take time to find yours. Don't lose heart if results come slowly.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby LDWriter2 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:32 pm

In many ways I could have written Jason's post. Or your post if you are still here to read this.

My answer to how do you know you are getting better-is when people-fellow writers, editors etc-say good things about your writing.

How do you get better by two ways: Practice and by learning from those who know more about the craft of writing. Either by reading their books, what they say online, at Cons, in workshop, on critiques etc. If a dozen writers critique your stories and eight to ten say you have this problem that would be a sign to work on that problem.


As I have been told by many writers at different levels, you do those two things and eventually editors start to notice you, then they make comments, then they buy. Of course there are always those who skip a stage or two in there but that is the main pathway. A couple markets always make comments and thereby you can get an idea of what they want and what to work on for them-at least for them. Dave has his Daily kicks, comments at conventions, on Facebook and elsewhere. So you can have a good idea of what he wants. You can tell if you get better-at least by his definition of good writing-if you get HMs, Semis etc. And remember it takes a while for most writers.


My reasons for staying here are varied. Writing fellowship, people who understand when I vent, a chance at critiques by people who know something about writing-most here know a few things about writing-knowledge of when waves start and sometimes there are even hints on writing better here.



Now I said I could have written Jason's note-what he said basically that is. I have stated my continual frustration here a few times over the years even though it has been a while since the last time. Basically is that no matter how much I learn and try to incorporate what I learn into my writing I barely get any positive comments from any source. Which tells me I am not improving, or that I started so bad that even a hundred percent improvement would barely move my writing up.

And if anyone would repeat my last comment to answer Jason, to me I say, for me it has been awhile already. Most writers here and other places show improvement one way or another and what I said to Jason fits with them. So if you are still reading this. Take them as your example.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby MattDovey » Fri Jul 22, 2016 12:22 am

Jason Parker wrote:Problem 2: I could use a site like Critters or Fanstory and get a lot of random feedback that I don't know if I can trust or not.


The true benefit of critters et al is not in the feedback you get, but in the feedback it forces you to give.

There's no shortcut to getting good at writing, there is only patience, but if there is one thing you can do to help you improve--and it's worked for me with both writing and photography--it's in looking at other work and forcing yourself to think why it works, or doesn't, what it is that engages you, or doesn't, what you would do differently, or wouldn't...

Once you can do that with other people's work, you can do it with your own. You start to critique your photo while you're still looking through the viewfinder--"this angle is cliche and dull, the background is too busy"--and you start to critique your own story while you're drafting it--"this opening is too slow, it needs some conflict and tension in it".

And as to community--it doesn't all have to be about immediate and technical improvement. Don't underestimate the value in shared frustration and the camaraderie of striving for a common goal wotf008
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Ishmael » Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:52 am

Jason Parker wrote:Now I shall go back into my cave and write the way I want to write.


But will anyone read? I felt very much the same when I first arrived at the forum. From my own point of view my writing was good; it expressed my ideas the way I wanted to express them. I couldn't sell anything but I was initially resistant to change because I did not want to compromise what I saw as my art.

There are thousands of people who feel this way. They can't all be right. They can't all be miraculously revealed as the new Joseph Conrad or Ernest Hemingway.

If you want to be read you have to be willing to write what is readable. Though opinions differ, a lot of common ground exists and those with sufficient talent can master the necessary skills.

I wouldn't hold up my own progress as a shining example, but I've already seen as many of my stories published this year as in the previous 3 years combined.

And you know what? I like the way I write now better than the way I wrote before. And most of it I learned right here.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby amoskalik » Fri Jul 22, 2016 12:10 pm

In the two years or so I've participated in this forum, I've seen my own perspective on writing greatly expand. I started out with a very impatient point of view. I was going to win this contest and use the publicity to help sell the novel I had a first draft of (and haven't touched since). I can only smile at my earlier self but not condescendingly by any means. His ideas were hopelessly niave but came from an honest earnestness, an earnestness that carried me forward while I slowly learned a thing or two.

Now I know enough to realize how much further I still need to travel, but I also have enough competence to actually enjoy writing. This gives me a sense of calm that I lacked earlier. The long winding road ahead of me is one of wonder and possibilities rather than an obstacle to be quickly overcome.

I still intend to write what I want to write the way I want to write it, but I've seen so much to inspire me from others that what I want to write has changed dramatically and I anticipate it to continue to do so. That wouldn't have happened if I stayed in my cave (as tempting as that was at times).
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby emilymccosh » Sat Jul 23, 2016 11:38 am

amoskalik wrote:In the two years or so I've participated in this forum, I've seen my own perspective on writing greatly expand. I started out with a very impatient point of view. I was going to win this contest and use the publicity to help sell the novel I had a first draft of (and haven't touched since). I can only smile at my earlier self but not condescendingly by any means. His ideas were hopelessly niave but came from an honest earnestness, an earnestness that carried me forward while I slowly learned a thing or two.

Now I know enough to realize how much further I still need to travel, but I also have enough competence to actually enjoy writing. This gives me a sense of calm that I lacked earlier. The long winding road ahead of me is one of wonder and possibilities rather than an obstacle to be quickly overcome.

I still intend to write what I want to write the way I want to write it, but I've seen so much to inspire me from others that what I want to write has changed dramatically and I anticipate it to continue to do so. That wouldn't have happened if I stayed in my cave (as tempting as that was at times).


You're describing my journey as a writer almost perfectly. I started off writing novels (well, one cheesy, cliche try, at least) and I haven't touched the rough draft in years. When I transitioned to short stories for the purpose of submitting, I was horrendously frustrated. I started seriously submitting in late 2014, and didn't make ANY sales all through 2014-2015. I couldn't figure out how to break through. I didn't see what was wrong with my stories and was, at times, convinced no one was going to pick any of them up.

I also didn't know much of the industry -- Grinder, critters, forums, that a personal rejection letter was gold -- so my views on writing were limit to my own tastes at the time.

WotF sending me a silver HM at the end of 2015 was the first piece of success I had. Although I hadn't made any sales through 2015, I'd grown a lot in my writing. Now it's beginning to show in 2016.

At this point, like Aaron said, I sit back and actually enjoy my writing (even when rushing for a deadline). I will be accepted every once in a while, but mostly my stories are still drop-kicked back to me with a form rejection. I'm fine with that. I enjoy the writing. I enjoy taking time to work on my novel purely in my mind until I know it's ready to be written. The others here are right, writing isn't like driving, but if it helps you to think that way...try getting to a place where you enjoy the drive. Instead of needed to get from A to B fast as you can, know that you're not going to get there any faster no matter how much you want it (NO, that does NOT mean go 90 on the freeway) and maybe enjoy the journey. Look at the scenery, enjoy the radio, because that's what may make it actually go faster.

Jason, if you pop your head out of your writing cave, I hope this helps a little. wotf041
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby storysinger » Sat Jul 23, 2016 12:12 pm

Participating in this forum has helped improve my writing ability. The only time I submit a short story is once each quarter for WotF. I spend most of my time learning to write novels with the hope of being published one day.
Everyone here is friendly and helpful most of the time. If I hadn't found this place I'm not sure I would have gotten as far as I have.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Muri McCage » Sat Jul 23, 2016 4:26 pm

Once upon a time I thought I was supposed to be a print journalist. I went to school. I learned Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How. For various reasons, I dropped out and went about a nonwriterly life...on the outside, for a long time. On the inside, I was a budding writer...interrupted. I dreamed of a syndicated column (my peculiar blog has fulfilled that nicely for me). Basically, I dreamed.

Then, though I'd liked the movies okay, I read a Star Trek novel, and it was like being hit by a photon torpedo. I fell in love. I read them all. By the time I started winning SNW, I had read over 200 Trek novels and seen all series and movies. When I started running out of the novels, I started teaching myself to write fiction, so I'd have more.

That was where I fell almost perfectly in line with Jason's post up top. Teaching yourself to write a novel tends to lead pretty quickly to desperate searches for books to help you. When I started running head on into all the contradictory info out there, it was like when I try to seal a box with those big rolls of clear tape. Pretty soon I started to feel like Paddington looks in his movie, completely tangled, hopelessly struggling against something that shouldn't be that hard. I absorbed what I could and decided on an entirely different tack.

I started studying novels by my two favorite Trek novelists, Peter David and Michael Jan Friedman. Those two authors pretty much inadvertantly taught me to write fiction. By setting out to intensely study what they did that made me love their writing so much, I learned not only the technicalities of fiction writing, I also discovered that for me the look and mental sound...the feel of words...were as important to my enjoyment of reading as the stories they unspooled.

Once I stopped studying and started actually writing, I found over time that I had learned a personal way of telling stories, both technically and as a lover of words. It's instinctive and it makes me happy. I write always without knowing if that particular collection of words will ever sell. The act of writing is enough, when it has to be, but it took me a lot of writing and dreaming to hit that place of zen.

I love this forum. I'm entered in Q3, which will be my pro out entry. I have learned so much about the business of writing here and the ways of particular markets. Even more importantly, there's a camaraderie and generosity of spirit that's even more valuable. Believe me when I say that it's so much easier and better to learn together, than in not so splendid contradictory isolation.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:17 am

Okay, my confidence got rocked last week. I suppose I hit the self-destruct switch and said I was leaving. I've since recovered. Just polished a piece and submitted to IGMS yesterday. Getting back on track. Thanks for sharing all the insights in this thread. wotf009
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby disgruntledpeony » Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:38 am

Jason Parker wrote:Okay, my confidence got rocked last week. I suppose I hit the self-destruct switch and said I was leaving. I've since recovered. Just polished a piece and submitted to IGMS yesterday. Getting back on track. Thanks for sharing all the insights in this thread. wotf009


No worries! We've all been there. Learning writing skills doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort, persistence and stubbornness. Also, encouragement and support! Which is what we're here for. wotf007

(Just for the record, however you may have taken my earlier words, I wasn't trying to discourage your writing efforts. I just wanted to emphasize that there is no one best way to write well. It's a long, confusing and often frustrating journey we're all on, but I think it will be with t in the long run. wotf007 )

Once you have a story available you want outside thoughts on, Ishmael has a critique exchange thread up and running. I highly recommend exchanging crits with him. I've done it before, and he's very insightful. wotf007
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:08 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:Okay, my confidence got rocked last week. I suppose I hit the self-destruct switch and said I was leaving. I've since recovered. Just polished a piece and submitted to IGMS yesterday. Getting back on track. Thanks for sharing all the insights in this thread. wotf009


No worries! We've all been there. Learning writing skills doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort, persistence and stubbornness. Also, encouragement and support! Which is what we're here for. wotf007

(Just for the record, however you may have taken my earlier words, I wasn't trying to discourage your writing efforts. I just wanted to emphasize that there is no one best way to write well. It's a long, confusing and often frustrating journey we're all on, but I think it will be with t in the long run. wotf007 )

Once you have a story available you want outside thoughts on, Ishmael has a critique exchange thread up and running. I highly recommend exchanging crits with him. I've done it before, and he's very insightful. wotf007


You didn't discourage me at all. Everyone on this forum has been good to me. I guess it's the vetting process or something because normally forum people suck.

I was mainly getting beaten down with rejections and no feedback to tell me adjustments to make. Of course I don't expect feedback from these editors but any kind of feedback to make changes. It's like I'm flying blind and I have no data telling me why I just crashed and burned.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby amoskalik » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:46 am

Jason Parker wrote:[

I was mainly getting beaten down with rejections and no feedback to tell me adjustments to make. Of course I don't expect feedback from these editors but any kind of feedback to make changes. It's like I'm flying blind and I have no data telling me why I just crashed and burned.


I know it feels like crashing and burning. I've been there all too often. I think my record is four rejections in one day. That was soul crushing at the time. But my point is a rejection for a single story from a single publication really is the expected outcome (unless you are a big name author with a history with that publisher). The reality is there are a huge number of stories chasing a very small number of publication slots. And a lot of the those stories are very good. We all hear about how bad some of the stuff in the slush piles are. I've no doubt that's true, but even if that accounts for 75% of the pile, that still leaves some stiff competition in the last 25%.

So, given that you are in that top 25% of the pile, congratulations, you wrote an awesome story. Now, go out and earn that publication credit by being persistent, both by writing more awesome stories and submitting them over and over and over again.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:53 am

Jason Parker wrote:It's like I'm flying blind and I have no data telling me why I just crashed and burned.


Yep. We're all in the same boat.

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Re: Frustrations...

Postby disgruntledpeony » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:05 am

Randy Hulshizer wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:It's like I'm flying blind and I have no data telling me why I just crashed and burned.


Yep. We're all in the same boat.

Image


Indeed we are. wotf030 wotf041

(On an unrelated note, I feel like there's a story in that image Randy posted but my brain won't quite connect the dots to put it into words.)
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:11 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:
Randy Hulshizer wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:It's like I'm flying blind and I have no data telling me why I just crashed and burned.


Yep. We're all in the same boat.

Image


Indeed we are. wotf030 wotf041

(On an unrelated note, I feel like there's a story in that image Randy posted but my brain won't quite connect the dots to put it into words.)


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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Ember » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:17 am

[quote="Jason Parker"]Okay, my confidence got rocked last week. I suppose I hit the self-destruct switch and said I was leaving. I've since recovered. Just polished a piece and submitted to IGMS yesterday. Getting back on track. Thanks for sharing all the insights in this thread. wotf009[/quote

I know exactly how you feel. I had a mini-crash after my rejection here two weeks ago. It was my 11th rejection in a row and came one day after a rejection from a market that kept my story for a long time and which I had high hopes for. My confidence was absolutely shattered. It is so frustrating just getting those form Rs and not knowing what is wrong!

To be honest, I'm not sure if I have the right combination of talent/resilience required for this gig. I hope I develop a thicker skin fast.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:18 am

Jason Parker wrote:An aquatic alien race has decided to lay claim to our seas?


Hahaha wotf001
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:22 am

Ember wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:Okay, my confidence got rocked last week. I suppose I hit the self-destruct switch and said I was leaving. I've since recovered. Just polished a piece and submitted to IGMS yesterday. Getting back on track. Thanks for sharing all the insights in this thread. wotf009[/quote

I know exactly how you feel. I had a mini-crash after my rejection here two weeks ago. It was my 11th rejection in a row and came one day after a rejection from a market that kept my story for a long time and which I had high hopes for. My confidence was absolutely shattered. It is so frustrating just getting those form Rs and not knowing what is wrong!

To be honest, I'm not sure if I have the right combination of talent/resilience required for this gig. I hope I develop a thicker skin fast.


I tell myself my skin is thickening, but after hundreds of rejections over the past couple years, I can say it really hasn't gotten any thicker. That said, I do have a lot of grit. That doesn't mean I'm okay right after I get my ass handed to me, but I will eventually get up, nurse myself back to some level of confidence, and double my efforts.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Ishmael » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:02 am

I think it takes twenty submissions before you even admit a story is struggling. I've made a pro sale on the sixteenth submission of a story. Granted I tweaked it a few times before it sold, but sometimes it takes me a long time to realise I've not got a story quite right.

You'll find some stories repeatedly go close without selling. Meanwhile a story with a stack of form rejections will suddenly find the market that's been looking for it. Sometimes I feel it's anybody's guess.

However the remedy for feeling bad about story one is to resubmit story one and meanwhile write and submit story two. (Or in my case forty-two.) The more you have out on submission the less you feel the impact of any specific rejection. Of course, as Aaron says, every now and again you'll get multiple rejections on the same day. That's life.

Remember that slush readers have been known to make a whole heap of mistakes. If they were writing geniuses they wouldn't waste their time reading slush.

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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:31 am

Ishmael wrote:However the remedy for feeling bad about story one is to resubmit story one and meanwhile write and submit story two. (Or in my case forty-two.) The more you have out on submission the less you feel the impact of any specific rejection.

Sage advice wotf009
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:14 pm

I only have three stories circulating. Looks like I better get some more out there.
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby MattDovey » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:47 am

Ishmael wrote:However the remedy for feeling bad about story one is to resubmit story one and meanwhile write and submit story two. (Or in my case forty-two.) The more you have out on submission the less you feel the impact of any specific rejection.


Definitely this. And have the next market in mind for each story (I make a note on my tracking spreadsheet), so that each rejection becomes "oh well, expected that, I can immediately bounce it to X". And be writing something new, so that a rejection for Y becomes "well Z is much better anyway and this is my new favourite so see if I care about Y any more!"
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Re: Frustrations...

Postby Jason Parker » Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:35 am

MattDovey wrote:
Ishmael wrote:However the remedy for feeling bad about story one is to resubmit story one and meanwhile write and submit story two. (Or in my case forty-two.) The more you have out on submission the less you feel the impact of any specific rejection.


Definitely this. And have the next market in mind for each story (I make a note on my tracking spreadsheet), so that each rejection becomes "oh well, expected that, I can immediately bounce it to X". And be writing something new, so that a rejection for Y becomes "well Z is much better anyway and this is my new favourite so see if I care about Y any more!"


Nice strategy. Thanks.
6xRs wotf002


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