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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-08-21 06:55
Subject: [process] The Newbie Writer Cycle
Security: Public
Tags:links, process, writing
paul_m_jessup on the Newbie Writer Cycle. He's dead on, pretty much describing my experience. Couldn't have said it better myself.

I've been wanting to make a post on the cycle of emerging into being a career writer. Maybe I'll followup on Paul's post.
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User: pauljessup
Date: 2007-08-21 14:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That would be excellent! Right now, as it is- I stopped where I was at currently (or see myself at, or whatever). But it would be cool for someone in your shoes to follow up and see what's to come over the horizon.
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jeffsoesbe
User: jeffsoesbe
Date: 2007-08-21 15:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hi Paul --

That post was great! I definitely saw myself there, a tthe stage where I'm wondering "Where's the secret? It must be out there somewhere. Surely someone out there has the secret!"

And the answer always comes back: There is no secret. Keep moving forward.

Sometimes I think it's like Wile E. Coyote trying to run across the canyon. If he hadn't stopped to look down, he just might have made it.

- yeff
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2007-08-21 15:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have a problem with the whole secret formula thing. A formula denotes that you follow it and get 100% success. I don't think the newbie writer is that stupid or naive...they know the market is flooded and there are no guarantees.

Instead what I (and possibly others) look for is signs that demonstrate to ourselves that we're improving as writers. Maybe it is some form of needing external validation, or a product of coming from a metric and statistic lead society but, by way of a metaphor, when you're groping around in the dark you want some way to know you are always facing North. No-one expects a man with a lantern to turn up and show them the way out.
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Brian Dolton
User: tchernabyelo
Date: 2007-08-21 16:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
To some extent how you handle that depends on personality. It can be very hard to deal with rejection after rejection coming in, particularly if you have any kind of tendency towards depression. It doesn't matter that it's the work, not you, getting rejections; it's all too easy to take personally. Writers either need a certain stubborn natural ego to persist, or some kind of validation from people whose opinions they respect. In my case, I was very lucky - first submission,, first pro sale. It's been very hard at times since then, and my "career" is progressing verry slowly, but I've got that to hang on to - "proof", if you like, that I can do it. I can't do it remotely consistently, that much is clear, but that knowledge allows me to keep the faith, to some extent, as the long periods of one-rejection-after-another drag on.

The only way you know you're "improving" is through external feedback of some kind. It may be editorial feedback (I've had a fair few "I liked this story but it didn't quite have it, here's what I liked and didn't, please sub again" rejects, and while I may be fooling myself, I tend to believe that "please sub again" is editorese for "your writing is good enough for me to publish if you just send me the right story"); it may be critique group (critique groups can be very valuable but it can take a while to learn whose critiques are the ones to pay particular attention to).

Just accept that it's going to take time. Set yourself some targets - try to balance between things you KNOW you can reach, and things that are beyond realistic attainment. Goals that stretch you but can be achieved. And look at how other people in the field - in particular, people who are now where you want to be in, say, the next three to five years - are doing. Listen to what they say, look at what they do. Don't copy them, but learn from them.

And keep writing. You WILL improve through practice, even in isolation, though it hepls to get feedback. One of the reasons I was able to sell my first submission was that I had been honing my writing in dark corners of my own to the tune of twenty years and a million words. I might have made the break earlier if I'd been interacting with others, but I might not. Ultimately; write, and keep writing.
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houseboatonstyx
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2007-08-21 17:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On a quick look, I didn't see any figures as to how many rejections is enough to decide a story isn't good enough; some newbies stop after two or three.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-08-21 17:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I use 20 as a baseline. My most-rejected story sold on sendout 24, I think.
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User: pauljessup
Date: 2007-08-21 17:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, 20 is about what I use to. Sometimes more than that, but only if I really really love the story.

So far, it usually takes at least 2-3 tries before a story sells, and usually much more than that, heh.
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houseboatonstyx
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2007-08-22 02:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
20 strikes before it's out? If I'd known that, I might have persevered with genre novels. I almost always got nice encouraging rejection notes on short stories. Sent out a whodunnit novel and got it back without comment from maybe 3 or 4 markets at most -- and decided that was too many strikes, so I must be hopeless as a novel writer -- and gave up.

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-08-22 03:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Persistence is a virtue. Best-selling author Carrie Vaughn made over 300 short fiction submissions before she sold her first short story. I don't know how long it took her to sell the Kitty books, but it was pretty uphill for them, too.

I think I was at 200+ submissions before my first short fiction sale. My history as a novelist is somewhat more arcane.
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houseboatonstyx
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2007-08-22 06:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I use 20 as a baseline. My most-rejected story sold on sendout 24, I think.

Same for novels? And how many might a person strike out with, before giving up on novel-writing?

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-08-22 12:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, if you're going over the transom, it could take you literally 20 years to submit a given novel 20 times. As a practical matter, there isn't an upper limit there.
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Elizabeth Barrette
User: ysabetwordsmith
Date: 2007-09-17 04:26 (UTC)
Subject: Rejections
I don't keep count. I mean, I can look at the record page for a story and count how many times it's been rejected, but I rarely bother. I just keep sending it out until it sells, or until I look at it and think, "Wow, this thing is so old, I'd be embarrassed if it sold now because it's nowhere near as good as what I'm writing now." I have pulled a few stories off circuit if they got the same criticism from three or more editors independently, and it wasn't something I could fix at the time. But most of my fiction and poetry just keeps floating until it sells. I send out hundreds of poems a year, that kind of inures me to rejection letters.

One time, someone was complaining that they'd submitted to a market several times and not sold to it. I counted back -- I'd been submitted to that market constantly, replacing every rejected batch with a new one, for five years. The ones I've been submitting to the longest are probably around 19 years, and I'm not inclined to give up.

Stubbornness is a crucial quality for writers.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-09-17 12:40 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Rejections
Stubbornness is a crucial quality for writers.

I like to characterize it as psychotic persistence, myself.
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In a heaven of people only some want to fly
User: chipmunk_planet
Date: 2007-08-21 17:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've just been writing. I haven't gotten the nerve to submit anything yet.

Writing about becoming a career writer would be really helpful.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-08-22 02:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sometime in the next day or two, I hope.
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