Rejection

Get zen on rejection with Jenni Curry’s wise words

jennicurry

Rejection is something which can not be avoided. Not a single person will slip away from its touch. It comes in the realms of dating, jobs, schools, friendships and missed opportunities.

But there is something I have learned about rejection which I would like to share.

1. You must wallow in it for less time than you would have celebrated, if things had been different. This is important. If you had been successful in asking the person out/ getting the job etc. you would have felt elated for a few minutes, or hours. Perhaps you would have called a few people to share the news. This is all still relevant with rejection. So, onto point 2.

2. Put a time limit on it. Think REALLY hard about how long you would have celebrated, then shorten the time period. That’s how long you can wallow in your misery. And…

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New voices in Australian literature: A weekend with the writers of Hardcopy

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Words by Bec Fleming, ACTWC Blogger in Residence

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It’s Saturday lunchtime, I’m sitting on the grass at Gorman House in a large circle of people I have only just met but feel a strong connection to. Lapping up the spring sunshine and listening to the lively conversation, I am truly content. I’m deeply absorbed in a discussion about the future of reading and writing which had started in the session before and is spilling into lunch. The group is talking, with much passion, about how writers preserve their reading and writing time in a digital world. In a world with Youtube, Facebook and Twitter calling constantly, not just for social reasons but as an increasingly expected part of the publishing process, when do writers read? We don’t resolve this tricky question in our lunch break, but it is one of many challenging questions provoked by an extraordinary series of lectures…

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A strange truth about writers and writing

When all else fails...sketch.

When all else fails…sketch.

It feels as though I’ve hit a wall this week. Last week I spent one whole day laying on my sofa due to my ongoing back problems – and afterward my back was a lot better. (The medication I’ve loaded up on is a help too).

This week I have begun two blogs but not finished them.

One of the things I have noticed on Absolute Write is how many users list their works in progress. Part of their signature  details just how many projects they have at various stages of development. If I’d had any doubts about my organic methods of working at least that assured me they’re pretty normal.

As it stands at present I have one self-published novel out in the world. I have an adult manuscript which is complete and doing the rejection rounds, a collection of short stories, a draft novella, and various pieces of life-writing. Oh, and a YA ms that’s nearly finished, a sequel planned out with a couple of thousand words written, and a second adult novel swishing about constantly saying, ‘me next, me me!’

Focusing on one piece of work until it’s utterly finished can be tricky for a number of reasons. As the piece comes closer to the finish it becomes harder – there’s a lot of stamina required. Plus, you’re not even sure you’re doing right. You need a professional or a group to work with to help bring it to a shiny glaze. While you wait for a beta-reader to take a look you write a short story to get some air – then you leave that to sit because there’s something missing but you don’t know what.

I’ve begun drafting out three separate strategies to try to get some clarity around what I need to do next. But the strategies aren’t quite finished yet. Sounds familiar.

I’ll keep you posted!

Beat writer’s block – Part II

Girl eating

Are you having trouble with your characters? In At the Hour of the Morning Drink I have a character named Natalie who is not yet as substantial as she might be. She’s not a main character but she’s integral to the plot so she ought to be more rounded. I have a good idea of her personality but I haven’t really written about her physical presence, or brought her face to life when she’s talking.

A good way to bring characters to life is obviously to base them on people you know – but that can jeopardise friendships, not to mention get you in to trouble. An alternative is to work from an image. If you are writing at home in the evenings jump on to Google where there are millions of subjects just waiting to be the muse. Find an image – of someone well known or not – and create an image file of your characters. This is a great way to keep on top of what eye colour and hair colour your characters have, plus it can also be really helpful when selling your book as you can talk about the people you see playing your main characters.

Looking at a photograph of someone is a fantastic writing prompt; notice the angle of the head in different moods, note what happens to their face when they smile, when they look sombre, when they smoulder, when they smoke, laugh.

How do their features combine to make a whole?

Go another step further – find someone in movies or tv who fits your character and watch them – study their walk, the way they move their hands, their head.

Of course, if you can get out and write during the day you can spy on people in cafes too. Write down their conversations, describe their clothes, how they interact; who’s in charge and how do you know? Who’s shy or frustrated or depressed?

Pinterest and YouTube are two great mediums for building your profile, creating interest in your work, and grabbing inspiration.

Pin images that evoke the atmosphere of your writing – pin images of buildings, landscapes and fashions. When you’re depleted visit your boards, add to them, and use them as prompts for your work.

You can also bring your characters to life by making playlists for them in YouTube. In choosing music that evokes their personalities you’ll find new aspects of them to write about. Think about the rhythms and melodies they like, the sorts of music that represents their lifestyle and persona as well as their hopes and fears. Create a soundtrack for your book – and use it later as an add-on to your product.

Now, go be inspired!

11 Signs You’re Meant To Be A Writer

A blog post well worth sharing and two new bloggers to check out. Enjoy!

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

Yes, things have been a little quiet around here lately, but that’s only because, first of all, I was so busy there for a few weeks that I couldn’t even think straight and then, second of all, once the busyness was over, I awarded myself a whole day off—I didn’t even check my e-mails—and instead curled up with Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother, and that felt so good that I gave myself another day off, and then I started feeling light-headed and strange and had to come back here (here being The Desk), and get back to work. So while I play catch-up with the 391 e-mails from people who still don’t seem to understand that I don’t review books, my lovely blogging friend Laura Pepper Wu is going to entertain you with a guest post I’m sure we can all relate to: 11 Signs You’re Meant To Be A…

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Rewriting

I had a novel idea today (no pun intended, honest). I thought I might type up the draft chapter I wrote for what I currently call The Quinta. This might not sound ground-breaking, but I’ve been stopping myself from getting any further into it until I have finished my young adult manuscript.

I’ve been so busy working on some short stories that I haven’t finished the edit on Queen@16 that I had set as a goal. In fact, I had all but forgotten about Brigit.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I hate her. I want her to leave me alone. I want to be done with her.

I love first drafts – they are like summer; rushing headlong, drinking Coke and wine and dancing on the beach and making new friends. With the first draft nothing can go wrong because the purpose is only to put words on the page. So easy.

Come winter, when I pull a first draft out of its autumn drawer to read it through, a draft blows through me as I realise there are gaps everywhere.

Then there is analysis to be done; there’s half a plot, blurred characters with odd motivations, but there’s no chance of running back down to the beach to see what happens – what new folk one might chance upon. Not if you want to finish something for a change.

Rewriting is staying with the people you already have, figuring out what they need. Hanging around to make things work.

It’s rereading chapters until they are so familiar you are blind. It’s threading sentences through and trying to match the colours, tilting your head to see if others will see where the join is. Removing words. Squinting at the page to see whether it’s better without them. Scything away chapters that you love, but no longer fit.

And all the while there is the calendar, days falling away, seasons come and gone.  Summer raises its eyebrows and beckons with a smile, as though to say ‘Start something new. A first draft will be so much fun.’

Where is this story going?

After writing three full-length MS I am in a committed relationship with the short story. I’m not going to get a ring, but it’s serious and I’m blissfully happy right now. I do know there will be a time when I marry another full length beast but at the moment I’m learning something new and fascinating.

I’m rolling about in the hay with all kinds of zappy, snappy ideas, stretching them and moulding them to see what I can make (and how many metaphors and themes I can get away with smearing over them).

It’s a form I am not widely read in. (If you’ve read a Peter Carey short story why go out for hamburgers?) And I’m still figuring out what you can say – what the point needs to be.

My older shorts are generally parts of a larger whole that suddenly stand alone, and that’s how they evolved. But the short stories I’m writing now are beginning life as short stories too.

They often start out as an observation – a point I want to make, or a world I want to explore. But once I’ve drafted that crucial scene or situation I need to build a frame around it with protagonist, antagonist, character arc, so a reader can engage. That’s the part I’m still getting my head around.

What are the ‘musts’ with the short story form?

Naming things

When I am out of balance – a little too stressed, I can find it really difficult to engage with a book, or any form of reading. And there’s nothing worse for your desire to read than struggling to feel immersed. A friend has sent me Richard Flanagan’s ‘Gould’s Book of Fish’ which he has raved about, but I’m struggling to remember who the characters are and what the narrator told me yesterday. This may not be the author’s fault, it may be that my head is too full of chaos right now.

What disturbs me more than being unable to connect with the book though, is the feeling that I wont find another book that works magic within me. That concern becomes so real for me sometimes that I needed to remind myself of ‘my’ wonderful books – not the books I think I should love, but the books I do, or have, no matter what.

I decided to name them. Put them into my own hall of fame right now.

The Blind Assassin*

Oscar and Lucinda

Cat’s Eye

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

Illywhacker

Ballet Shoes

Stark

The Life of Pi

Pippi Longstocking

Treasures of the Snow

Eve Green

Never Let Me Go

Fight Club

Oryx and Crake

Amsterdam

Theft: A Love Story

The God of Small Things

The Virgin Suicides

Atonement

The Secret Garden

What books would you put in your hall of fame?

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*I know I’ve done the seemingly unforgivable in leaving the author’s names away from this list. I have done it almost entirely for aesthetic reasons.

Relaxed ambitions

I’m so tired – everyone says. We all yawn in the office kitchen because we want to run away to Glebe Park. Beneath the trees we will suddenly awaken, no longer bored and folded into cages.

I feel guilty; that there is no reason for such tiredness, until I remember the many things I do each day – most of them alone, fighting the secret anxious battle I wage inside my body. And then at 9pm, when my angel is asleep I begin editing.

I have edited Lorelei’s Hand and Almost Twelve, at the request of a very lovely editor. (Editors who acknowledge your existence are surely lovely?)

I have edited Almost Twelve three times. I want it to be as tight as my office party smile.

At the request of another editor I have edited A Perverse Sort of Liberty. His mag is British and hipster so I’m stupidly delighted he liked Kinky because she is my favourite favourite character.

Amongst these textual wranglings is an increasingly long list of magazines to submit to. The copious sticky notes on my laptop remind me of competition deadlines, rewrites for editors, magazines taking submissions this month. They tease me with the growing pile of stories that need finishing.

And at the bottom of the list is a reminder to relax.

Writing is the journey, the joy. All else is vain fantasy.

Sewing status

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I stood outside a women’s fashion store recently and read the huge poster in the window. It was about an artist who had designed something for the shop’s range. For some moments I was in envious awe of the woman whose resume included sculptor, speaker and various hipster roles. Wow. I thought. I feel so inadequate, I thought.

Then I remembered what I do for a living and my thoughts shifted to, Wow. Great copy. Great marketing.

I was really sold on that woman and her artistic persona.

It reminded me that all we need to do is write the words. Write them and read them. Create not just our world, but the successful persona we feel we need to rest easy.

During a moment of visualisation I made this book cover which now sits atop the last hard draft of my ms. The cover (if you look closely!) proclaims, ‘A stunning debut,’ and ‘Beautiful.’ It was a good way to remind me of what I was aiming toward.

Here are some more I’ll add.

‘Haunting. Sublime.’

‘Award-winning…’

And here are some I have actually received but that no-one has hung in a shop window.

‘Really wonderful, enigmatic piece. I can assure you I’ll be thinking about it for a while.’

‘The way in which you managed to balance the subtlety of your prose with the horror of the world you created was quite a feat and it’s one of the pieces which has really stayed with me.’

‘Your piece was moving and well written in parts. There is some great potential here.’

‘The story’s premise is hilarious! The garden detail is also good.’

I’m keeping these positive comments close to me, in the hope they’ll stop me from getting washed away in the tide of words out there. But more than that, I’m going to place them on imagined book covers, to keep creating where I want to be.

Want to blow your trumpet – real or imagined? Create your world. Share your reviews, collages, blurbs, copy. Let’s build our own fantasy, selling only the colourful threads of our imaginations.