Rejection, Success and Mediocrity

Rejection Red StampI’ve said rejections are proof a writer is writing.

Unless you are content with journaling and leaving manuscripts and essays in a secret drawer to be found after you have met with an unfortunate event, you are going to have to take a risk.
Don’t let my run-on sentence stop you from reading about the second fear in writing.

Success.

Many people in all walks and rolls of life are afraid of success. For a writer, well, you may have to show up, hair brushed, fully dressed and touch people who want to buy your book. You could end up in a Chat Room with faceless strangers with the letter G after their names asking questions you aren’t prepared to answer.

And what comes next? Can you possibly turn out another book, novel or short story anywhere near as successful as the one before? How do you one-up yourself time after time?

The final fear may be the fear of mediocrity. What if you simply aren’t as good at the art and craft as you think you are? What if it is true and you are an incredibly average writer? What if the rejections are actually earned and success is a set up for humiliation?

All of the things we fear, not just as writers, but as people, may be true. Then again, if you don’t face those demons and own their bad-ass-ary you will never know.

Don’t leave your writing in a secret drawer for your family or land-lord to discover. Walk or roll right up to that fear, grab it by the naughty bits and see what happens.

Do not be a Fearful Writer. Be bold. Take a chance. Flaunt those rejections and at your first book signing bring your laptop so you honestly say you are working on your next book, novel or short story.

Those rejections… frame them.. you can use them in interviews as a back story about your path to publication.

Rejection, Success and Mediocrity

Fiction Friday Second Person

This Fiction Friday I want to talk about Second-Person Point of View. I will include an author bio and a good explanation of Second-Person.

Today, I read a short story written in the second-person point of view.

It is from the 2018 Pushcart assortment of stories. When I see a story in second-person, my first thought is about the bravery and skill of the writer. Then I worry about the writer’s ability to carry it off.

If you are wondering about second-person, in real life, it happens during high emotion. During a news interview of something horrid or at least terribly unexpected. The speaker slips into it during the telling. She begins to tell the story as though it happened to me, the viewer, all viewers. It is a sort of projecting it onto someone else to make the telling easier.

An example might be –

I didn’t know what happened. First there was a bang and then stuff was flying all around and then you see a person in front of you and he is bleeding. I really need to sit down somewhere.

The switch to second-person in a re-telling generally happens mid-sentence and by the end of the conversation we are taken out of the situation because she slips back into First Person. Local and National News as well as crime stories provide living examples of Second Person as it slips into re-telling.

In fiction, the author selects second-person voluntarily. To me it is a brave choice because sustaining a story in second has a higher difficulty level. It is part of the art and craft of writing.

The story is Mentor by Mark Jude Poirier and it first appeared in Crazyhorse.

This writer took a huge chance on me, the reader, by taking me far far outside my experience.  Mark Jude Poirier made me participate in in the story as a gay teacher and for the length of the story I felt his lust for a student at his school. I will think about his motivation and the repercussions of his actions. More than that, I will think about what it was like to be this character.

Photo of Mark Jude PMark Jude Poirier is the author of two collections of short stories, Unsung Heroes of American Industry, and Naked Pueblo: Stories, as well as two novels, Goats, and Modern Ranch Living. His books have been New York Times Notable Books of the year, as well as Barnes and Noble Discover and Waterstone’s UK picks. In 2015, Scribner published Intro to Alien Invasion, a graphic novel he wrote with Owen King. He has published nearly thirty short stories that have appeared in Tin House, The Iowa Review, Conjunctions, Crazyhorse, BOMB, The Southern Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, and many other journals and anthologies. In addition, films he has written have played at Sundance, The Toronto International Film Festival, MoMA, and the American Film Festival in Deauville. Mark is a graduate of Georgetown, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and currently holds a Briggs-Copeland Lectureship at Harvard.

I looked online for a good definition of Second-Person Point of View. Most of them missed the ‘point’ but I did find this one.

Second-person point of view is a form of writing in which the point of view of a narrative work is told in the voice of the “onlooker,” which is you, the reader. For instance, the text would read, “You went to school that morning.”

The second-person point of view is rarely used in fiction because of its difficulty level. It is hard to develop a set of characters and a story in which the second person is appropriate.

Thank you for visiting with me this Fiction Friday. Don’t touch anything sharp.

 

What is Your Shoe?

Welcome to a Fiction Friday Post.

an air jordan 360 shoeWhat is Your Shoe?

On Wednesday during chat at The Writer’s Chatroom I mentioned a short story I  read is following me around.

It is the mark of an excellent writer when long after reading a character, plot line or theme stays in the forward reaches of our minds. That place we access in idle moments, letting the dog out to hurry, mixing paint on a butcher’s tray or simply watching the shower curtain as we sit down to pee.

I love a poem or a short story. Both, when well done are art forms. I feel privileged to receive such gifts from writers. The story I want to share with you came up in The Writers Chat Room. I said it had to do with a shoe and it was following me around. But I did not have the title and I couldn’t reach the book without some physical gymnastics. But before I went to bed I climbed up on the edge of the trunk and fetched the book out of my canvas and watercolor bag.

I told the people in the chat room it was about a shoe. Saying it is about a shoe does not do it justice.

The reason Float follows me is because every family has a shoe. Something plain to see. Something that bothers everyone on some deep and hidden, yet, obvious level. If after reading Float you claim your family does not have a shoe.. then I suggest you look a little closer.

My families, foster and biological all had them. We might look at them askance as if they were a distant blur in a telescope eyepiece. A galaxy that disappears if you look at it directly.

Reginald McKnight is the author of He Sleeps(Picador, 2002), The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas (1996), and I Get on the Bus (1990), among others. He is a professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Georgia.

In 2016 his short story Float was published in The Georgia Review.  Float was awarded The Pushcart Prize and appeared in the 2018 Pushcart Prize publication from The Best of the Small Presses. This is where I found it.

The complete story is online for your reading pleasure. It is a short story, it won’t take much of your time but I am warning you, this shoe will follow you in days to come. How long? I’ll let you know. For now, I can picture it vividly.

 

Float

by Reginald McKnight

Walk into my room and come to find one of my Jordan Air Max 360s floating about five foot off the ground.

Read More Here

Welcome to this Fiction Friday Post.

Please feel free to read the entire story and come back. Hit the reply to post and leave a comment. You do not have to share anything about your own personal shoe.

If you have a short story or novel for that matter following you around, please share the Title and Author who made it so.

The Time Walk-Back

Novelist, Jack Remick, does an exercise with his characters, he calls “The Time Walk-Back.”

He picks up a character five minutes before the story opens. Then one hour before, one week before, one year before and five years before the start of the story.

I think I’ll try this with my WIP for a few characters and see what happens.


Image of Jack Rimick's Titles Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist.

His work: Coffeetown Press is bringing out The California Quartet The Book of Changes , The Deification and Valley Boy,  Trio of Lost Souls.  Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press in 2011. Coffeetown also released Gabriela and the Widow in 2013. Click here for the press release. Coffeetown published Jack’s book of poetry, Satori, poems in May, 2014.

Fiction Friday – Dysfunctional Office Scene

A Really Dysfunctional Scene

Welcome to Fiction Friday.

I haven’t posted a Fiction Friday in ages. This week I have a scene with Greg, an easygoing office manager and his employee, Mack, a type A who is doing everything he can to undermine, demean and resist his boss’s efforts to complete a big project. It is an example of a dysfunctional relationship.

out to lunch sign

“Hello Mack, how are you doing, today?”
“Okay, still working on this project.” Mack closed his manila folder and looks up from his desk. “Did you need something?”
“I just wanted to tell you I have the article for the front page written.” Greg held out his file.
Mack took the file and flipped it open. After skimming or pretending to read it, he says, “I don’t think you understand. You should redo this.”
Greg is flabbergasted.

Okay, now what do I do? Pick my battles? Screw this. I’m tired of it.

Greg shifted his stance, stood as tall as he could and squared his shoulders. “Mack, you are doing a great job but you seem a bit confused.”
Mack shifted in his chair and shot a look toward his computer screen. “Confused?”
“Yes. I am the lead manager. I am the guy in charge of this project. When I give you a file it is not for your approval. I’m not asking for edits, opinions or permission to go ahead.” Greg waited.
Mack shifted in his chair again. He shifted his gaze from the computer to Greg. He raised his eyebrows and waited.
After an uncomfortable silence, Mack spoke, again. “Well, I’m going to have to disagree.”
“You do know this isn’t a democracy.”
As Greg turned to leave he heard Mack mumbling behind him.

He always has to have the last word.

Greg shrugged off the tension in his shoulders and headed down to the coffee shop.

Greg returned a half hour later.  He rounded the corner and stepped into his office.

He sat down behind his desk and leaned back in his office chair.  Greg looked up and saw his file had been stapled to the ceiling page by page.

He reached for the phone. Superglued. Drawers, superglued.  Anything that could be glued down was, well, glued down.

“MACK.”

“I always get the last word,” Mack said as the elevator swallowed him and his cardboard box.

“Who took down the sign?”

Elevator with an Out of Order Sign

Don’t touch anything sharp.

All Fiction Friday Posts are available at Fiction-Friday.com

Fiction Friday Short Short – Eraser

clip art of a pink eraserThe Department of Defense has perfected a new weapon, code named Eraser.

Much like Facbook’s Block Option, the US Government can find and make individual people disappear. Going beyond the limits of Facebook’s Block, this weapon makes the person vanish from everywhere. Poof. Without a trace. No records.

What are you writing about?

Procrastinating, Dilly-dallying, Puttering

raven Hello again and Welcome to Fiction Friday.

All new years start off with good intentions.

I am writing this Fiction Friday post because I am putting off revising a scene from my WIP.

I have committed FaceBook-ary, Tweeted, researched the nature of Ravens and watched The Blacklist.  Now, I’m here..

I know Procrastination is a serious problem.  Look at all of the words related to the topic.  The person who gathered this list probably should have been cleaning up after the family cat.

The scene I am working on, should be working on, is an interesting one so I am not at all sure why I don’t slip on a pair of Nikes and just Do It..

My protagonist, Judy Hawks is doing a welfare check for her home-bound friend, Carl Eps.  She arrives at the elderly social worker’s house and finds her dead.  Just dead.  The front door is open, the refrigerator is humming and Mrs. Finley is sitting in a task chair at her desk, stock still, her hair a halo of white and unexpectedly soft as Judy leans in to touch her cheek.

While I am not revising this scene I thought I’d give you a list of Procrastination’s closest known associates, partners in crime or at least accomplices of some sort.

Why don’t you all join me as I participate in Procrastinating, Dilly-dallying and Puttering.

Words Related to Procrastination

dalliance
dawdling
dabbling
delay
delaying
dilly-dallying
frittering
frivoling
idling
loafing
loitering
playing
poking
procrastinating
puttering
toying
trifling

Don’t touch anything sharp.

Character Development – NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

A grey cube

A grey cubeI have been working on character development for the 2016 NaNoWriMo Event.

Over the past few weeks I have been developing characters using college ruled paper, a fountain pen and paperclips.

I have my favorite reference books close at hand.  I will not open yWriter and begin my next novel until November 1st.

Character Development – NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

Every time I start a new novel I learn more about character development.

I want to share one of my new lightbulb moments with you.  I will begin with an excerpt from The Old Testament book of Ezekiel from the King James Version.

“And every one had four faces:

the first face was the face of a cherub,

and the second face was the face of a man,

and the third the face of a lion

and the forth the face of an eagle.”

Character Development – NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

A grey cube         Imagine your character as a cube.  The surfaces may have huge or subtle differences in color, form, brightness or darkness.  A character possesses human traits and emotions, all on a continuum.  These characteristics may be muted or amplified depending on era, setting and situation.

One of my characters has a work persona.  Her work face or cube surface at work is confident, calm, businesslike and easy to get along with.  Over time, we might discover she has a love for horses.  At work she keeps this part of her cube mostly turned away.

People on the ranch see another cube surface.  She is happy, free, in control and a little horse poop is all in a day’s ride.  The people at the ranch to do not see her work surface.  There is no need to turn that outward.  No one knows she is buttoned down and controlled by her company’s expectations.

Character Development – NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

Your character’s backstory, nurturing, nature and life experience write on that cube that represents who she is.

Under normal circumstances your reader can observe the work-a-day/recreational surfaces but there is much more going on.

Change the normal situation into something unexpected and the cube will transform.  Repressed traits on another surface break through.  We see an evolving character.  She will adapt and comply or maybe she’ll come completely undone.

Her control issues may surface in an amplified way.  This may distort or cover this character’s cube surfaces.  She may present a yet to be seen surface.

The good worker who loves riding horses is still there but those traits have been dialed back or muted.

As her world begins to change, she begins to change.

A character developed as a kind, giving and loving person may turn and face you with a surface projecting a more human and flawed persona.  Put more pressure on her and she may stalk and prey on you with the skill and strength of a lion.  Present another situation and she might swoop down on your pages as an eagle swooping in for the kill.

Human personality exists on a continuum.  Some traits which are deeply hidden or controlled will surface in reaction to an abnormal situation or event.

When you are working your character remember all sides.  What events will mute or amplify her character traits.  Let her show more than one surface.  Show us the corners, the darkened cells holding repressed memories, the bright and shiny bits of pride and accomplishment.

            Let her be a cherub, a human, a lion and an eagle.

cherubim

 

 

What is a Submission Packet and Why Do I Need One?

Submission Packet clipart folders

What is a Submission Packet and Why Do I Need One?

You have your novel written, revised, revised, edited, revised again, already.  Now, you want to start looking for a publisher.  Your words need a home.

 

Authors need to have a Submission Packet.  The infamous Query Letter is only the start of this Packet.  The following components go into a file on or off of your computer called the Submission Packet.

 

  • The Query Letter
  • The Submission Synopsis
  • Sample Chapters
  • The Cover Letter
  • The Manuscript

The Query Letter

Most of us know about the query letter.  There are as many how-to sites for writing query letters as there advertisements on the Home Shopping Network.

The Synopsis

The Submission Synopsis is not a plot summary of your novel.  The synopsis uses a specific form.  They are written in the present tense even though the novel may be written in past tense.  It follows a single viewpoint character through the plot.  This may seem restrictive if you have a novel containing three story lines and seven POV characters.  The synopsis also uses the third person even though your novel might be telling itself from the first person perspective.  You have to tell how your novel ends.  This is not a burb or a hook.  You should have a long and a short synopsis in your packet.

 

The Submission Synopsis should follow these guidelines.

  • Single or Double Spaced with 1 inch margins and numbered pages.
  • Present tense.
  • Third Person.
  • Begin with a strong hook.
  • Follows a single viewpoint character to the end.
  • Mention the VP character’s motivations or goals.
  • Follow the story chronologically from beginning to ending.
  • Sticks to essential plot elements.
  • Uses a dramatic tone and presentation.
  • Always includes the ending.

 

Sample Chapters.

You will want to include sample chapters in your Submission Packet file.  Some publishers ask for 3 chapters.  I’ve submitted the first 50 or almost 50 pages.  These three chapters don’t have to be from the start of your book.  But the first three chapters might do the work of hook setting and you never want to make anyone in the publishing house work to catch onto your plot.

 

The Cover Letter

This is not a Query Letter.  The Query Letter is part of the Submission Packet Files.  On a time-line, we’d Query first.  When asked for more we go back into our Submission File for the other documents.

The cover letter accompanies the other items in your file.  It reminds the publisher that the contents of the package were indeed requested.

You should include your hook again and itemize what you have included in the package they just opened on their desk or computer.

 

The Manuscript

Your manuscript should be formatted in a traditional way.  Submission guidelines will help you out.  If only chapters were requested, do not include the full manuscript.

 

Clipart disorganized file systemWhy do you need to have a Submission Packet?

Because it makes you an efficient writer.  It saves time.  It sets you up for success.  Put in time on these files and you won’t have to scramble when the agent or publisher gives you the nod.  With all of these things tucked away and ready to go you can start on your next project because nothing sells a first book better than a second book.

This is the end of my post about Submission Packets.

Don’t touch anything sharp.

Submission Packet Contents

  • The Query Letter

  • The Submission Synopsis

  • Sample Chapters

  • The Cover Letter

  • The Manuscript

 

 

 

 

Fiction Friday – Cannibal Prompt

Fiction Friday a Writing Prompt

I am using a Prompt from A Year of Writing Prompts 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit.  This is a Writer’s Digest book well worth $7.99.

clipart stew pot
Fiction Friday – Cannibal Prompt

From the e-book January 29 entry –

Fine Young Cannibals

You have been captured by cannibals. How do you convince them not to eat you? If that fails how do you attempt to get away?

(I only use one cannibal in my entry)

An ancient woman is stoking a fire in her hearth. She comes back to the counter and begins chopping root vegetables. “How much to you think you weigh, sweetie?”

“You aren’t thinking what I think you’re thinking?”

The old woman plunks a heavy iron pot up on the counter. “You look a bit scrawny, that’s okay though.”

“I am, really, you should try that hen I saw out in the side yard. If you un-truss me, I’ll go get it for you. I’ll even lop her head off with that ax.”

“Nah, I am in the mood for the other ‘white meat.’”

“Then I think in the interest of full self-disclosure I am not just scrawny, I am bitter. Really, I am a mean evil, bitter, bitter woman. You don’t want to eat me.”

“Bitter, you say. What kind of bitter?”

“My husband dumped me for a newer model, a real freaking model, blonde, vapid.”

“Go on.”

“My boss said I was out of date, he promoted a kid with pimples to be my supervisor.”

“And?”

“I was out for an afternoon hobble when you offered me tea and cookies. When I came inside you knocked me silly, trussed me up and now it looks like I’m going to be the main entrée at a dinner for one.”

The woman snatched up the knife she’d put down while I was pleading my case. She leaned over me.

“That’s it girlie, I’m cutting you lose.”

“What? Why?”
“Just go, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

I almost ran back to my apartment. Sure I wasn’t dinner tonight, but now I know I am not even good enough to eat. There should be some comfort in this ending but all I want to do tonight is marinate in a bottle of red wine.

Then End…

Don’t touch anything sharp.

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Go down to the comment box if you’d like to add your own response to today’s prompt.