Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rejection and Motivation

No one likes rejection. Heck, boys are afraid to ask out girls because they don't want the possibility of being rejected (or laughed at) for their request. It's a horrible feeling when someone rejects your work, whether its writing of some kind, or artwork, or music, etc. You're putting yourself out there, showing you heart and soul, and someone stomps on you. It crushes you and you want to curl up in a ball and hide.

Rejection can kill your motivation to do what you love doing. It's hard to keep going when someone says your work "sucks". Dear God, how do you face the new day when your heart and soul are lying on the floor, smashed beyond all recognition?

Here's a perspective on this: Rejection says a lot about a person, not only the creator, but the reviewer or critic. Hear me out. Don't jump to conclusions yet.

If your story or work of art, whichever art it is, gets "rejected" by a reviewer, critic, or agent, and you just give up, run away and never look back, perhaps the reviewer was right. Your story wasn't ready for public consumption; you weren't ready for public consumption and you don't have the stamina to go the distance. Perhaps now is a good time to look for another pursuit.

But if you stick with it, after some time away and some rest, you'll see the problems and you'll be able to fix them. Your story will be better. You will be better; better than you used to be, and you're always improving. It shows you're ready to push through the naysayers and take your place among the authors on the bookstore shelves. Never give up; never surrender!

The other side of the coin is about the reviewer, the critic. Perhaps you hit them on an off-day. Maybe they're not into your genre. Maybe their brother just died or was diagnosed with cancer and they can't see any good with anything they received the day you submitted. It's not just about you; it's about them, too.

I recently got my scores back from the Golden Heart competition for RWA. Most of my scores weren't too bad. But one score was so painfully low, it made me grind my teeth. Come on, was it really that bad, especially when every other judge gave it much higher marks? It hurt a little, but it made me realize that I must have hit that person wrong; whether it was because the story was about werewolves and this person HATES werewolves; or this person prefers sweet romances and I'd put in too much sex; or maybe the first three chapters reviewed didn't have enough sex; or maybe the title put them off. Whatever the reason, this person rejected the story harshly and what could I do?

I'll tell you what I'm going to do; I'm going to revise with the help of my critique partners and I'll either resubmit it after I've had some time to reconsider it or I'll submit a different, more refined story next year. I know I'm improving; I can see it in the samples of my writing from one year to the next.

I've heard stories about Clive Cussler and Stephen King and even John Grisham. They were rejected a lot; I think Grisham was rejected over 100 times. But look at them now; they persevered and revised and kept going until they hit the right reviewer, the right agent, who loved their stories. Now they're happily making handfuls of money for those "rejected" stories.

Give yourself permission to take time to revise, to rest, to recharge. Life doesn't stop while you're writing and it can get busy, but your work will be there when you're ready to get back to it and you will improve. Work with your critique partners and see if their suggestions are in line with where you want your story to go. Writing is a tough business, but it's a worthwhile pursuit, too. Never give up; never surrender.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Story Fodder from Life

And now back to our regular programming . . .

I've been asked by a few people where I get my story ideas. In my last post, I talked about the heroes who show up in dreams; and they do. They're quite insistent that way. However, there are plenty of other ways I get story ideas.

Jeff Foxworthy, the You Might Be a Redneck comedian, was asked the same question: where did he come up with his stuff? His answer: He just looked around and watched life. Life is pretty darn funny if you pay attention. Stories are there to be told just from things you see and hear around you.

For example: My friend E. K. Yenawine has met some pretty entertaining characters in her daily life. One time, she had this guy come up to her in a bar and hit on her. After about an hour of talking, he says to her, "So . . . have you figured out my special talent yet?" Ooookeeeey. What kind of story could you write about this guy? You could go for the superhero side. His special talent? Perhaps he can burn through solid steel with laser vision, or maybe he can tell how many nails were used to build the bar counter. Special talent.

Another guy came up to E.K. while she was shopping for new hiking boots in an REI. He asked her to lunch, but she kindly declined. He then followed her around the store and when she removed her shoes to try on a pair of new boots, he scooped up one shoe, held it to his face, and took a deep breath in. E.K. just stared at him flabbergasted. Why was he sniffing her shoes? When he let out his breath, he said in a dreamy voice, "The foot is the sexiest part of the body because it's the closest to Mother Earth." Hooo-boy, can you say foot fetishist? Or maybe he's a stalker of women who like to hike because knows that someday they'll be out in the woods, all alone, and he'll be waiting . . . [insert evil laugh here]

My favorite quote I heard in passing while leaving campus at college one day. It went: "I was just getting out my tinfoil so I wouldn't have to walk home alone." Uh, really? Maybe this person had little fairies, wrapped in tinfoil to keep the sun's harmful rays from cooking them to death. Maybe the fairies needed greater warmth than western Washington in the spring could provide. Maybe this person was using the tinfoil as a mirror to keep herself company. Maybe she used it to contact her alien friends in the Mothership hovering just beyond the cloud cover. I dunno, it was just an odd thing to say. But think of the stories you could come up with for it!

The point is, stories are out there everywhere. TV shows, movies, even other books can spark ideas. I once got an entire story out of a music album by Nicholas Gunn. It was called Windwalker's Song (as yet unpublished and unedited) and it was about the Native Americans (Havasupai) living in the Grand Canyon. I got another story idea from C. J. Cherryh's Chanur Saga called Starhawk's Kin (unedited too). Story ideas have been haunting me for years and I got them from everyday occurrences. Some are good, some are okay, but eventually, the great ones came together in a coherent stream of events.

Look around you. If you want to write about something but don't know what, look for those funny quotes; people-watch; heck, go grocery shopping. Story ideas are everywhere!

I'll leave you with these thoughts that I got from my friend Tom Keller: It's early in the year and Congress is arguing over the budget; not all of it, just the piddly little 2% that affects social programs. In the meantime, there's an alien threat looming on the horizon of the Universe. A planetary scientist, Maxwell Sharpe, who has studied extraterrestrial life as a side project to his work with NASA, has a degree in ancient languages and works at the Large Array in New Mexico. What kind of story would you write with those few things?

Science fiction thriller? Paranormal suspense? Or maybe just a tragic comedy? Yeah, sometimes I wonder how our government makes it through each day. Like I said, story ideas are everywhere!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dream Heroes

Sorry for skipping out on you last week. It has been a difficult week for my family and we're just starting to come out of it. Writing sort of gets pushed to the side in the face of familial crises; it's damn near impossible to concentrate on the problems or worlds of my heroes when my own "world" is in jeopardy.

So to make up for it, I've added a few photos of some of the men in my stories. These guys came to me in dreams and just wouldn't go away until I started writing their stories down. The first one was Denarrion Goldencoat and he was cocky, smug and self-assured until he met his lady Lissandra and she threw him for a loop. He told her she was being "too dragon" and she looked at him like he was an idiot. How can a dragon shapeshifter be "too dragon"?

Next came Jeff Lightfoot, an Alpha werewolf (Moon Singer) looking for his perfect mate. It would've been easy except the only way for him to find his mate was through a competition between the females. He's the prince, the heir apparent to the local Pack, and he can't just pick any female he fancies. She must past the Tests to be best for the Pack as his mate. Julianna lights his fire and then some, but does she have what it takes to pass the Tests and claim her male?

Aiden Westmorland showed up recently, dancing naked in a rainstorm in western Colorado. He's a Goddess-blessed human whose wires are a little crossed, but he takes care of most of his needs by tattooing his body. At last count, I believe he has ten intricate designs in various locations over his body and intends on getting more until he reconnects with Moira Callahan, his first love. She, too, is a Goddess-blessed human from a long line of them and there's just something about Aiden that calls to her. Perhaps its his dark, brooding looks and his love of dancing naked in the rain.

The last two heroes I've shown didn't come in a dream, but the first one showed up after I thought a little about his family. Thio Wolffe has three brothers, Nik, Chayse, and Jayson, and a sister, Cynthia, who all have stories of their own (and I'll share them eventually once they're edited). Thio is the sheriff in a small town in southern Nevada near Area 51 and he's had his share of odd goings-on. However, nothing could be stranger than the appearance of a Moon Singer, like him, escaping from the Men In Black of the restricted area. Not only that, but he can't seem to get the pretty female werewolf out of his mind or his house. Who is she? Where is she from? And how the hell did she get stuck in Area 51?

And finally, I give you Jakran Thundersong of the Black Cloud Tribe, King of the Goblins. I know the photographer didn't get his hair right (it's supposed to be white blonde) and they missed his horns, but he's just too beautiful to ignore. One should never ignore a beautiful male, and Tricia McGowan certainly can't when he shows up at Hell's Palace Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada where she works as a cocktail waitress. Jakran showed up after my oldest daughter told me the Goblin King was her best friend. Really? I had to give him a life after that. :)

Those are a few of the heroes (mostly shapeshifter of one sort or another) who have visited me since 2008. Who are your heroes? Do they come in dreams or just randomly show up on romance book covers? Who are your favorites? What do they look like in your mind?