Morals, Rejection, Projects–Oh my!

I am probably the ∞th person to use the phrase from the great film “The Wizard of Oz”. I took it, changed it up a bit and made it my own. Sort of. This is a really bad example of what writers do. Or what I’ve read writers do. I’m not really sure what “real writers” do any way. I know a few on Facebook who actually reply to me (and like my status on occasion!) so I suppose I could ask them.

But this post is already boring, right? You don’t want to read me jabbering away! I don’t either!

I think this must be an issue with some of my writing (other junior writers listen up!). I write a lot of my own thoughts in my writing. According to Donald Maas (who politely declined to be my agent) the best part of the fiction is you. You are the best thing you can put into your fiction. Now, this doesn’t mean making your character like pistachio pudding (YUM!) because you do. No, it means that your point of view is the most unique thing about you. A good writer makes that point of view accessible to a wider audience. Pretty cool power, hu? Imagine being such a good communicator that 50% of people who read you nod and say, “Ah, yeah, I get it.” Oh, to have such power! That power is your voice. Or your words. Whichever.

Sometimes finding your voice is hard though. I literally didn’t have mine figured out until last year. I just turned 25 and thank goodness I figured that out! I thought I knew it when I was 17. I was positive I knew my voice when I was 21. But it wasn’t until I moved to Ohio and was literally writing every day (no, literally) that I found my voice. I had to practice, use other people’s words, make them my own, and then realize I was ditching them because I liked my ideas better.

imagine how much better a writer I would be today if I had practiced every day from when I was 17? I feel like my stories (which get revisions unlike these blog posts) would be masterful. I’d be head maven of the order of the bards! Well, okay not really. I look at my rejections as a challenge now. No, I don’t have it all figured out and did cry a little when I got another one the other day. But you know what? It takes about 50+ rejections to make me stop writing and only one to get you in. That’s the reality I had to remember when sighing sadly at all those rejections. I can take a million of those. But one in (with an agent or publisher) and that is a far greater step forward than one rejection will ever be. But I think it’s my voice still.

A friend of mine read a short story that I was particularly proud of. He liked some of the characters, said the story was good, wanted more of the fantasy element I was creating, but said that my main character’s moral filter was bothersome, condescending, and mine. Yes, he said that every time my POVC made a judgment call, it was mine coming through. If this had been the first time it happened with a story, I may have let it go. But people have been saying I have bad writing because I have a POVC who wants to cut his ties from his druggy friend who treats him like dirt. Now, I cannot make excuses for failings in my writing, but this “goodness” in my POVC was his flaw too. He was almost sunk and sucked into a downward spiral that would ruin his life because he could not cut off this friend and live his own life. But he had to make the decision to be a badass, ditch the jerk, and start anew. To me, that was a nice moment and a good character development section. And yes. They were my morals (I’m not a fan of drugs since some friends of mine were hospitalized by a high driver who walked free) but this story was not about that. It was about my poor POVC growing a spine and leaving someone who was toxic and manipulative.

Aaaaaand, I have no time to write about projects. But that’s okay.

Junior writers, my fellows, don’t sacrifice yourself in your writing to please the masses. You will always, ALWAYS, piss someone off. “Utopia” by Thomas Moore pisses me off. But I love that book. It’s my favorite thing to get into a heated discussion over. Read things that piss you off. Read things that challenge you (in a good, healthy way). Read things that will make you stare off into the distance thinking about. Don’t read to be stroked and told what a good, smart person you are. You already know you’re awesome. Reading is for brave people who want to be challenge.

Rejection and Going After It Again, Wondering If I’m Just That Bad

I’ve had a short story going around for only about a month now. It’s been rejected five times now. I’m not sure if I need to fix or if I’m just sending it to people who don’t want Steampunk right now because all I get back are the generated “thanks but no thanks” emails. My professors said that sometimes they people who reject you will tell you why and give you feedback. That’d be nice but without it, I’m going to assume the story is fine and is just written in a difficult genre that no one in the mainstream wants to read. One day, I think Steampunk will be popular, just not yet. Despite the millions of creative outlets it has.

So imagine how utterly down I feel now when I read this story from one online magazine I submitted to and think it’s probably one of the worst micro fictions I’ve read. Then I read that the author was the one who beat me out of the Simon451 contest too and is having his book published. I scratched my head and wondered, “Why do people publish this stuff?” My blogs are not fancy or poetic, but I’d like to think my short stories are pretty good. I can’t say, “Yes, they’re prize winners!” because I’m not sure. I just write what I like and what matters to me in the best way I can with attention to what may be “good” writing.

Sometimes I whine too much because I feel like I used to back when I would go swimming in the ocean. No matter how hard I swam against the waves and the current, I couldn’t ever get back to where I had started out. No matter the effort, no matter how much I nearly passed out from lack of air, I could never get back to the same point. I was too small and the ocean was too strong. Not that I’m not a good swimmer, I am. I’m just not an athletic swimmer. So because I am not that swimmer I could not win.

I have class tonight and I’m going to make the best out of it. I’m going to learn what I can and hope that one day I make it. I have plans, I have dreams, and all I can do is what I’m sure some other writers like me have done: Keep writing. I don’t want anything I do to be a waste. I think I’m a good writer and I love what I write. To those of you like me out there–grad students, baby writers, dreamers–stay with me on this one. We’ve got this.