Tag Archives: writing habits

How many rejections does it take?

Writers who’ve been writing long enough know that rejection is as much a part of writing as weight training and conditioning is to an athlete. It’s just part of the process. A-listers get less rejection because they often generate so much revenue for publishers they can pretty much do what they want and the publisher will take it…pretty much. But rejection can hurt.

Rejection is tough for any writer but it is especially hard on young writers, or those just beginning their writing journey…just as conditioning is harder for an athlete when they first get started; it’s gets easier the longer they persevere. Although we know it in our brilliant writer’s heart that rejection isn’t personal, it feels that way. The form letters—which are more common than not—are the ones that hurt the most. We’ve taken the time to a)write the book, b)research the publisher and their product, c)find out who the/an editor is, d)write them a very personal letter explaining how great our book is and why they should want to buy it. So when the response comes back as a form letter…it hurts.

Ask any writer and they will tell you how excited they were when they discovered “a hand written note” at the bottom of a form rejection. It’s still a form rejection, but we feel that someone at least did notice us; that even though our voices are screaming out in the void, someone cared enough to hear that voice and acknowledge it.

Of course, some writers out there only submit once or twice, thus greatly diminishing their chances of acceptance. Depending on who you listen to or what/where you read, there’s some wild percentages that suggest you must submit (and thus receive rejections) X number of times before you get that acceptance. Some suggest the percentages are in the 90% and higher range. I don’t have any idea—that’s too much math for me. But when I think of rejections and acceptance, I’m reminded of the old lolly-pop commercial, you know, the one with the owl and the kid. The kid asks the wise owl how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop? The owl proceeds to give it a lick or two and then bites in.

So, how many acceptances does it takes to cancel out the multitude of rejections?

One.

It only take one acceptance to cancel out the hurt of all the previous rejections…no matter how many there were.

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More misteaks by writers

Before you start leaving comments that I misspelled “mistakes” as the title of this blog…yes, I know I did. Thank you…read on.

So, many of you responded that you liked the mistakes part 1…so I present part 2 (who knows, there may be many parts to this idea!).

Continuing the possessive issues, we come next to there/their. These two words are probably mistaken more than either its/it’s or your/you’re. There is a pointer and their is possessive. It was their mistake to make (meaning the mistake belonged to them, of course). “Over there is their car,” means that the car that belongs to them is in that place. “There is a lot of hot air on this page,” means this page contains a lot of hot air. Many times this mistake is often just a mistake, a typo. However, be sure that you know the difference.

Use/used is a lot like suppose/supposed I mentioned in part 1. Most seem to use it correctly when calling something “not new,” as in, it is used. Likewise, most get it right when it is used instructionally as in “be sure to use the left blinker.” The problems seem to come up when a writer wants to put in the place of a historical action: “he used to live on the corner.” To say “he use to live on the corner,” is incorrect.

Since possessives often need the apostrophe, I figure I’ll bring a common incorrect usage of apostrophes. Many writers try to force apostrophes into dates. Thus the year in “the 1930s was a time of incredibly financial hardship,” does not need an apostrophe even though many, many writers try to include them there. The same is said for “ABCs,” it does not need an apostrophe.

Now, here’s a side note on the above. It used to be (as in “once was”) common practice to place an apostrophe in examples like above. Thus, 1920’s, ABC’s, 6’s, etc. However, time has changed the use so that so that we don’t do that unless the meaning would be unclear otherwise. Thus, my kids make “A’s and B’s,” not “As and Bs” is correct because the “As” would be confusing (it would look like the word “as”).

Okay, more next time.

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Common misteaks made by writers

I once wrote a newspaper editorial about making mistakes. I wrote it because I’d made a mistake in the newspaper a week or two before and I felt really bad about it. It was an honest mistake. However, the person affected by the mistake came into the newspaper office and really let me have it; said I shouldn’t make mistakes because I have a degree. Well, degree(s) or not, I still err like anyone else. I put it online for all to see, and if you want to read it, go here. It’s a little difficult to read and it was an attempt at humor (you can decide whether I was successful or not).

But that made me think about mistakes that I see often from writers. So, I thought I’d blog about that…maybe I’ll hit on something that even you weren’t aware of…editing this, I see it will take more than one…so consider this part 1.

One of the quickest ways to get tossed off an editor’s desk is first, format. Follow the directions for formatting. There is a general standard, but not all publishers are alike. Failing to follow their formatting guidelines proves you didn’t do your homework and that you don’t really care what they want. Thus, if you don’t care, why should they?

Next is work that is replete with errors. When submitting to a professional publication that you’d like them to pay you money for your work, yes, even one single solitary error will affect your submission. Proof, again and again.

So, what are some of the no-brainers of errors? Here are a few:

A lot of writers use “suppose” when they really need “supposed.” The first is in essence, thinking. “I suppose we could go there,” or “Do you suppose they arrived safely?” While the latter can be the past tense of the former (“We supposed they arrived safely.”), it is most often used to mean should have. “He was supposed to go today,” or, “You are supposed to stop at a red light.” I’ve seen many writers use the former in those situations. Thus, “He was suppose to go there,” is incorrect. As is “You are suppose to stop at a red light.” Both of these incorrect examples should use “supposed.”

Its/it’s often gives writers fits. The easiest way to remember the difference here is, the apostrophe takes the place of an “I” and means it is. Its is possessive. It’s (see, it is) one of those possessive exceptions in that it is possessive and yet doesn’t use an apostrophe. Thus “It’s a long time until Christmas,” is actually “It is a long time until Christmas.” Whereas “What will you do with its wheel,” is possessive. Meaning the wheel belongs to something (presumably a car…or maybe a bike…or wagon).

Another easy one that writers shouldn’t get wrong is your/you’re. As in the its/it’s case, the former (your) is possessive and the later (you’re) has an apostrophe in place of a missing letter—in this case, “a.” Thus, “This is your blog,” means the blogs belongs to me (possessive). While “You’re going to run over your word count” (see how I got them both in one sentence?) means “You are going to run over your word count,” and the “your” indicates that word count belongs to me.

And, as this has gotten long, I’ll write more mistakes later!

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Not feeling creative?

What do you do when you don’t feel creative? I’m not talking to those folks who don’t feel creative ever! I’m talking to those whose job requires them to be creative from 9-5…and then some. And I’m not talking about writer’s block. Regular visitors here know that I think writer’s block is just a way for a writer to be lazy…but I’ve already made that argument.

No, what I’m talking about are those days that you get up and stare and the computer and just don’t want to mess with your hero. You’ve got these ideas running around, but you don’t want to put them down and move them around like a puzzle. You don’t want to have that conversation with the antagonist that will give you insight into his motivation. Again, I’m not talking about the normal hesitations or anxieties writers feel when tackling tasks like that. I mean when your want to ain’t doing what it’s supposed to do.

I had a day like that recently. It coincided with laundry day and so I blamed it on the laundry all day. But then when I sat down that night to write in my journal, I just didn’t want to. I mean, I had stuff to add—Brittany and Brett supply an endless stream of journal material. I just didn’t want to do it.

It scared me a bit.

I got over it (I’m writing this, aren’t I?). But it did make me wonder what sort of strategies I should take to get the want-to back in gear. Often, I just shift to something else (writing wise, I mean). Sometimes I get up and do the dreaded house and yard work that I certainly don’t want to do. I find that doing some of the chores gets my mind going and prepped for writing. Mowing the lawn, as much as I dread it, is a good chunk of time when I can just let ideas cook without interruption. I don’t think writers cook their ideas much anymore—too big of a hurry to get it out there.

Another thing I do is read. Actually, reading is probably the number one strategy for me to get the want-go going again. The funny thing is, I find that I’m inspired by all kinds of writing. I’m inspired by the good stuff because I want to be able to replicate things that they’ve done. I find that even the bad stuff inspires me in a couple of different ways: 1) I think if it can get published, then my work can; 2)I want to be sure when I write it doesn’t come out that that!

Thoughts?

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Writing = habit?

Is writing simply a habit? I’ve written before in this very space that I’m an addictive kinda guy…and addictions are those things that we continue to do. We often even say we do things because of “force of habit.” Further, I once had a preacher continue to remind the congregation that it takes 30 days of repetition to form a habit (he was trying to get on a healthy kick by exercising and was counting the days)…so, is writing little more than a habit?

Writers find that just about anyone they’ll listen to talk about writing will tell them to get a regular place and a regular time. We’re talking repetition, here. When I tell my sports teams and my kids that if they want to improve at something they must do it over and over again…ie., practice, I’m talking about repetition. Repetition is good. Does repetition mean habit?

Those in-the-know will also tell us writer-types to get a regular place in which we do our writing. If you write well while sitting in the front porch swing built by great-grandpa, then do it…but do it every day, at the same time. When I was working on my first novel, we were in Loretto, Tenn. at the time and I got into the habit of sitting in my front porch swing each morning and reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the time there got me good and warmed up to write.

Until it became winter, that is. Then it was just cold.

And my repetition stopped. I was extremely irritated, too.

When we try to teach students how to study better, we tell them we want them to improve their study “habits.” Wouldn’t we rather say study “skills?” Don’t we think of habits as those good and bad things we can’t stop doing? Like the bad habit of chewing with your mouth open…or the good habit of letting people onto the highway in heavy traffic. So, if “studying” is a bad habit, what student wants that? And if it is a good habit…well, what student wants that either? Most students would rather have the good habit of watching tv!

So, if we write regularly at pretty much the same time and place, does that make the writing simply a habit? At what point does habit become…something more? And once a habit has “graduated,” what does it become?

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