Sorry that I’ve been away from blogging for a while, but between grading, students’ presentations, my own Final Exams and related schoolwork, I’ve been too overworked to get much in the way of writing (for this blog or for myself) done. However, I realize after getting a particularly “hard” rejection letter that I’m probably never going to be much more than a “hobby” writer despite my best efforts. I like different things than what editors and audiences want apparently (as seemingly confirmed by the Rejection Letter that found its way into my inbox not more than 5 minutes ago). What I like are heroes and what’s popular are villains who masquerade as heroes, so with two different competing philosophies, the one who controls the “gate” (aka the “gatekeepers”) win. So be it. Since it looks like I’m not going to be doing this for the “money” and only for the “love,” I intend to do this my way. Rereading a book on writing and the writing process as I brainstormed how I would set up my next class, I came across a simple statement of the writing process that I’m going to adhere to: research, prewriting, drafting, and revision.
Most of the time, I’m inspired to write something based on something external, so I do research, but I don’t really make it a formal step. For instance, All Tomorrow’s Children was inspired by a Special Report on Sky News about Jihadi Brides. However, rather than have a formal “research” period, I took the idea and started writing. I think now I’m going to actually take a period of time (a week, two, whatever is necessary) and find out all I can about that topic.
I generally start here with an outline. I think the outline comes too soon. I think here is where I need character traits, motivations, etc. Once I nail this down, then I think my outline will work better. There’s nothing wrong so much with my plots (to me), but I think my characters leave a lot to be desired. I feel that the characterizations are consistent and adequately explained, but the rejections notices would say otherwise.
Here I think I’m pretty good, although I’ll look for places to get better. I can write a rough draft in a day or two usually, and (when school isn’t too rough), I can write a submission draft in a couple of weeks to a month. Drafting isn’t really a problem, except when life comes pounding at my door, demanding that I do X, Y, and Z all in one day or the entire world will explode–that’s when I don’t do drafting well (as this past Finals Week has illustrated).
Again, I feel I’m pretty good here too, although I feel that I have work to do. I usually only revise or change when I feel it is necessary, but I’m trying to be more receptive to feedback that I get back from editors. There’s a danger in listening to someone who’s rejecting your story as they don’t have a vested interest in seeing it succeed (as opposed to someone who offers to publish it if it is revised. However, I’m trying to submit to markets who seem to give good feedback (say, Cosmic Landscapes) as opposed to markets whose comments have been “nitpicky.” I think this is where going to the Writing Center and running it by a Consultant that I trust is also helpful–it helps me see it with an objective eye, something I can’t do no matter how much time passes between my writing it and my revising it.