Waiting For Rejection…Or Selection!

As Writers, We Spend A Lot of Time Waiting

Tomorrow, after weeks and weeks, the mentees for PitchWars 2018 will be announced. I didn’t enter this year, but I have many friends who did. (Best of luck!)

Meanwhile, in the next week or so, I’ll find out if my panel submissions from last month, for World Fantasy Con, appealed to the schedule coordination team.

And sometime, in the short term future, I’ll hear back from the agent who requested my full (manuscript) a couple months ago.

You know? As a writer, I’ve pretty much always got at least one project going, or at least projects I could be working on. Even when I’m not in the middle of one story, I’m either planning my next story, editing my old ones, or beta-reading for my critique partners. So, you’d think with all this activity, I wouldn’t notice how much time I spend waiting.

Half in terror, half in hope. Will I be found worthy?

And, the strange part is, I’m a little bit scared either way.

It makes sense to fear rejection.

Rejection hurts.

Your work, that you’ve poured your hopes and dreams into for months or years has been measured, weighed, and found wanting.

It’s easy to blame:

  • your query
  • your writing
  • your plotting
  • your incorrect read on the actual tastes of the mentor/agent/Editor/etc you submitted to
  • or — you know — maybe it’s just the market

It can feel like you’re never going to find someone to believe in you–who can actually take you to that next level, careerwise.

For those panels I submitted? There are famous authors, professional editors of publishing houses, and quality agents on their panels.

  • What makes me feel that I’m qualified to talk as if I were an actual professional?
  • I didn’t know who to submit with me
    • maybe they won’t put my panel suggestions on the schedule because they don’t know who else to put on the panel
    • they’d rather not have a ‘panel’ turn into a lecture/Q&A session with a no name.

For those of you querying agents, I know your fears.

  • Silence
  • Form rejection letters
  • Requests from agents that leave the industry before responding
  • Rejected R&Rs (revise and resubmit letters)

But. There’s another side to our fears.

What If I *Am* Selected?

For those of you PitchWars hopefuls — the ones still clinging to hope — I know your fears.

  • What if you ARE selected and you can’t measure up?
  • Why you, when you see so many other talented writers that didn’t get selected?
  • What if you work as hard as you can, do everything you’re asked, and the agents still ignore you?

The mentor saw something in you, saw something they knew how to fix in your manuscript, and either way, your story will improve and you’ll have learned so much!

If you get an agent, I know those fears, too.

  • What if the agent can’t find a publisher?
  • What if you’ve chosen a bad agent who neglects you?
  • What if your agent doesn’t ‘get’ your story and tries to change it into something else?
  • What if your agent leaves the industry and you’re dumped back into the cold-query piles?

And for me? With those panels potentially at the end of the month?

  • What if I get up there and talk over all the experienced panelists?
    • (I know me. I wish I’d be tongue-tied, but I tend to babble when nervous)
  • What if I *am* the only panelist?
  • What if I can’t gather my thoughts and sound like a fool?
  • What if there are belligerent panelists who antagonize me?

It’s easy to make lists of fears. But eventually, most of them boil down to one thing, and one thing only:

Facing Impostor Syndrome

Getting to the next stage in our writing careers is a great recipe for Impostor Syndrome. And the only way past that is to fake-it-til-you-make-it.

Prepare as hard as you can, do your homework, and try your best.

And in the meantime, finish editing that thing you were working on.


Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

I’m wishing all of you the BEST of luck, with your PitchWars or agent or publisher queries and submissions.

P.S. Let me know I’m not alone in these fears, that I’m not just projecting my fears on the rest of you.

Didn’t I Used To Be An Extrovert?

The past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend–in myself. I’ve been wanting to stay home and not deal with going out. I’ve been not wanting to host big, complicated events, and it was usually okay if people came to me. Although, lately, I’ve been craving smaller and smaller groups. Of worse? Wanting to stay home, on my couch, alone.

But wait, I thought I was an extrovert. Was I was wrong? My entire identity has fallen into crisis!

  • Maybe I was never an extrovert and was always an ambivert?
    • That’s definitely what I consider myself now.
  • Maybe my extroverted-ness was influenced by my nearest and dearest?
    • Thank you, exes.
  • Maybe it was my age?
    • Do extroverts get less extroverted when they get older?
  • Maybe, I’m more into my writing and don’t have the energy anymore?
    • My new ‘hobby’ might be taking the energy extroverting used to.
  • Maybe, I’m simply overscheduled
    • If I just made time to rest, surely I’d be back to normal in a week or so and craving socialization.

And then, a couple weeks ago, it dawned on me, like a person remembering to turn their sound back on after they miss a couple text messages: Social. Media. Is. SOCIAL.

Let me say that again. Social Media Is Social.

Okay, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes at the obviousness of this statement.

But wait, the internet is supposed to be a ‘cheater’ way for introverts to reach out without depleting their energy, right?

Apparently, it depends on how you do it. And how much social media you take part in.

You’d think the blogger who literally wrote the (or at least ‘a’) series on social media (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5, 6) might have noticed sooner, but no.

When one tries to continually network and keep up with all the recommended social media best practices, one can stretch themselves a little too thinly. Who knew?

Now, my loyal readers, I’m sure you’re starting to fear this is about to turn into a social media hiatus or blog-cation. Calm thyselves, I’m far more of an addict than that.

But, next time I turn down an invitation to go out, I’ll know who to blame.


Readers, talk to me!

Am I the only one? Or do you find yourself peopled out because of the internet?

How To Beta-Read: One Writer’s Version

I almost entitled this “Beta-Reading: For Fun and Profit” but… I don’t usually profit. At least not monetarily.

I do a fair amount of beta-reading and/or critiquing. One can argue that beta-reading is commenting as a reader, where a critique is focused on craft-level commentary, but honestly, I do both. So, I’m not really going to break them out for the purposes of this post.

I read queries (obviously), synopses, short stories, essays, blog-posts, and, of course, novels. I’ve even been known to critique a non-fiction article, and the recipient claimed my excessive feedback useful, although frustrating because they believed they were closer to done than that…but I digress.

I beta-read for people in the writing groups I participate in, people who have beta-read for me, and for family members. (Or people who submit a query for critique to my QueryCorner at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com)

You’d probably think that my beta-reading follows the survey that I send my own beta-readers. And… you’d be wrong. I follow it about as much as my own beta-readers do.

I use it as a guideline, and I generally keep the concepts in my head, but unless specifically asked, my commentary goes a bit sideways.

That said, what does Morgan’s beta-reading feedback look like?

1 – I can’t skip line edits

Okay, that’s probably a lie. IF, (and only if) I’m sending a single paragraph of general impressions after reading a partial or a short story, I can usually restrain myself.

But? If I’m going line-by-line and putting commentary in there? You’re gonna get at least some grammar edits, word-choice suggestions, and (for right-or-wrong) some comma movement.

2 – I’ll tell you when my eyes glaze over

I am predominantly plot driven. Or emotional journey driven? I want to know what is happening to the main character, what they’re feeling about it, and what they’re going to do next.

If you dwell on backstory, elaborate descriptions, or even fling too much action at me– scene after scene–I’m gonna toss in a note saying something.

I try to be kind, especially if it’s well-written. But you’re gonna see something like, “Can you filter in what she’s doing/feeling during this?” Action filtered into description or backstory helps move the story, emotional processing helps slow the story during too much action. Finding a balance? Is hard.

Pacing is tricky, so I want to help as much as possible.

3 – I’ll point out inconsistencies

I know I’m not getting your rough draft (I hope), and when you edit, sometimes you change things in most places… I’ll point out the spots you missed. Or things you didn’t mention earlier.

4 – I’ll say when you break my suspension of disbelief

If a character starts acting inconsistently? Or wolves show up where lions should be? I’ll say something.

If something or someone doesn’t fit my view of your world, I’ll let you know. It’s up to you to delete it, change it, or set it up better so it fits.

5 – I’ll applaud well-phrased sentences

Be it description, dialogue, or narration, a clever turn of phrase or beautiful imagery will get a shout out from me.

6 – I’ll start talking to your characters

Writing fiction? I have a low bar for getting sucked into stories and swept away by characters.

I’ll start cheering for your characters, putting in guesses about untold backstory and future plot points — both for me to find out if I’m right and so you can see what sort of thoughts your set up has inspired.

And? If I stop putting in edits and start just commenting on your characters and the plot? You’ve got 100% buy-in from me. Your story, my friend, is working.


***

Now, my questionnaire has more points than that, and sometimes I even remember to summarize my feelings on plot/pacing/and characterization at the end of each chapter. But, in general, this is how I edit.

Plus? I’m plot driven. Once I start, it’s unusual for it to take me more than 3 days to get through a piece, unless I don’t get time in the evening to sit down in front of my computer.


***

Have you beta-read? What sort of feedback do you give?
Is there something I should be doing that I’m not? Let me know!

One Method For Incorporating Feedback In Your Writing

If you’re a writer, at some point between you putting the words down and it going out to its intended audience, you’re probably going to solicit some feedback (and if you don’t, you probably should).

Be it from one or all of these:

  • an alpha reader
  • a flock of beta readers
  • a writing group
  • a critique partner
  • a paid editor
  • an agent
  • an acquiring Editor for a publishing house
  • or your mom

you’re likely going to receive some feedback other than, “I loved it! Don’t change a thing!”

But, when that feedback is more nebulous or overarching than typos and wording, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Here are the 6 steps I follow when receiving reader feedback

Step 1 – Read the feedback

You’d think it would go without saying, but it’s easy to get ticked off three comments in, decide that the person who sent the feedback totally doesn’t get your book, your genre, and might not read your language, and storm off.

Luckily, I can calm my knee-jerk reactions by subscribing to what I call:

Morgan’s Rule Of Thirds

  • 1/3rd is line and copy edits – easy to fix or skip if it’s a stylistic thing or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
  • 1/3rd is where the reader didn’t get your story and/or your writing style. You can probably ignore these. (But, don’t delete them just yet….)
  • 1/3rd is the stuff that you thought you’d fixed, but really? You’d just painted over it and called it ‘good enough’.
    • These issues are typically related to the tricky things like:
      • motivation
      • set-up
      • emotional impact

Step 2 – Give yourself time to cool off

Sit on the feedback for a couple hours, or days, or weeks. However much time you need before you open it back up, and can face it without your ego screaming.

Step 3 – Analyse the feedback and fix the little things

Maybe this should be two steps, but as I go through, line-by-line, I usually fix the little things- even if they might get deleted later. The typos and line-edits, so that the feedback is reduced to something I can actually process, without the noise of all the little stuff.

Look not only at WHAT the feedback is saying but WHERE it’s saying it. The reader might have given you edits telling you how to fix it. They are only SUGGESTIONS, not fixes. But look at the scene, the paragraph. Maybe there is something confusing, maybe it wasn’t set up properly and that’s why the reader got confused, maybe you need to move the scene.

Is there some way that you can make it so the way you had it was inevitable — given the world, characters, and issues? Is there a better way to change it, so that the pieces come together more smoothly?

The reader might be wrong about how to fix it, but they often know WHERE something needs to be fixed.

Step 4 – Make the edits

This is where you make the complicated changes — cutting or moving scenes or characters, fixing pacing, adding tension, condensing backstory.

Whatever you’ve decided needs to be done — taking suggestions and doing with them as you will.

Step 5 – Reread and blend the new stuff with the old

Whether you’ve used the suggested wording from your reader or your own phrasing, edits don’t always fit in smoothly with the rest of the manuscript.

After you’ve agonized over the feedback, debated how to integrate it, and finessed it with all of your skills, it’s still gonna need a bit more polish.

You’re gonna need to re-read the lead up THROUGH the outro of the sections you’ve revised. Along the way, you’re looking for:

  • continuity errors
  • awkward phrasing
  • scene pacing
  • repetitious paragraphs or phrases (my favorite)
    • The number of times I’ve added a paragraph to emphasize something, then found I’d already had it in there, nearly word for word a page later — where it fit better in the pacing… Well, let’s just say it’s more than a handful of times.

Step 6 – Send it out again

I like to send it to 2 types of people

  1. People who have read it before, to make sure I didn’t break anything
  2. A new reader, to make sure the confusion points were actually fixed

I write fantasy, so there’s a lot of world building involved, but even if you don’t, you may want to do this. An old reader can spot a lot, but they can’t tell if you’re introducing everything in the right order — soon enough as to minimize confusion, but slow enough as to not overwhelm the reader.

You can only have someone read your story for the first time, once. After that, your world starts to become familiar territory.

***

And that’s it. That’s my editing process. For each and every round.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post – ’cause I’m ready for step 5 with my current revisions!


Do you have any editing tricks that I missed?

Anything you prefer to do differently?