Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Persistence

I can't remember who said it, but for a writer to succeed they need two of three things: persistence, skill, and luck.

Notice, I said that you only need two. Not necessarily all three. How cool is that?

If you're reading my writing tips, then you're probably striving hard for skill (by learning all about your craft and improving whenever and however you are able). And let's face it, we don't have much power over luck.

Luck happens.

So that leaves me with persistence, which is the focus of this week's post.

Looking back on previous posts, I've skirted the issue of persistence. To be persistent, you need drive. I can't teach you drive, you must make it for yourself. Do it! Get up off that couch. Sit at your computer. Set a timer, and don't get up until you've accomplished what you strived for.

Simple right?

So you send your short story to a market or you send a query to an agent, and they reject you.

What? Did you say, "They reject you??" Because that's a lie. (Okay, I was going for effect. Did it work?)

Technically, they reject YOUR STORY not YOU.

Hold up your manuscript/cover letter/submission package and repeat after me:

"I am not my story!

Now say it again. I mean it! I'll wait...

...

"I am not my story!

...

Feel better?

Part of persistence is not giving up. Sending out your story over and over (and over) again until it finds a home.

Should I edit the story before I send it out again?

That depends on a few factors. If you received feedback that resonates with you then feel free to adjust the story accordingly.

Has it been months (or years) since you submitted? Chances are you're a better writer now, or it's been so long since you read it that your editing eye will be fresh-as-a-daisy so a quick editing pass might improve the story.

Don't be discouraged. Rejection is part of the gig. According to my short story tracking spreadsheet, as of today, I've had 18 acceptances and 285 rejections for my 304 submissions. (Wait, that doesn't add up. Yes, that's because one story is out at a market and I haven't heard back yet.)

One story out at a market? Is that all? You slacker!!

Guilty. After this blog post, I should probably listen to my own advice and send out a couple of submissions.

Now, you may be asking, "But I'm working on novels, and it'll be months before I'm ready to submit. How does persistence affect me? How do I maintain focus?"

The answer: a bunch of different ways.

Strategies for Persistence

- making resolutions
- establishing the habit
- external motivations
- internal motivations
- structure

Wait a minute...those first two sound awfully familiar!

Guilty again. Yes, those were the first two topics of my writing tips this year: making writing resolutions and establishing the habit of writing every day. They are so important, that I blogged about them first! And I'm re-emphasizing them now because they are a big part of persistence.

Making Resolutions

If you promise yourself that you will meet a certain list of goals, then every day, when you sit down to write, you will have a place to start. Do I need to submit a few stories to meet my goals? Have I written today's word count goal?

Establishing the Habit

If you have been working hard to establish the habit of writing, then you will be sitting down at some point, every day, to write. Make sure you do write. Every day. Really.

External Motivations

We all need a push sometimes. So set up a posse of people who will nudge you when you need it. Did you talk to your partner today about your writing? Is your mother on your case to make something of yourself? Do you have a writers' group meeting in a week and a half and you promised to deliver a story?

Many motivational events for writers occur online. In June and July, a band of writers are participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. In March, there is National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo). In April, there is Script Frenzy. In November, there is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Most of these events are designed to motivate you, to get you setting goals and to meet them.

Internal Motivations

Promise yourself a treat if you meet your goal. The reward can be as simple as: I will go to Starbucks to write, and that means drinking my favourite beverage. Yum! (This one works for me, big time!) Or more long term: If I meet my NaNoWriMo goal, I will buy myself that expensive hardcover book, the one whose plot calls to me, and I cannot wait another year for the paperback edition.

Or swing in the other direction with a little punishment-for-the-crime: If I don't meet my word count today, I can't eat my favourite peanut-butter-cup ice cream for dessert. If I don't submit a story today, I won't be able to watch an hour of TV from my PVR. :(

Structure

I've mentioned before, it's the structure that saves us.

At many conventions, I've heard this advice: make up a series of ready-to-mail envelopes with SASE's inside. Keep a copy of your cover letter on file for each story, so that you can change the editor/publisher info and print a new one quickly. If/when your story comes back rejected, send it right back out again, using your ready-to-sub kit.

Of course, for e-subs, the process is pretty similar.

In my tracking spreadsheet, I list a variety of markets for each story, ready to submit to if/when the story comes back rejected. To decide where to send a story next, I open the spreadsheet, check out which magazine is next, and send the story out.

At this point, you're thinking, "Wow, Suzanne, you've linked to a bunch of previous posts this week!" And you're right. I have. Because so many of the topics I've discussed so far are structural tools that facilitate persistence.

That's right, you need to remember all of the previous content to solve this latest problem. (I used to teach high school math, remember? Yes, this will all be on the test!)

So grit your teeth, rub your hands together, and be persistent. Don't allow lack of motivation, lack of organization, or rejection to stop you from reaching your writing goals.

Do it now
- Stop surfing the internet and write at least 100 new words.
- If you have a story or query letter ready to go, submit it to a market. If it's an e-sub, then send it today. If it's a postal submission, prepare the envelope/package and take it to the post office at your earliest opportunity.

No comments:

Post a comment