Post Gen Con 2015 wrap up

I’m back in sultry South Florida from Gen Con, sitting outside while a cool morning breeze blows through. I’m covered in a sheen of sweat but all things considered, it’s still nice out before the midday sun makes everything undoable. I’m smoking from my new rosewood pipe that I picked up in the dealer hall at the con. It’s filled with filled with Mountain Rose Herbs Smoking Blend, which is a great replacement for tobacco. I’ve also got a nice cup of mint tea sitting next to me and two cats sleeping nearby. In other words, the perfect setup to ruminate on my experience with the 2015 Gen Con.

I’m going to try not to talk about everything I did and just stick to the things that stood out to me. First among them, the Writer’s Symposium. I love the symposium and feel a strong connection with it, being an aspiring fiction writer myself. I tried to take some more advanced courses this time around since I’ve attended a pretty large selection of them at this point. I think Marc Tassin does an excellent job organizing the chaos and keeping everything on track. Maybe it was a fault of mine this year, but I feel like I missed out on some things that were going on that I would have liked to attend. Patrick Rothfuss’s World Builders was a major sponsor this time around and there was a World Builders/Writers Symposium party too, which would have been great to attend and have the opportunity to talk to people. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until afterwards. I’d like to see a regular newsletter for the Writers Symposium that highlights events both during and around the Symposium… a little bit of marketing help could really push things to the next level and help attendees feel better informed. I’m also wondering if maybe the Symposium is growing larger than just the convention itself. I’m not suggesting that it split off or anything, but there may be opportunity for a year-round presence. It could be a central gathering place for writers in the community, a resource for those who want to take their writing to the next level, etc. It’s easy for me to say this I realize, having no responsibility in the matter, but just a couple of thoughts.

In general, most people whom I spoke with, had one or two events had they known about ahead of time, would have absolutely done. I guess it’s just the nature of the convention, which has grown dramatically in recent years. The volume of events is so huge that even the most fastidious eye scanning the program will miss things.

That being said, the two most enjoyable experiences I had at the con were events that I discovered through the recommendation of friends and word of mouth.

The National Security Decision Making Game folks hosted one of these events, called the Cuban Missile Crisis Game: At the Brink: Havana Paranoia. Thirteen players randomly selected roles of real-life Cuban and Soviet actors during the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I got Fidel Castro, which was an intimidating role to play, to say the least. All of the players have their own motivations they’re trying to fulfill and all game play is done by conversing, cajoling, scheming and arguing. That is to say, no dice involved. I’ve never thought much about games of historical recreation or alternate history, but after this experience, I may have to give it a second thought. NSDM does such a good job of keeping things moving without interjecting too much that even for an inexperienced player like myself, it was easy to get into and have a great time with.

The other event, similar in play in that it was more about interacting with people and figuring out their motives, was Two Rooms and a Boom. The premise is simple, there are two teams and two rooms. Players from each team are mixed in both rooms and no one knows immediately who is who. There’s a president, on the blue team and a bomber, on the red team. The red team is trying to make sure that the bomber is in the same room as the president at the end of the game, the blue team obviously, is trying to make sure that’s not the case. There are also other roles that take things to the next level, like a scenario where Romeo and Juliette first need to find one another and then need to find the bomber in order for them to win.

There were other events of course, but these were the real standouts for me. Some of the most fun I had came when I was just hanging out with friends that were there. I’m happy for the experience, it was another exciting con and I’m definitely struggling with some post-con blues. I hope all of you who went and are reading this enjoyed yourselves too, see you next time!

Nobody likes me! Dealing with short story rejection

Rejection.
That’s what I got on Friday night.
After dinner with my in-laws, just before we left I went to the bathroom and checked my email and saw this:

Dear Mr. Hall,

Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately at this time, it does not meet our needs.

Sincerely,

Slush Editor

For a moment, I was stunned. And then slowly progressed into feeling crushed.
The story that I had loved, conceptualized, written, cleaned up, edited, had numerous rounds of beta readers look over, and then finally mustered up my courage to send had been declared unfit. And the slush reader had done it with a form letter, no less.
My ego had just been sat upon… no, shat upon, by an elephant. My partner and I started the drive back to our house and halfway home, I broke the news to her.
“Oh no, that’s awful honey, I’m so sorry.”
“I just feel like it was a really good fit for that magazine, you know?”
“Maybe it just didn’t fit in with what they have planned for the next little bit…”
“That’s not something that slush readers usually are informed about. They’re kind of the first line against unsolicited submissions.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah. They just decide whether something is ‘go’ or ‘no go’. So apparently to this person, this story was a ‘no go’.”

I tried not to let it get to me, not to erode some of the confidence that I had been feeling about this story. But there’s a lot that I have connected with this. After returning to writing in my 30’s, I feel the pressure of a ticking clock. I have goals and I work hard to achieve them.
But life also gets in the way. On top of that, I’ve had a long-standing battle with chronic depression that has the ability to drain the flavor from anything that I have passion for. This is what lead me to not even touch my first novel this year, to completely stop edits. It also killed my second novel midway through.
In the past couple months, I’ve been feeling a little better though, and I decided to pick through some old short stories that I had written and then set aside.
One was this one. And like a magic spell, I put all of my hopes and all of my intent into it as I put it out into the universe.
So I came home and tweeted this out:

And I got back some encouragement from some friends, which was all I really needed.

Here’s the thing, using the spell metaphor, this is among my first spells. I’m still a novice when it comes to threading my voice into the web of the world and making it change. If one of my threads is just slightly off, the spell won’t happen as intended. So no, while this post may have looked like a boo hoo pity party, it’s not. This is me saying, it’s okay. It’s one story and it was one market. I know every experienced writer out there is going to say, ‘so what? I eat rejections for breakfast!’ And my response is first, that’s a terrible breakfast, but secondly, that’s the attitude that every novice needs to have. And that’s why, early the following morning, I tweeted out this:

And it probably won’t be the last market I submit to for this particular story either. I’m hoping I get more than a form letter but I understand that magazines are overrun with folks like me. Folks who lob our thought-crap at them, and then look in dewy-eyed askance for acceptance.
So what am I doing? Writing another short story while I wait, lining up the next couple of markets (thanks to Duotrope for making it easy). And making plans for my novels, trying to get those behemoths rolling again.

Energy begets energy, words beget words

All right, how’s everyone’s 2014 shaping up so far? Pretty good, right? Words flying out of you like a spastic colon? Excellent, excellent.

Wait, you in the back, muttering under your breath, what was that?

You’re still in a post-holiday slump? Two weeks after the holidays have finished?

Don’t feel bad, I am too. The good news is, I’m writing. The bad news is that it’s been in drips and dribbles. After experiencing the firehose that was my November (yep, I did Nanowrimo this year and even made a helpful spreadsheet to simulate the Nano experience year-round that you can have for free), my December, and first part of January have felt less than stellar.

From wikimedia commons.
From wikimedia commons.

I think it’s okay though. I mean, this is all part of the creative experience, right? The hardest thing, I’ve found is getting back in the swing of things after you’ve taken a break. This is true of exercise, diets, writing and competitive trampoline ping-pong.

So go easy when you’re getting back into it. Start slow and for fuck’s sake, go easy on yourself too! I’ve been doing a lot of beating myself up lately. I have nearly two books finished, but I’ve been editing one for over a year now. The editing/rewriting process is challenging, the first draft process is challenging. The thinking that other people might hate me if I peak my head from under the covers and share my words thing is challenging. We all go through it. Even people who seem like megalomaniacs. Probably especially them.

I’ve been laid up for a little while thanks to a broken ankle. I’m not into crossfit or combat dancing or anything, generally I just go for walks. And not being able to walk has put a damper on my energy levels. This has fed into my writing energy too. It’s crazy what a little exercise can do for you. And it’s crazy to sit down and just feel exhausted by the idea of creating.

But there’s one consolation, even though my output has been small, it’s promoting more output. Each day I sit down, even if it’s to write just a handful of words, it’s easier the following day.

Hope your new year is going well, and I hope that it continues with steady progress.

 

For the writer’s toolbox – QueryTracker

This one probably lands squarely in the ‘no-duh’ category for most writers who have considered, or are succeeding at, the traditional publishing route but it was new for me. And hell, if it’s new to me then there are probably plenty of others out there who haven’t heard of it yet either.

qt QueryTracker is an online database for people looking for an agent or publisher for their book. I discovered it recently in an online workshop run by Carrie Cuinn (thanks Carrie!).  She’s also running a workshop at the end of October about plotting short stories that I may end up taking as well, find out more here.

I’ve only just begun to poke around QueryTracker but I like what I see so far and for a free membership, you can’t beat the price (premium option available). There’s also a fairly active forum and a blog that gets updated pretty regularly.

Nutella and tears – I try to learn how to hold my horses

Last week I wrote with some bravado about how I was ready to start submitting the book to agents and publishers. I even offhandedly said, “I have some rewrites on the horizon from the feedback I get from beta readers but those will happen fairly quickly, I think.”

To which I now respond, haha. HAHAHAHA.

HAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA HAHHAHAAHAHAHHAH AHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA HAHHAHAAHAHAHH AHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH HAHAHAHAHH AHAAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HA HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

And so on.

Because, as it turns out, I’m going to need a lot more work than I had originally thought. How much? Well, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one. But here’s where the book sits now: I have a full manuscript that has been edited. It has some plot holes and is in need of more line edits than I have given it so far.

The other issue is that I need to take my secondary character, Isa and turn her into the protagonist.oh-shit-o She wrestled constantly with my current protagonist, Joe while I was writing the first draft. Since this was the first book I had ever written, I thought this was a natural part of the process and didn’t recognize it for what it was, a HUGE flashing warning sign. One that said, “hey asshole! You can’t ride a tyrannosaurus down this highway! It’s too big and it’s from a different dimension!”

I rode my dinosaur apace, snarling at the passing motorists.

So now I’m going through and creating a summary for every chapter. Something that hits the bullet points about what’s happening so that I can look through and say, tear out 10,000 words while weeping hysterically and shoveling fistfulls of Nutella from the jar into my mouth.

But everything’s fine, no really! ::barfs into hat::

Seriously though, while this does mean some more work, potentially a lot of work, I’ve never felt in a better place to pull it off. It’s just another part of the learning process and it’s helping me understand what it truly means to be a writer.