Writing Without Fear of Criticism and Judgment

I had a short story published this past fall season I failed to mention in my blog—but I did add a link to it on my website.  At first, I wasn’t aware the literary magazine had published it yet.  They informed me several months later that they posted it.  I was thrilled to have my first short story published within a literary magazine.  The magazine operates out of U.S. collegiate chapters from schools such as Yale University and University of North Carolina.  I would have blogged about it, but I worried a little about what others would think if they read my story.

People often say that they’ve reached a point in their lives where they just don’t care about what others think of them.  That may be true for some but not all.  Most people do care about what sort of impression they leave on others.  I’ve read about some famous writers who were a little embarrassed at first after having their work published.

When you share your writing with others, you’re exposing a part of your soul to them.  It leaves you vulnerable and open to criticism.

I prefer to write dark or disturbing material.  When I read, I typically gravitate towards stories about controversy, tragedy, and loss.  I have read and written some stories that involve loathsome characters carrying out vile misdeeds.  I write what I would want to read and I know there’s an audience for these kinds of stories.  There are people out there who seek and devour these wildly imaginative and creative works, which are thrilling reads from start to finish.  Some people pass judgment finding these writings depraved, especially if these fall within the genre of horror.

The worry about what readers might think comes from the concern that people will believe the work is a reflection of the author’s character.  This is untrue.  It is actually a peek into the writer’s imagination.  Anyone who could ever believe that an author could condone any such behavior—just because she wrote about it—is utterly obtuse.  One’s artwork expresses the depth of one’s inventiveness and originality.  It’s an expression of how one might view the world, or it’s a story that someone might have had to write as an act of catharsis because it’s too compelling not to share.

At the start of his career, Stephen King was a little embarrassed about his writing because of its subject, but he got over it quickly because it was what he wanted to write and nothing else mattered.  I also read about how Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” caused much controversy when it was widely read in The New Yorker.

When a writer taps into her queendom of imagination and bares her soul to the world by sharing her creation with others, she is doing the craft justice.  Her writing is honest.  To hold back or dilute her work out of fear of criticism or judgment would reduce the effectiveness and value of the piece, not to mention lead to bland, weak, and often forgettable material.

What a complete waste of the writer and reader’s time.

No matter what you do, as long as someone can consume your artwork—figuratively speaking, of course—there will always be a person out there who will have a problem with what you create.

Writing should be about artistic expression, putting a piece of yourself down on paper because it’s a world that exists inside your creative vision.  You’ve scoped out the artistic landscape within your mind, you’ve carved out a story to tell that’s just been rolling around repeatedly in your head shaping and reshaping itself until it’s just right, and you’ve unearthed a treasure you should share with the world because it’s the best of its kind to your credit.

Writer’s Block

This is what I dread most about writing.  It’s not all the work that goes into writing.  I love writing.  I love when it flows out of me.  I love when I have so much to write for a project.  I love rewriting multiple drafts, too.  It’s not the rejections I receive either.  The awful writer’s block fills a person with so much despair she nearly wants to give it up altogether.

I’m presently stuck in a writing rut where I am unable to make progress on any of my current writing projects.  I began working on completing the first draft of a thriller I started two years ago.  I have about 47,000 words written already, but the process of adding to this manuscript has been painfully difficult.

I have four poetry submissions I’m waiting to hear about and two short story submissions.  I have seven queries to literary agents about my first novel I’m also waiting to hear back about.  I don’t have much going on now.

I try to draw on reading current novels written in a similar genre to get my creative juices flowing.  I recently finished reading a book called Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert Ressler.  It’s true crime I found quite riveting.  Some parts were hard to get through and digest because of how grotesque they were.  I found it helpful to read something that was as exciting as the novel I’m writing.

Now I’m in the middle of reading In the Woods by Tana French.  So far, I haven’t found the story all too interesting and I can’t connect with or feeling anything for the characters.  I will still finish it though.

I’m working on finishing the final draft of three poems I want to submit to a literary magazine.  I have a short story I’ve meant to fix and submit to a lit mag.  I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I should write more for this blog.  I haven’t published many posts since I started it.

My progress overall has been slow–almost nonexistent.  I write in my journal as often as possible to keep myself working on something all the time.

It is already November 5.  NaNoWriMo has begun.  I decided not to participate this year.  I did write for it in November of 2014.  I wrote about 52,000 words by the end of the month.  Then I reached 70,000 words for that novel, but that’s also unfinished.

I suppose I should just force myself to sit down for about four hours a day to write.  Like some famous writers have said, if you wait for inspiration to write, you’ll never write anything.  You just have to do it.  You can always rewrite it later.  Even if you don’t use what you write, it’s good practice to write constantly.  Aim for two or three thousand words to write each day.  That’s up to twelve pages in a novel.  Or at least try to write one thousand words if you’re really struggling.  It’s good writing experience to write every day.  Don’t worry about its quality when it’s only the first draft.

I need to write something–anything.  I find it easier to improve my writing skills if I’m always working on something every single day, which I haven’t been doing lately.  Another idea could come out of what I’m working on.  That’s what happened when I wrote my first novel.

Now, I must get to it.  Write.

Writing Woes

Since I began querying agents about my first novel, I’ve caught some mistakes in the query letter as well as the sample chapters.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I had made them until after I submitted to the first agent.  Careful not to repeat these errors, I took a considerable amount of time to fix my letter and my manuscript, even after having spent so much time on them already.

I put forth great effort in every detail of my writing even before I queried the first literary agent.  I reread, rewrote, edited, over and over again, printed out a piece to work with a hard copy, read it aloud, revised, reread, rewrote, proofread, lathered, rinsed, and repeated…you get the idea.

The degree of frustration and exhaustion I experience with writing sometimes discourages me.  I’ve already received eighty rejections for my work submitted over the past three years.  The few times I’ve had my work published in small literary magazines have been rewarding, but the degree of hard work to any kind of recognition I receive is disproportionate.  Such is the life of writing and the life of any artist for that matter.  I’m still waiting for the day someone pays me for something I wrote.  I don’t have to be the next J.K. Rowling, but I would like to earn a living pursuing my passion.  Most professional writers receive a modest income for their work.

My progress doesn’t always move at a steady pace forward.  I find that even though I read and write every day, I still struggle to improve.  I find some of my previous work cringeworthy to read.

In the past few years, I’ve read a hundred books.  Fifteen of them have been about the craft.  I read literary fiction, commercial fiction, and nonfiction, including creative nonfiction.  Writing (and reading) requires a lot of self-discipline.  Because of some personal struggles I deal with on a daily basis, my concentration and memory necessary to advance in this craft are, to an extent, also compromised.  Never mind others wondering what you’re doing just sitting at the computer.  It’s not easy peasy cheddar cheesy (I made that one up and I’m hoping it catches on) to be a good writer.

I received a couple of personalized rejections after querying agents again.  One said that my work showed potential but it wasn’t a good fit for the types of authors she represented.  Another said that this was a strong project but it wasn’t quite right for the editorial contacts she had.  These rejections were promising.  I must remind myself that this is common for all writers and I just need to keep at it.

3 Poems Published

Earlier this year, I submitted three poems to a literary magazine called The Furious Gazelle.  They contacted me several months later to inform me that they loved all three.  The editors published these on their website yesterday.

The titles of the poems are “A Childless Dream,” “Insomnia,” and “Immortal.”  The first two poems are quite personal for me.  I used my imagination to write the third.

I have done well lately with getting my poems published.  I’m really excited and so proud of myself.  I’m thankful for so much.

My Manuscript

Recently, I finished rewriting my manuscript.  It was the first and only completed novel I’ve written since I began pursuing my dreams of becoming a published novelist.

I’ve begun querying agents again.  There were a few I queried in the past, before this rewrite, that never responded.  I assumed that they had no interest in my book, so I didn’t follow-up on the submissions.

I hope to gain someone’s interest after all this hard work and perseverance.  Here I go again!

My Poem Published by Yellow Chair Review

I recently had a poem titled “Legend” featured in a print publication.  The anthology was a tribute to Prince published by Yellow Chair Review.  This is my seventh poem published by a literary magazine.

While it is the second time a poem of mine has made it to print, it is the first time one of my poems has ever been printed within an actual book with an ISBN number and sold on Amazon.com.

I’m so happy and proud of myself!

Query Rejection Letters of My Novel

I wrote a semiautobiographical novel about a difficult period in my life and my daily struggles.  It’s classified as contemporary fiction/realistic fiction/women’s fiction.  After working on it for four years, I completed the manuscript’s final draft late in 2015, and I began querying literary agents for representation.

I did receive several form rejection letters and a few more personalized ones.  One agent said that there wasn’t much of a market for my story, but others might feel differently.  Another wrote back declining representation after careful consideration over a lengthy amount of time.  She explained that she wasn’t drawn into the material as much as she had hoped.  This query rejection implied that my story had promise if I could improve upon it.

Now I’m back to rewriting this manuscript for the eighth time.  With each new draft I create a copy of the file before making changes.  This way I have the last version saved without the new edits.  It helps if I need to restore something I deleted.

For the eighth and final draft of my novel, I’ve cut out much of the original first two chapters.  I found the writing sluggish.  The beginning could very easily lose a reader’s interest with such a slow-moving pace.  I hope the changes I’ve made to hold a reader’s attention will encourage him or her to continue reading the book and finish it.

I’m still writing for one reader as all the famous writers suggest.  I’m writing for myself.  I’m writing what I would want to read.

I would like to have the final polished work ready by the end of the summer (at the latest).  Then I’ll start querying literary agents again.  Wish me more than luck.

A Journal of Sorts

IMG_3938

I’ve had this website for almost a year, but I neglected to begin a blog until today.  Perhaps this was my way of dealing with first post jitters by delaying it for so long.

In this blog, I’ll post regarding my artistic personal life.  These posts will involve any general musings I have about reading and/or writing, poems and quotes I love, sometimes a book review, and some artistic hobbies I enjoy that I’d like to share such as photography.

You can consider this a journal of sorts.

I haven’t yet decided on whether or not I’d like to compartmentalize myself into tidy little social media profiles showcasing microthoughts, photography and artwork, and social networking circles, so I’ll store everything relevant to my artistic life in this journal and on this website for the time being.

Ever since I was a girl, after reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I wanted to become a writer.  Over the years, I’ve had other favorite books such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, and many others.

Years later, I’m pursuing a professional writing career.  I write poetry and have had several poems published in online and print literary magazines.  I also write short stories and novels, most of which could be classified as contemporary fiction and women’s fiction.

I love various art forms and the creative life.  I indulge in books, music, television, and films–any medium that makes use of the written word.