Someone on Facebook asked for information about maximizing time when on a research trip for a novel. What ho!
Set a time every day to FaceTime or Skype with your children.
Have something else going on. For example, I practice Tai Chi. I knew that there would be a lot of parks where the Chinese community practiced in the early mornings. I made a point to be in the neighborhood park by 6am. I met so many caring locals. They told me great places to eat and insider tips about the city that your characters need to know. One also helped me figure out which neighborhood in Bangkok my main character would live in.
Spend more time on your book than seeing the sights. Limit sight seeing to elements that appear in the book.
Write or edit on the plane. You write; food arrives. Tea arrives. Life doesn’t get better–until your kids arrive!
Use your computer rather than a notebook. On days I used my notebook, I was too exhausted to transfer my notes. Still haven’t.
Go to a library. My novel is set in the mid-90s. In the 90s, no newspaper in Cambodia published on-line. I went to the library at the Hun Sen University and read bound, back issues of newspapers.
Although I am 32 REJECTIONS shy of my goal of 100 for the year, I have somehow SUBMITTED 100 short pieces. As those pieces are reviewed, I expect to hit my goal of 100 rejections. 😀
As of this moment, I have 52 submissions out–short pieces, that is. I submitted my novel, As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back, to seven different agents. I received a single form rejections. One. The rest: crickets. Even from the agents I knew or had a personal connection to; and those who had asked to review the complete novel as well. Chirp chirp.
Taking a critical look at my submission pages (usually, the first 30-50), I realized that in revising, I had opened the book at a chapter that was, mmmm, well, dull as a opener.
I am re-working on the opening. And the rest of the book. I found a new editor, to give it a fresh eye. Do eyes other than my own refresh a manuscript! I expect to be approaching agents by mid- to late month.
On July 30, 2019, David K. Slay published an incisive, revealing article, CRITICALFEEDBACK AREAS FOUND WHILE REVIEWING SUBMISSIONS. It is an original analysis of submission to Craft Magazine.
Hear are just the first gems:
STRUCTURE (54 percent)
Unclear, inconsistent, lacking form (arc, pyramid, or otherwise); or structure too apparent, too visible; internal inconsistencies, illogical
Narration moves too slowly, too quickly, or is irregular
Beginning / Ending
Starts too soon; ending weak, contrived, or telegraphed
Confusing time or tenses; reader not grounded in time and place
Point of View (POV)
POV choice doesn’t facilitate the narration
IMPACT (39 percent)
First line, paragraph, or page confusing or missed opportunity (see discussion below); story unengaging, unremarkable, little at stake, lacks tension; or impact is “unearned,” using “surprise” endings, melodrama, gratuitous violence, sex, profanity, etc.
CREATIVITY (37 percent)
Too familiar theme, plot, or story; uninspired figurative language; overreliance on adverbs or adjectives, clichés, or stereotypes
LANGUAGE / PROSE (35 percent)
Irregular or unnecessarily complicated syntax; limited vocabulary; distracting rhythm, comma misuse; run-on sentences; excessive amount of grammar or spelling errors
EXPOSITION (16 percent)
Too explanatory, telling more than showing, or too cryptic—suggesting rather than showing; sacrifices clarity for style; imbalance of scene/dialogue and exposition
VOICE (15 percent)
Distracts from the narration, is affected, inauthentic; doesn’t fit the character(s) or narrator; or indistinct from that of other characters
ECONOMY (14 percent)
Overly long, needs to be pruned; repetitive or superfluous words; lacks clarity and concision
Last year, I joined a number of Facebook groups starring real, publishing writers. Many were focused on commercial publications than literary, especially high-level publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
I queried a few placed. Crickets. I elected to finish out 2018 per my goals – literary publications – and to start factoring in the commercial media in 2019.
First step: identify dream publications. Step Two: approach.
The New York Times: queried 3/17 with travel article culled from my recent Asia trip.
The Washington Post: Queried the Parenting section on 3/17 with a short humor essay regarding my less-than-nurturing behavior during the death of my daughter’s Guinea pigs (scuttling, gnawing creatures). Was rejected 3/19.
Huffington Post: Submitted the Guinea pig tale: “A Good Mama and a Decent Human Being.”
The Cut: A section in New York Magazine (NOT The New Yorker), very “hip.” Formerly interested only in essays, they announced on 3/18 that they now take fiction. On 3/18, sent flash fiction featuring sharks, rats, bad stew, and nunchucks. Only from my wickedly feminist imagination could this story spring.
Catapult: features long-form memoir (maybe 5,000 words). I have nothing for them, right now.
Longreads: ditto for their requirements, and ditto for my stock.
LitHub: Strikes a nice balance between literary and commercial. Submitted an essay, “Mouthy Ugly Genius.”
What, with me being in Asia and the 20-something submissions still circulating from 2018, this years’ submissions are off to a bit of a molasses-pour of a start. The good news, however, is that my submissions-to-acceptances-to-publications rate is dead even: 1:1:1.
Almost as good is my Good Rejection-to-Rejection (Dear Writer: NO) rate: 1:3.
Wouldn’t it be swell if the averages held steady. A-hahahahahahaha.
On Friday, I will submit my first pitch of three for travel articles that came out of my recent Asia trip. To The New York Times’ Travel section. Petrified. I know that the worse that can happen is that they can say, “No.” I probably won’t even be crushed because I am already crushing myself merely thinking about submitting. And I know that there are many other outlets for these exciting pieces. Still … nerves like I haven’t had in years.
In other news: this week, I sent out my first query for As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back. Now there is THAT whole ferris wheel to think about. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. I’m going to go watch Colbert.