On Dealing With Rough Reviews And Rejection by S G Basu

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books.Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.Besides writing, S.G. loves extra-hot lattes, fast cars and sniping on auctions. Staying up late, sleeping in, and binge watching sci-fi movies also make her happy.She shares her home with a large collection of Legos, a patient husband, and resident inspiration and entertainer, her daughter.

Okay, I admit it! I’m a shy person. But I’m probably not the only writer who’s said that. Most writers are solitary creatures and it makes sense that we are built this way. If I were the love-to-socialize kind instead, where would I find the time to indulge those characters in my head?

Anyway, given my introverted nature it follows that one of the biggest issues I have to deal with is opening up to people. Not being a social butterfly, I take time to warm up to strangers.

Unfortunately though, the job of a writer involves opening up to people more than many other professions. There might be exceptions, and some writers do keep their manuscripts locked away and to themselves, but for the majority of us, publishing is the goal. I mean, we mostly write so that other people would read our written words, right? And what are our words really? They are our innermost thoughts, the essence of our being, pieces of our soul.

Until I was at the threshold of publishing my first book, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to let my words out for the entire world to see. I didn’t expect the obvious clash between the nature of the writing profession and my personality. When I hit publish on my first work I realized the brutal truth about the situation I was in—sharing my creation was like baring my soul, and that also to perfect strangers. And then, when those perfect strangers stopped by to tell me they didn’t like what they saw in my soul? Well, you can imagine the hurt.

I still remember not having a good night’s sleep when I got my first 3 star review. I suddenly understood why many writers were unable to deal with bad reviews, why so many others dreaded and stayed away from publishing altogether, and why yet others were devastated by rejection letters from agents. I realized writing and publishing is indeed a difficult business to be in.

Nevertheless, I was not about to crawl into my burrow and give up. I had to deal with it. It was hard the first time, but I quickly learned that the fear and the heartbreak can be managed with some planning and preparation.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years, maybe they’ll help you too.

First and foremost, prepare yourself for a long, harsh ride through the glare of spotlights. Remember, your book will be read by a gamut of people. Remember, every person out there is different. So, there opinions will likely be diverse too. Not everyone will like what I write, and even someone who loves one of my books might not like a second book written by me. What we need to remember is: One person’s liking or disliking is not the final word on a book. If you get a scathing review today, there’s no reason to panic and consider yourself a failure because you might run into you most ardent fan in the next hour. True story, that! So grow yourself some thick skin.

How do you go about acquiring that thick skin?

  1. Join a writers’ group: Long before you get to the point of publishing, join a group of writers. Find a local group or even an online group of people who write. Make sure you have similar goals and you fit in temperamentally. Most writers’ groups routinely critique each others work and not only does constructive and respectful feedback improve one’s work, it also helps a new writer get used to handling criticism.
  1. Get an editor or a number of editors for your work: This is an absolute must not just because the work we present to the world (be it via indie publishing or to an agent when it goes the traditional route) needs to look professional, but also working with an editor will give you the much needed feedback. The more feedback you learn to handle, the better equipped you are to bear a variety of comments from your readers later on.
  1. Get beta readers for your books: Beta readers are the ones who give you a final round of feedback before a book goes out to meet the world. Their comments will prepare you for what’s coming. You need to find an unbiased group though, and a group that’s not afraid to speak their mind.
  1. Be active on public forums: A lot of people use forums like kindle boards or critique circle or absolute write among others to get feedback on their work. Be wary of being critiqued on an open forum though, it isn’t for the faint hearted.
  1. Force a separation: You have to learn to separate your work from yourself. I know, I know. Way up there I said our works are pieces of our soul. I’m not going back on that. They are still an important part of us, and we will always care deeply about them. But a critical comment about your book does not make you any less worthy. It’s important to remember that our books don’t define our self-worth.

Implementing those practices helped me tremendously when I was starting out as a writer two years ago. I sometimes wonder if it has gotten any easier over the years. Well, in some ways it has. I’m more confident of my craft and one bad review does not get me questioning my capability as a writer.

Yet many things have remained the same. Eight publications later, releasing a new book is still hard. I’m still terrified of negative reviews. Even with thousands of subscribers on my mailing list, sending out a monthly newsletter gives me jitters. I still dread getting notified of unsubscribes; they make me feel like I’m back in high school again. But, that fear is much more manageable now than it was when I started.

You can say I’m a work in progress. But I’m definitely an improved version of the work that began two years ago. And that’s all that matters, right?

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Writing Dragon’s Champion By Wynelda Deaver

It’s the second week of our Wednesday Guest Posts and this week it’s the turn of Wynelda Deaver.

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Dragon’s Champion should have never sold.

In terms of simple professionalism, I failed. I failed hard.

But I gained so much by writing Dragon’s Champion.

Stories have always been how I work things out. Sometimes silly, sometimes strange—writing is where I have always gone to find my truth. For over a decade I held all of my truths tightly, too tightly for anything to slip through.

Even once I left the toxic situation, dusted myself off and worked on working out my truths the words wouldn’t come. Start. Stop. Delete. Backspace. New Document. Nothing I tried worked, but at least I was trying. My fingers hit the keyboard regularly… some days my word count went significantly down.

Down. Down. Down.

And then I picked up a note book and pen. I wrote the first line of Dragon’s Champion. I loved Constance’s voice, and wanted to figure out how being tied to a tree by a merry band of brigands could be better than what she left behind. I had to keep writing to see how she – how we—ended up.

My niece typed it up for me. A friend who also does editing, looked it over and sent me some notes. Even though it was a short story, she recommended an e-publisher for me. I dutifully went through the revisions given to me, girded my loins, wrote a cover letter and hit send.

I completely forgot to attach the story.

Strike One.

I coped and pasted the letter into a new email, attached the story, and hit send again.

Whew! Maybe they wouldn’t notice!

When I heard back from the publisher, I was mortified to read that I had accidentally sent the revision/edit version.

Strike Two

Head low, I sent it a third time not expecting anything except to have followed through and done it.

I was completely shocked when I read the offer. I did my happy dance for days. Constance and I had made it through!

Home run!

Since then, I’ve published the short story collection The Golden Apple and Other Stories, placed a story in the Avast, Ye Airships! Anthology and have another story in the upcoming anthology Gears, Ghosts, and Grimoires.

All because Constance taught me not to give up. Especially when tied to a tree by a bunch of brigands.

Wynelda Ann Deaver lives in Northern California with the Princeling. They enjoy looking for mermaid’s hair in the ocean, woodland creatures and trolls under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Princeling is used to his mother holding conversations with invisible people she calls characters.

Writing As An Introvert: Guest Post By Rebecca Howie

Hello all you lovely readers! It’s time to kick off a new feature here at writing and works and that’s our Wednesday’s Writer’s Blog.

Each week a new writer/blogger will take up the Wednesday spot to tell us about the toughest time in their writing journey so far and how they found themselves on the other side of it.

As writers, we all face moments where we look at the page in front of us and wonder ‘what the f*** am I doing with my life.’

That is why Writing and Works is launching this feature. We’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again at some point. What we have to do is learn to deal with those down points and climb back up to the productive, happy, high points where we remember ‘Oh yeah. This is why I love writing.’

If you want to add your thoughts to the melting pot then check out our call for guest bloggers.

So first up is the lovely  Rebecca Howie, author of The Game Begins which you can find on Amazon and blogger over at her site Read A Lot. Thank you to her for taking the time to write this post and support our new feature.

Rebecca Howie is an 18-year-old female (too old to be considered a ‘girl’ and not mature enough to be a woman) from sunny (that’s sarcastic) Scotland, who prefers spending her time in the fictional world rather than the real one, and now apparently refers to herself in third person.

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Her first book “The Game Begins” was a project in beating procrastination and actually finishing something, and somehow got to 16th in Amazon’s Teen and Young Adult Detective category.

When I saw Carol’s call for guest bloggers, I decided to leave my comfort zone and take part. I’ve never written a guest post before, and the blog posts on my own website are more like diary excerpts, so I struggled to think of a topic. And then I realised that there’s something I could talk for hours on.

Writing as an introvert.

I think it’s reasonable to say that a lot of writers are introverts, and a lot of introverts are writers. But not all writers are introverted and shy and struggle to string two words together when asked by a complete stranger why anybody should buy their book, and those of us with a lack of confidence become jealous and feel like failures.

How will we sell our books when we can’t talk about them?

That’s why I wanted to write this post, because I’m just as introverted and shy as you’d expect from someone who updates their blog once in a blue moon and can’t think of any witty quotes to share on Twitter.

Since starting to write my book The Game Begins, I’ve realised that most of the marketing techniques on the internet aren’t really helpful if you don’t like having an audience of unfamiliar faces staring at you while you’re trying to sound calm and assured and not at all desperate as you try to convince them that your book is worth their time.

So what do you do if the thought of making any kind of public appearance to discuss your book has your heart racing and your stomach twisting itself into a ball of nerves and your mouth dry? Give up?

Absolutely not.

Now I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on book marketing or writing or overcoming your nerves, but I do know that just because you can’t talk face to face with people doesn’t mean you’ll never sell your book. There are plenty of other ways to promote all your hard work and get people interested, and I’m going to share some of the ways I’ve found most helpful.

 

  1. Start a blog

This might seem quite obvious to some people, but if, like me, you have no idea how to go about promoting, this is a good one. It’d be even better if you included a blog on your main website, along with links to where your book can be bought. Anybody who searches for it can then read your blog and follow along with your writing progress and become invested in the story long before it hits the shelves.

 

  1. Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Even Snapchat can help your marketing. You can create accounts for your book and share behind-the-scenes pictures of your writing processes and even create a Pinterest folder with actors and models who look like your characters to help your readers better visualise them.

There are plenty of social media outlets available, so find the one you like the most and use it. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll meet your fans.

 

  1. Excerpts

One of the many things I like to see on my favourite authors’ websites are short stories or excerpts involving the characters I care about. Writing scenes which have nothing to do with the main story-line is a great way to get over any writer’s block you have, and can show off your talent, too.

By sharing these excerpts, you could be pulling in more of an audience for yourself, and if you allow people to download them for free, those same people could come back to buy more of your writing later.

 

  1. Share your experiences

Another way of connecting with potential readers is to share what you’ve learned. Using the anonymity the internet allows can let you write and rant far more than any conversation face to face, so seize the opportunity.

 

  1. Books

With your blog and variety of social media accounts, you don’t want to spend every waking minute posting about yourself and your amazingly incredible novel. So don’t. Share your favourite books instead. Post reviews. Join fans and critics on the plethora of discussion boards and share your thoughts. The more involvement you have, the higher the chance they’ll look up you and see that they’ve been chatting with a real author.

These are just some of the ways I’ve used the internet to become involved and try to get people interested in what I have to say. There are plenty more tools for the introverted writer, but remember that you don’t need to use any of them if you aren’t comfortable. It might even be better for you if you spend all your time writing your novels instead of forcing yourself to share parts of your life on the internet, because if someone searches your name on Amazon and discovers you’ve written 5 novels, they’re going to be interested.

Sarina Langer: Inside The Writer’s Head

This year Writing and Works has been embracing guest posts like never before. April saw a wonderful collection of bloggers talking about poetry and what it meant to them, with May slipping away already, we turn now to fiction and novels.

Sarina Langer has just published her fist novel ‘Rise of The Sparrows’ and has been lovely enough to agree to write a guest post about writing and what she has learnt about the writing process. You can find more about her and her book at http://www.sarinalangerwriter.com and find ‘Rise Of The Sparrows’ on the Amazon store.

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When Carol asked me if I’d like to do a guest post for her blog, I knew immediately what to write about. I started my own blog nearly a year ago, and it’s also nearly a year since I started to take writing more seriously.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and have enjoyed every second.

… Well. Almost every second.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but over the past year I’ve really thrown myself into it and embraced every aspect of it. Most of the process I love, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today-

The aspects of the writing process I love, and why.

The Writing Itself

I’d be in the wrong profession if I didn’t like the main aspect of it. You could argue that the editing is the most important part, but without the writing there’s no draft to edit. Without the writing, there’s no book. It’s not a step you can skip.

I write fantasy (and occasionally I dabble in sci-fi, too), which gives me free reign. If I want a red river, I write a red river. If I want forests where green-glowing night whisps dance in a clearing every night from 1am to 2am, I write that. All within reason of that world, of course. I want to go nuts but I want my readers to believe me, too.

Writing fantasy gives me the chance to create something magical, and bring a bit of magic into the lives of my readers. Those are the books I’ve loved since I was a child, and I want to be able to whisk my readers away in the same way my favourite authors have whisked me away.

My Characters

No story would be complete without its characters! I once read that a bad plot can be overlooked if the readers are invested in the characters, but it doesn’t work the other way around. A good story needs strong characters to survive (even if they don’t), and I love meeting mine for the first time.

If you don’t write you might not understand this, but for us meeting new characters is terribly exciting. We’ll be working together, after all, often for several years and it’s exciting to see how they develop and grow during that time.

New Ideas

The feeling only a new idea can bring is amazing, motivating, and feels like a fire that’s been ignited inside me and that’s burning its way through me. It makes my heart race and my mind leap. New ideas are full of opportunity, possibility, and they can still grow into any direction. It’s where the story itself is born and shaped – and we can take it anywhere (the promise of a new notebook if the idea stays exciting is pretty good, too – did I mention I’m obsessed with stationery?)

Creating a World

Come on. Do I need to say more? I create a whole world! From scratch! Who wouldn’t find this exciting? A whole new world, with its own magic system, its own religions, races, superstitions, beliefs, legal systems, countries-

I never said it was a small job, or an easy one. Creating a world that doesn’t exist isn’t simple, and a lot of thought needs to be invested if you want to do it well. If I’ve learned one thing from reading reviews, even on very popular books, it’s that people can smell lazy world building before they’ve

finished reading the first chapter. While a lacking world might not put them off completely, it might still sour the experience for them. Do I need to say more? World-building is important. And exciting.

Research

I’ve learned so much since I’ve started writing my book, and most of it I didn’t expect. Did you know that Lady Fern can be used to calm and heal cuts, burns and other minor injuries? Or that the Incas treated their children extremely well before they sacrificed them? Or that the Hawaiians used to have rather cruel human sacrifice traditions?

I do most of my research as I write and edit. You never know when things pop up that you need to look into, and I’ve learned a lot that way. Most of it I won’t be able to apply in everyday life, but I love knowledge and the research I get to do is fascinating.

The Edit

This is the part a lot of writers dread. Writing the first draft is exciting, but the edit is where we take it apart. Most of us will take time away from our draft before we start editing – some take only a handful of weeks, others take at least six months. I took one month away from mine before I started editing.

There are many different stages to this aspect. You edit yourself, very likely several times, but then there are beta readers and your editor, as well. Because you’ve written it you can’t edit the whole thing yourself. The plot twists no longer work for you, the surprises are no longer surprising, and small inconsistencies in your character’s behaviour don’t register with you. That’s because you’ve written it, and that’s why you can’t do it yourself. Someone who has never read it before will see it with new eyes, which is impossible for you to do.

Someone once said to me that the edit is where the magic happens, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the most time-consuming and maddening part for many (dare I say most?) of us, but it’s also where we turn something that’s okay into something fantastic. It’s where all paradoxes are addressed, exciting scenes become really exciting, and where we fix all those little things that would have bugged our readers otherwise – such as consistency in our characters’ speech. They can’t have a scottish accent for most of the book, but not in two chapters near the end, for example.

Completion

Unwrapping the proof copy of your book and holding it in your hands for the first time is extremely satisfying and thrilling. Receiving the professionally drawn world map for your book is emotional. Seeing the finished cover design for the first time is an incredible feeling. You’ve created a world from nothing, and all those steps towards completion are proof of that.

There is so much to do – so much work that goes into this process – that you can almost forget how close you are to seeing it through. It gets very tiring at times, but receiving little completed bits here and there are small pushes of motivation towards the finish line.

You

I can’t say this often enough: The writing community – be that here, on twitter, on Instagram or anywhere else – is incredible. When I first chirped up nearly a year ago, the warm welcome was instant and it has been a wonderful and supportive community ever since. My fellow writers on every platform have made me feel very welcome and loved, and I couldn’t have chosen a better community.

If you want to write but are worried that no one will like what you’re doing, just say the word – we’re here for you and we will be your cheerleaders!

Guest Post Kristin Demoro

We’ve had a few blank days on the guest post front and I do apologise. Stepping up to the plate for our next Poetry Guest Post is Kristin Demoro. You can find more of her work at Princess K. Ann of Isbump – Confession of a Former Fairy Tale Princess.

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Hi, I’m Kristin Demoro, otherwise known as Princess K. Ann of Isbump (mainly to my friends and family). I’ve been writing since I can remember, and taking photos about as long as that too. It has taken me a very very long time to take my writing seriously, and not view my poetry as an excuse to not write other more “important” things. Writing (and looking through the camera lens) seems to be my way of processing my world and making sense of my life. I have lost too many people close to me over the years, and I sometimes retreat into my own little world, so writing can help to get me “out there” and connect with other people, as I do suffer from depression and anxiety.

My father was a journalist/writer/historian/photographer, and he not only inspired me to write, but recently with him in mind, I have begun to more seriously pursue my writing career with an eye to future publication. I am almost up to the age he was when he died (53), so I feel I need to get it together and take this writing act a bit more seriously!

It’s hard to put into words what poetry means to me, but, as a poet I believe that poets are the voices of the people. Through words we all know what it is to be human. We experience joy, sadness, wonder, boredom, etc., through words and how the poet puts them together. We find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This and so much more can be found in poetry. We can all understand each other, no matter where in the world we are, if we keep writing, reading, and appreciating poetry. And it can keep you sane. Every time I pick up my pen to write a poem, I feel I am reaching out to whomever may read it and saying “Look at this. This happened. This is real. This is life. Join me in exploring how this affects you and me.”

I am currently working on two ongoing projects, both about San Francisco. I am writing a book length series of poems that are my “memoirs” of my life in that city, and how I am feeling about its constantly changing over the years as I get older. I am also in the beginning stages of writing a non fiction book about being a sixth generation San Franciscan–on dad’s side of the family–and the only one now left there, and my on and off love affair with the city. I also will discuss some of the more eclectic history of the city and my family’s history in San Francisco. So many issues come to mind when I think of how it’s changed and still changing–homelessness, tech money, compassion/lack of compassion, the cycle of gentrification and eviction, lack of city hall support for it’s citizens, and well, I could continue indefinetely on these topics. It’s a good thing I have an editor lined up already!

Ok, enough about all of that. Here are three haiku I wrote awhile back when I was living in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. I originally intended to write a whole lot of these (I call them Tenderloin Haiku) but, as of this writing this is all she wrote. (And, yes, I realize these do not strictly follow traditional haiku meter, but blame it on Jack Kerouac, I was inspired by his haiku at that stage in my writing).

Tenderloin Haiku circa 2003

1)

drunken on the sidewalk

empty bottle

clenched in fist

2)

asleep in the doorway

on guard

against the world

3)

shuffling through the laundromat

schizophrenic

sheltered from the rain