It’s Tuesday and time to share what we’ve all been up to!
I know I missed last week, but the blog page was starting to look like nothing but accountability posts and that gets boring after a while.
and I didn’t do anything worth reporting…
However, on Sunday night I got a hankering to organize the writing room. Honestly it wasn’t that messed up, it’s probably the cleanest room in the house at any given time, but I felt the room was being utilized well enough. Ya know that feeling?
All was going fine….
And then I hit the Closet.
The Closet houses Stuff Jenny Sends To Die. There are three novels, multiple short stories, two poetry books, a play, and whatever else I might have written that needs to disappear. But I felt a certain level of guilt at allowing these things that I’d worked so hard on to just rot away in the dark – with no kind of organization. The pages were just stacked and scrambled.
So I found two plastic tubbies – the kind that hold files – and set about organizing.
I had a few moments of “Huh, that’s not too bad.” And other moments that were less hopeful. But overall I was stunned at the amount of pages, the quantity of work, the endlessness of it. It’s about ten years worth of work and it was all staring me in the face.
Apparently I wrote my ‘first’ novel – a fantasy book that would have D&D fans either grinning in recognition or groaning in frustration – seven or eight times. But I never made it past Chapter Three in any given draft. Still…that’s a lot of pages. And there are quite a few ‘novels’ that were started after that one: two serial killer novels, a novel about a writer (because we all do that at some point, right?), another fantasy novel, and something that I’m not quite sure where I was going.
Then there’re the poetry books. The second one is the good one – and it’s also about serial killers but it still needs work and I’m not willing to put in the time at the moment. But the first is so full of teen/young adult angst that if the pages had pores there’d be zits and broken-heart shards clogging every one.
Also in the closet are my under-the-bed novels. These are actually not too bad. The first one is impressive because not only did I pass Chapter Three…I continued for another thousand pages or so. That notebook is BIG. It takes up 1/4 of the file tubby. The second and third novels are good, for what they are. But these books are Trying Too Hard. So, under the bed/in the closet tubby they go.
This is just the stuff in the closet. This doesn’t count the work currently piled in my computer, in my desk drawers, the stacks on my desk, and the work lining my bookshelves. It doesn’t count the blog. It doesn’t count school papers. Just the closet.
Looking at all of this, you’d think I’d be pretty proud. Among the scattered pieces were things I’d written for school, critiques, and notes-to-self.
Honestly, for a little while all I felt was disappointed.
“Look at all that work!” my head screamed at me. “Look at all that you’ve done! Why haven’t you accomplished more!!??” And so on.
There were some frustrated tears, I won’t lie.
Tucked away in the stacks were rejection letters. These letters are ten years old – which is when I started taking writing seriously. Without really thinking or knowing what I was doing, I’d sent my early short stories out to every magazine that I’d heard of. My early writing ‘career’ was what I considered successful. I won a small contest. I had the very first flash fiction piece I’d ever sent out picked up by the first publication I ever sent it to. I finished a thousand page novel. I was badass. But the rejection letters told me that this was HARD. This would be DIFFICULT. Being young and rather fragile, I stopped sending things out as regularly. I didn’t give up, but I was more hesitant.
Sunday, I re-read those rejections.
Every single one of them was a personalized rejection letter. There were little notes – ‘this one not for us, but send more.’ There were mini-critiques telling me to focus on characterization or a plot point. And the piece-de-resistance? A full length letter from Weird Tales telling me that they were overstocked, so they were being super-selective, and my story fell short on A, B, and C plot points. An editor – from a well respected magazine – took the time to write a full-on letter to me. He mentioned my hometown. He asked me about Colorado.
And all my twenty-something self saw was the rejection. I actually thought it was a form rejection at the time.
The good news is that I didn’t quit. I went to school. Learned more stuff. Applied more techniques. I got better.
But I haven’t regained that “I own this!” attitude that I had at first. Looking through all of my work, reading those rejection letters, it occurred to me that there is no reason I can’t get that attitude back.
The pages I have written are my skin – toughened by practice and experience. The letters are the evidence that what I have to say is effective. There’s no reason to step back.
I will finish my work, I will submit my work. I will work more. I will finish more. I will submit more. And this time I won’t hesitate. That’s my resolution.
I’m going to work. And I won’t stop.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.