on rejections letters and class gatherings

Another rejection letter, this time straight from the publisher itself. But gutting as it is, it’s a PERSONALISED rejection letter. Which means FEEDBACK.

It’s hard to get feedback as a writer. Aside from the handful of earnest and objective critics (LOVE YOU GUYS!), most people are either too busy to read your book, or they’re too afraid to critique it in case they offend you, or they don’t give the type of feedback you’re looking for.

For instance:

 

Me: So what did you think?

Reader: It was pretty good.

Me: What did you like or dislike about it? Any bits where the story dragged on or didn’t make sense?

Reader: It was exciting enough to make me read on.

Me: What about the characters? Could you relate to them or empathise with them? 

Reader: I liked xxx. He needs his own spinoff.

 

And so on.

So even if it’s a rejection letter, I’m thankful for the feedback.

 

Joyce, 

Thank you for your interest in BookFish Books! Unfortunately, we cannot move forward with UNTIL MORNING at this time. It’s hard to know where to start without feedback, so here is some of ours:

We loved the portions with Night, but the portions with Lexi did not capture our attention. Some of the dialogue felt too formal for the YA genre, particularly in the Lexi sections. Also, for YA, the traditionally accepted length is 40-60K words, with a bit of flexibility on either end. 

I personally am sad to be passing on this one because I really wanted to know more about Night.

If you want to do a revise and resubmit on the changes we suggested, we’d be happy to take a fresh look at in the future.

All the best,

Erin

 

Of course, this is still my general response to it:

 photo 2011_siwon_whyyyy_zps2e7dce97.gif

 photo headdesk2_zps8a156e40.gif

 photo zooeyweeping_zps00ecfc0f.gif

 photo liloleave-me-alone-to-die_zps38c18a34.gif

But, you know, after YEARS of receiving rejection letters, you sort of heal faster and soon you’re just like,

 photo workbitch_zps3b8d22a1.gif

And that was what I did for the entire afternoon before going for my class gathering on Saturday. For Blood Promise, that is.

MORE CHANGES:

1. Changed Ian’s parentage and identity

2. Killed off a character

3. Changed the speech style of one character

4. Tweaked the history of the island and took a deeper look at its customs and language (thanks to the suggestions my Super Critic Partner, Jenna, gave)

 

With that done, I psyched myself up for the class gathering.

Is it just me or do you get gripped by social anxiety before every gathering? It doesn’t matter that you know those people are nice, or that this isn’t the first time you’ve met up with them, but before every meeting with someone other than your family members, you just seize up with panic and worry. It’s like a reflex reaction to the word “social” or “gathering” or “meetup” or “human interaction”.

No? Just me? Okay then.

I mean, at first you’re like, This might be fun! I need some human contact.

 photo iminlove_zpsc1d6e2e7.gif

Because, you know,

 photo caspeopleskills_zpsa5c4240d.gif

But then you start wondering if you annoyed them with your incessant Facebook and Twitter updates, and if they’re like all

 photo kristenritterboredrollseyes_zps7e5f575f.gif

 photo xtinanobodycares_zpsf3587399.gif

And pretty soon you’re like, I’m never going to be normal. They’ll hate me.

 photo sheldonhyperventilating_zps60d1c0f1.gif

But then you try to convince yourself you’re worrying about nothing and you’ve known those people for ages and hello, they’re NICE.

So you SHOW THE HELL UP and start working those rusty people skills.

 photo kardashianawkwardtalk_zps67801fe1.gif

But then you sort of get the hang of this human interaction thing after a while and you’re like

 photo jensenandjareddorkydance_zps825ff9fe.gif

So here’s us (13 years on!) in a terribly grainy photo thanks to my phone:

Yes, I survived human interaction and I actually enjoyed it loads. Till the next gathering, guys!

Hope you’re having a good start to the week! :0)

9 awkward moments with that office eye candy

1. Weird eye contact

When he walks past your table and you’re secretly like

 photo sungmincheekysmile_zps6e68b5cb.gif

But then he suddenly looks your way and you’re like

 photo siwonsurprised_zpse19485ee.gif

Wait … is that a smile? Should I smile back?

 photo zooeydeschanelcreepysmile_zpsdb877c16.gif

Too late.

 photo dammitdammitdammit_zpsbe5c15f8.gif

2. The water cooler walk

Is he heading for the water cooler now? Damn, I’m thirsty too.

 photo kyusprayinwater_zps337c6045.gif

3. Facebook stalking

Nothing?! Why is he so mysterious?

 photo zooeydeschanelintrigued_zpsdafb33fa.gif

4. Lunch break

He’s lunching at his table alone again! Should you ask him out for lunch?

 photo amandaseyfriendmeangirls_zpscce10df2.gif

… Yeah, just a thought.

 photo krystalareyoucrazy_zps4380c150.gif

 photo thatscrazy_zpscb6c54f0.gif

5. At the cafeteria

Oh, shit. He’s there getting lunch. Turn back or say hi?

 photo ronweasleyfailwave_zps3233fcc4.gif

6. When you’re lunching in

Do I have food down my shirt? Oh crap, please don’t let him turn around when I’m wolfing down this chicken.

 photo ronweasleyeating_zpsaa1869d1.gif

7. At office parties

Some cake for you? Not you. You.

 photo donghaeyouyesyou_zpsa7c2d036.gif

8. Lift encounters

You’re in the same lift as him! Enclosed space! BUT. He’s with a friend and they’re talking about some trip he just came back from. Should you join in or hope for this unending lift ride to end?

9. Klutz alert!

When you think you’re all

 photo samwinchesterfabulous_zps9f2490fc.gif

That’s the moment you end up like this

 photo clumsypenguin_zps9feb82b3.gif

And he TOTALLY SAW.

 photo jlawsarcasticokay_zps7523e06c.gif

Crushes are much more effort than they’re worth sometimes.

Murakami wisdom, Tinder shenanigans and book talk

1. How girls talk:

That conversation came about after my girlfriends and I piddled around the Tinder app and were trying to figure out what a guy might mean when he doesn’t respond to an emoticon. And people say GIRLS are hard to figure out.

 photo siwonwhuuut_zps61e7d8aa.gif

Our responses to the faces we see on Tinder range from this:

 photo emmastonemehh_zpsf4c8b6ca.gif

To this:

 photo jacksparrowgrossedout_zps2071eb23.gif

(All the dudes baring their pot bellies or flexing their gargantuan muscles in minimal clothing, you know who you are!)

Occasionally, we’re like this:

 photo zooeycuteguyalert_zpsb7c2e172.gif

 photo jlawflirtywink_zps50cd69c0.gif

(There ARE some cute, non-creepy ones on the app, after all! Faith in humanity restored.)

But more often it’s this:

 photo jeremyrennerthatsweird_zps2125ad97.gif

(Why would you put a shot of yourself sitting on the edge of your bed in your boxers eating half a watermelon as your profile picture???)

By the way, can I just say that Tinder still has a lot of room for improvement? Not only are we unable to scroll back to the person we might have accidentally rejected, we are unable to go back and view the profile of someone we have approved until he approves back. Apparently not a fan of hindsight, this Tinder.

For now, though, while my friends have run out of guys to pick from, I’m still highly entertained by the different types of profile pictures (supposedly) single guys choose of themselves.

And because I think I’m permanently scarred by the sight of this one guy in a pair of green floral shorts hugging a huge block of cheese (another head-scratcher), THIS is very much welcome:

 photo donghaeprettyraisehead_zpseb1c5d64.gif

 photo donghaesmile5_zps773e07c1.gif

Ah. Much better now.

2. Anyway, speaking of wisdom, here are some snippets of wisdom – so profound, but never self-righteous or self-important – from “the Yoda of Japanese literature”, author Haruki Murakami:

“Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s [your] own to fool with.” ~ Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ Norwegian Wood (1987)

“For ‘a while’ is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“A person’s destiny is something you look back at afterwards, not something to be known in advance.” ~ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997)

“Understanding is but the sum of misunderstandings.” ~ Sputnik Sweetheart (2001)

“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.” ~ After Dark (2004)

I read After Dark a few years ago, in my freshman year at university, and I remember being taken by sparse, beautiful and heart-breaking prose.

Murakami’s characters are always diverse and complex, even when the things they say and the conversations they have seem surface. Plus, there’s something tragically lonely about the characters and their voices, and uplifting about the way they found each other – which, I realise, can be applied to Norwegian Wood too. But while Norwegian Wood got a little draggy for me, I didn’t want After Dark to end.

Go read all 30 of them!

3. Romance writer Jennifer Crusie on how to create conflict in romance novels:

Conflict in general is pretty simple … The pursuit of these goals brings your protagonist and antagonist into direct conflict because neither can achieve his or her goal without blocking and thus defeating the other.

The romance plot has a protagonist and an antagonist (or vice versa) who are drawn together and who, during the course of their story, move through the physical and emotional stages of falling in love … Over the course of the story, they change as people so they can connect, learning to compromise and forming a bond at the end that will keep them together forever.

The hard part [is] taking the romance plot and giving it conflict. A good conflict has the protagonist destroying the antagonist completely (or vice versa). A good romance plot ends in compromise with both protagonist and antagonist safe, happy, and bonded. Trying to navigate the space in between causes most of the problems in romance writing.

Romance novels aren’t just the usual, fluffy boy-meets-girl, done-to-death stories that everyone thinks are so easy to churn out. (Well, there are some stories that go like that, but we try not to emulate them.)

Romance novels are, in essence, highly character-driven, and that’s what makes them so tricky to write. What makes this character different from another? Why choose to write his or her story? How do they grow as a result of each other? What do I want them to become at the end of the story?

My characters usually end up sitting around talking, so I try to toss in some action that is totally lame and pointless, and it all ends up looking contrived and my characters get really confused and annoyed with me.

 photo ronweasleywth_zps3ae93fa6.gif

 photo donghaerollseyes_zpsbd12465a.gif

Still, it’s just the first draft, Joyce. Just the first draft. You can rewrite and edit the shit out of it later.

4. And from a literary agent’s perspective, Carly Watters believes writers should compete with themselves and not with other writers:

It doesn’t make it easy when you know how many other writers there are out there trying to get published, too. But that information has to light a fire under you and make you want to revise and want to write the best book you can. Competition is about writing better than you did the day before, and the book before this. You are your own competition. Make that your mission.

Also, she offers candid insight on what publishing requires from a writer:

Publishing is where creative writing meets Hollywood: Does it have a hook? Can you sell it in a sentence? Are the characters memorable? Is their journey compelling? Does it start when we meet the characters at an interesting point in their lives? Getting published requires some stripping down of overwriting and self indulgence. Getting published is about making your writing accessible to mass readers.

For more advice, go here!

5. Due to the slew of less-than-glowing book reviews that have popped up, particularly on sites like Goodreads, some folks are starting to question: Do we really need negative book reviews?

Of course, the first reaction would be to say no, that it’s unnecessary and let’s just all talk about books we love and enjoy instead of directing attention to the “bad” ones.

But without criticism, how are we writers going to learn what works or what doesn’t? I’d much rather be told candidly why my book is mediocre than be assured that it is deserving of critical acclaim if it isn’t true, even if the criticism may be harder to stomach.

Of course, if the negative review is mean for the sake of being mean and getting some laughs at the expense of the author, then please fold some origami and shove it up your pie-hole because the world doesn’t need more bullies.

 photo snapehaterstotheleft_zps22c8a884.gif

6. I don’t want this post to end on that note, so here’s some happy:

The Infinite Gallery : Cornwall, England

Okay, okay. Off to do just that now! Happy mid-week, everyone! :0)

metaphorical roller coasters … and something called Tinder?

Jennifer Crusie offered some great advice on keeping the dream alive (and reality at arm’s length):

… what separates the successful writers with long term careers from those who don’t make it is that the successful writers have the perception that they’re in control, that if they keep going, somebody will finally see the greatness of their stories.

So you’re building your island based on unrealistic dreams and convictions made of thin air. What’s the worst that can happen? You never get published or the book of your heart tanks, and you never reach your goal, but at the end of your life you look back and say, “I had a dream and I fought for it, I believed in myself and my work, and I never, ever gave up.” That’s a life well lived, folks, a helluva lot better than, “I had a dream but it wasn’t realistic so I quit and watched television.” Do not let reality push you around, do not be sensible and kill your own dreams, and for the love of God do not let people who are only guessing about what’s going to happen next tell you that you’re a fool for believing in yourself and your stories.

 photo deantouched_zps25fbc720.gif

Thank you for sharing this post, Laini, and thank you for writing it, Jennifer! (Loved Wild Ride, by the way.)

This is such timely* advice, given how I’m SERIOUSLY losing steam for Neverland. It’s so tempting to want to toss it aside and not think about this train wreck anymore, but then you read such upbeat posts and you reconsider that notion.

*Even though the post was published waaaaay back in 2005 – I got directed there from Laini’s old posts** Hey, never too late for some encouragement.

**Why yes, I’ve read all the way back to 2006. Obsessed, you say?***

***I can’t hear you.

Right now, it kinda feels like this:

 photo zooeyweeping_zps00ecfc0f.gif

I was looking through Until Morning last night and I realised what is amiss as I write Neverland: the magic.

Not in the literal sense (although Until Morning and the Neverland differ in that sense too). No. What I mean is that feeling of being pulled into the story, until I’m scrambling to put all my thoughts into words, typing feverishly as the story sweeps me towards the final scene.

 photo kronk-and-yzma-roller-coaster-o_zpse84d1647.gif

That feeling of knowing your characters so well that they become an extension of yourself, and you realise the characters were inside you all along, banging against your chest, clamouring to be let out.

That feeling where you know their stories so well that their problems become yours, and their actions and motivations lead neatly up to the final act.

That feeling at the end where everything comes into place in the end and makes sense and you can finally see what the hell your story was meant to look like. And you’re so psyched you’re pretty much like this:

 photo jlawexcitedhappy_zpsed7aae76.gif

That feeling. That huge whoosh that takes you right from the start to the end. That eagerness to write. To discover. That was how it was with Until Morning**** I had FUN writing Until Morning. But for Neverland … not so much. Maybe it was that magical element that made writing Until Morning more fun (Until Morning is contemporary YA with a touch of magical realism). But I’ve written realistic YA before, and it didn’t feel as uninspiring as Neverland.

****Or is it just post-novel selective amnesia, where I only remember the good bits from writing the completed novel and not the bad parts? Is there even such a thing???

 photo liloleave-me-alone-to-die_zps38c18a34.gif

I know I’ve bitched and moaned about this enough in my previous posts, and the last thing you want to read is another lament on flat, limpid characters and a plot that’s meandering nowhere. I get it. Like, get it together already, woman! Believe me, there is nothing I would like to do more than that.

So that’s that on the writing front. I’ll let you know if anything changes.

*

So apparently, there’s this new app called Tinder, which looks like another dating app but supposedly isn’t, because you get to look at Facebook profiles (the app is linked to Facebook) of people (set preferred gender) around you (set radius)…

And then you swipe right if you are interested and left if you’re not. If the person you swiped right for shows mutual interest, you two will be automatically mated for life put to chat.

 photo kardashianawkwardtalk_zps67801fe1.gif

Put bluntly, it’s pretty much man-shopping based on profile pictures. Way to encourage people to judge based on appearances – like I don’t already do that on my own.

I told my (single) girlfriends about this app (why is it called Tinder anyway?), and they seem to be having more fun with it than I am. I don’t know, maybe I’m more into serendipitous encounters than casual conversations on a cellphone. You know, more Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop and all that, instead of You’ve Got Mail.

Yeah, I’m aware that if I keep waiting for a chance encounter with a handsome, sweet and funny stranger at my usual hideouts I will probably end up like this:

 photo zooeydiealone_zpsa285ffe7.gif

Ah well. For now, I’m keeping busy. Neverland, be kind to me!

At least I have him in mind for Peter Pan.

Besides, so many books, so little time! Right now, I’m reading this:

Night of Cake and Puppets, a Daughter of Smoke and Bone novella by Laini Taylor

SO MUCH LOVE for this! Unlike DOSAB, it’s written in first-person POV, and alternates between Karou’s crazy, tiny, fierce, funny best friend Zuzana and her crush, sweet, shy, talented violin-playing Mik. The prose is pretty, lovely, funny and completely Laini, if you read her blog.

Here’s a snippet I love:

Snow flurries
Rose bush
Light vines

See how her prose sets off so many visuals in your mind? The words may look dull on the page, but with the right dose of imagination they can come so completely alive and paint such a vivid picture. I just can’t get enough of her pretty imagery!

After Night of Cake and Puppets, there’s Blackbringer and Silksinger. But then I want – no, need – to reread Days of Blood and Starlight before April (i.e. Dreams of Gods and Monsters) comes along.

Damn. Those titles. Epic or what?

Have a great weekend!

an update on the party business

I chickened out in the end. I chose the easy way out and retreated into my hermit cave instead of attending the pirate-themed beach party my company threw just for kicks. (Also, I keep mentioning pirate-themed, only because I want to remind myself how ridiculous it sounds to someone who doesn’t like themed parties that involve dressing up.)

 photo jacksparrow_zpsd49c97c2.gif

 photo jacksparrow2_zpscb9367dd.gif

My company is big on these bonding events, and really it’s not so bad. There’s pizza, booze, games, goody bags, prizes – the usual shebang you’d expect at a company party. But I’m not a party person in general. My idea of a good Friday night is curling up on the couch with a book, or being productive and churning out pages of my novel.

 photo jakegyllenhaalreading_zpsee219653.gif

It might be the cynic in me speaking, but I don’t want to get close to anyone when I’m likely not going to see these people again. I don’t want to get attached when I intend to leave as soon as something else comes along.

But I do understand that in order to have something worth writing, I need to go out and live. Experience things, see things, meet and talk to people, even if they’re only going to be acquaintances. I know I need to break out of my routine and my cloistered life for the sake of my sanity, my social life and cultivate a less boring personality.

But I’m terrified – deathly terrified – that it would turn out really awkward and, well, un-fun. And that I’d have wasted my time being a socially-retarded loser. I think that’s the reason why I’m always hesitant to attend social events. That I’d be reminded of the fact that I either stick out like a sore thumb or have to behave in a socially acceptable way – requisite small talk, bright smile to constantly hold up, chirpy voice – in order to fit in.

 photo mrdarcyshy_zpsd965b041.gif

Of course, staying in my comfort zone makes me even more of a socially-retarded loser.

I want to get out more. I do. But sometimes, going out is such a hassle and meeting new people is daunting. Terrifying. It gets even more terrifying the more I retreat into my shell. Because the truth is, despite how much I convince myself I don’t care what people think of me, it is ALL I can think about when I meet them.

Does she think I’m weird? 

 photo tyrabanksweirdedout_zps65fb6c87.gif

Am I boring him? 

Is she wishing she’s anywhere else but here with me? 

 photo kristenritterboredrollseyes_zps7e5f575f.gif 

What will he say to his friends about me? 

Do I have something in between my teeth? 

Oh god, did I just snort in laughter?

 photo chandlersociallyawkward_zpsdc04ec8b.gif 
Well, in any case, it’s raining now. A part of me is relieved. Now I won’t have to feel so bad about not going. A moment later, another part of me chides that relieved part for being so selfish. Urgh. If only I weren’t such a weirdo. How do you become normal? What is normal? Taking part in social drinking and party games? What if I don’t want to be that kind of “normal”? Does that make me abnormal?

Next time. Next time I promise I’ll go.