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Island of the Misfit Stories and What To Do About Them!

islandofmisfittoys

Toys from the Island of Misfit Toys 

When I was a kid, I loved watching Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. The toys were considered misfits because they possessed some defect and nobody seemed to want them. For example, there is a cowboy that rides an ostrich, a bird that swims, a winged bear, and a boat that can’t stay afloat — to name just a few!

And sometimes, our stories don’t seem to fit anywhere. We may often wallow about in self-pity giving into “writer’s block”, which probably isn’t even a thing. Well, according to, Terry Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett_quote

Regardless, time and time again, our stories come back rejected. And with each return, our will to keep submitting diminishes.

But, don’t despair!

Below are ways I’ve come up with to soldier on and write on when your short stories — just don’t seem to fit anywhere — and come back unwanted when all you’re aching for is some reader love. 😉

Play Rejection Bingo

This is an effective way to keep track of common trends or reasons as to why each story has been rejected by editors. Sometimes, you may not get any feedback at all. Sometimes, a form letter is all that haunts your email. Now, I don’t use this method because it’s fun, (when is rejection ever fun? LOL) but I’m a visual lady and this is another way to keep track of the bigger picture. After gathering feedback and you notice that there’s a trend in the reasons why your story is being rejected address the issue and fix it. Here’s one of my rejection bingo sheets:

Rejection Bingo

Revise your story

Share your story with writers and readers in order to gain priceless feedback about the story. Then, try submitting to another market. Even after you’ve revised and edited further, if that fails, consider paying an editor to look at your work — preferably one that is an expert in the genre you’re writing for. Carefully consider the feedback you receive and make changes accordingly, which will increase the likelihood of an acceptance letter and a contract! 🙂 Ooh la la!

Try a different market

Oh yes, yes, yes! Please do this! You see, what didn’t work for one editor (after all, they are indeed people with different preferences and needs for their particular audience) may suit another just fine. Try it. Don’t self-reject!

Consider Independent Publication

This option isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but there is indeed a market for short story anthologies. What most likely won’t work for me, may work for you. However, being new to this I won’t be taking this route. Yet. 🙂

Consider Traditional Publication

This choice will be easy if you’re Stephen King or another well-known author. If you’re not, then you will need to find an agent or publisher who wants to publish short stories from a new or not as well-known writer. This route isn’t impossible, but it will be difficult.

Post for Free — (Huh?)

You’re probably shaking your head wondering why I mentioned posting your hard-earned stories for free, especially after I supported the argument against it when I reblogged Aimee King’s The True Cost of Free. Well, I’ve reflected on of safer ways of doing this (still be careful and protect your work), which will also increase reader interaction, and potentially further cement the foundation for your author brand and platform. If you have a decent mailing list of trustworthy and faithful readers, share your work with them for free. After all, they love hearing from you and have trusted you with their email address. It doesn’t have to be the entire story. An excerpt is fine, too. You can also offer a free sneak peek of your work in order to funnel in new subscribers.

With that said, I’ll be going on a temporary blog hiatus, starting tomorrow! 🙂 Happy Friday to you and Happy Writing! 🙂

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Quotes to Write By – Day 28

Months ago, I wrote a poem for my husband (it was his birthday) that invoked such deep emotion in him that he cried. I considered getting the published (come on, our kids have gotta eat) at one point and instead shared it at a Wordier Than Thou open mic event.

The response was powerful from the audience.

I didn’t intend to bring people to tears. I just wanted to share the love I have for my husband. The poem, still unpublished, sits on my husband’s work desk in a frame. 🙂

Sometimes when we write we deliberately choose precise words, punctuation, and phrases to inspire certain feelings or reactions in readers. Other times, we don’t intend to stir emotions within people. But when we do it’s absolutely beautiful. From now on when I write I make sure that I’m writing from the depths of my soul, bearing the struggles, the triumphs, the heartache, heartbreak. Why? Because this practice will often ensure the best kind of writing.

Quote #28

“The best kind of writing, and the biggest thrill in writing, is to suddenly read a line from your typewriter that you didn’t know was in you.”

Larry L. King

 

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 25

Last night, I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning. A picture book idea came to me and I simply had to write it! I completed the first draft within four hours at 1275 words. I’ve always loved picture books and adore the time I share with my two youngest sons reading them and reveling in the characters and stories. I’ve never had a picture book published and would love for that to happen.

Picture books aren’t easy to write though. I think they’re much harder than chapter books and novels. Why? Well, the word count can only be so much. Also, you must be able to engage your young audience from the first to the very last page all the while focusing on theme without being too preachy. It’s a tightrope act of balancing just the right use of precise words that keeps readers reading and wanting to re-read the book until the pages are tattered and the book’s spine is worn down from lovable handling.

So, take Shakespeare’s advice because “brevity is the soul of wit”. Use great thought when choosing your words whether or not it’s a picture book and your writing will improve.

Quote #25

brevityshakespeare

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 23 Writer vs Author?

Quote #23

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

Sidonie Gabrielle

sidoniegabrielle

Gabrielle

Based on this quote, I want to be an author.

Other differences between what makes an author and what makes a writer are illustrated in this graphic from this interesting read:

authorvswriterdiagram

However, due to the ease of publishing, everyone and anyone can publish a book, thus earning the title “author”. Not all books or authors are equal though.

So, to revise my earlier declaration:

I want to be an author. 

I want to be an exemplary author. An author that creates “dangerous writing”.tobiaswolffquote

 

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 20

In an earlier post of the “Quotes to Write By” series I cited Mervin Block’s quote “nouns are the bones that give a sentence body. But verbs are the muscles that make it go.”

Well, let’s have a little discussion about adjectives and adverbs.

marktwain

Twain

 

Believe it or not, these descriptive parts of speech can do a lot of damage to a decent sentence, paragraph, or scene.  Mark Twain advises “if you catch an adjective, kill it.” And Stephen King admonishes that adverbs are not a writer’s friend.

Stephen-King

King

 

 

Why?

Here are some examples from King:

“Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

King also addresses how adverbs can (taboo -ly words) weaken — not strengthen dialogue:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

What’s a writer to do?

Kill them! Kill them all!

Kill them? Kill them all? Not necessarily. And not always. 🙂

For starters,

  • Use strong verbs instead.
  • Describe your character’s facial expressions, actions.
  • Utilize literary devises such as metaphor and similes, which I call formidable beasts.
  • Get inside the minds of your characters with Deep POV.

At last, the quote for today:

jackmbickham

Bickham

Quote #20

“Adjectives, like adverbs are lazy words, slowpokes, tranquilizers. Watch out for them.”

Jack M. Bickham

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

Quotes to Write By – Day 18

Last Saturday, I attended my critique group, Pinellas Writers, with a mission:

To read and get valuable feedback on a picture book that I wanted to submit to a major publishing house. Ironically, as I read the manuscript I couldn’t stop shaking or sweating. I held the podium until my fingers ached and grew slick with perspiration. It’s ironic because I’m a reading teacher and I spend hours day after day reading to my students, engaging them in discussions, and so much more.

 

But reading in front of a group of my own peers — some who are much better with the craft of writing than I — and my legs become wet noodles.

One of the protocols for our critique group is for speaking writers to read their work for five minutes. After the five minutes is up, writers may critique the work by giving positive and/or negative feedback. For longer stories, this process doesn’t always work the way I like it. I need more time. My readers need more time to tear apart my work, looking for beauty where it can be salvaged and revealing the rotten parts that need to be ripped out.

critique_groups

Hilarious. I’d say nothing if I were you. Just nod and smile. Or, er, uh . . . maybe not. There’s no telling what sets this guy off.

And I need more time to pick their brain as to what needs to be done to make the writing better. I’ll share more on this in a later post. I’m very visual and need specific feedback, so I came prepared with copies of the manuscript to help with this. I invited writers to jot down their comments on the manuscript. I received all but one back. Fellow writer said he needed more time. Lol. I hope that he enjoyed what I wrote so much that he wanted to keep it a little longer. 🙂

 

But I digress. Moving on.

As writers, it’s important that we listen to our words aloud. Do you have to join a critique group to do this? Of course not. Reading and/or recording your work and playing it back is beneficial too. The following quote provides some answers as to why this practice is priceless:

Quote #18

“Writing isn’t just on the page; it’s voices in the reader’s head. Read what you write out loud to someone — anyone — and you will catch all kinds of things.”

Donna Jo Napoli

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 8

Today’s quote comes from my most recent accomplishment.

I wrote my second picture book. My first picture book was called “Abigail and the Butterfly Masquerade.” I’ve never submitted it and may self-publish it someday or submit it to a publishing house.

This most recent attempt at writing a picture book was a lot of fun and really hard. Why? Because the word count limit is 1500 words. It took me three days to complete the first draft. 🙂 The first day I did a lot of research learning about the Japanese tea ceremony since the narrator is an eleven-year-old half-Japanese girl. I think that diverse books are important and that we need more of them and that’s why a lot of my books will include more and more authentic and multicultural characters. Day two, I gave the first half of the draft to three readers. Two are adults (one is Japanese) and the third person is a student who could relate to the story.

For this first draft, I’m torn between two title ideas: “Love Song” or “Ichi-go Ichi-e“. As I revise this draft and make it stronger, leaner, and sweeter I hope that I can settle on the best one. 🙂

Will Shetterly

Will Shetterly

Quote #8

“It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.”

Will Shetterly