View Full Version : Your first affirmation?

07-29-2012, 11:50 PM
I participated in a query wrinkle this Saturday on Janet Reid's blog, which granted you a personalized response (it's still open, by the way). And even though I knew she did not represent my genre, I wanted to see what reaction my query would get.

The response was short and simple, but so encouraging that for the first time since I started writing, I feel like I'm going to make it. I will be published. I will see my name on a cover of a book in stores all across the country.

Did you ever have that moment that lit the fire of confidence in you? When you knew everything is going to work out just as you hope?

07-30-2012, 12:13 AM
Hold onto that moment, but not too tightly.

I've had a few great affirmations over the years. They can vary from the sheer joy of being in the groove on a long writing spree, to a contest win, to a nice email from a reader whose opinion I value. I try not to let those moments assume too much importance, but they do help me go on.

They also dwindle in impact as years go by, and as my goals and hopes shift. I was full of myself when a college professor liked one of my pieces, but I was years away from submissions quality. I loved the moment when a short story won a writing contest at a major sf&f convention, and an agent asked if I had any longer work. That led to nearly eight years of spinning wheels in mud, because I was still not ready.

My first undoubted affirmation was selling a short story to a good anthology from a minor press - even though it never earned royalties and the press went out of business not long after.

I have a novel published now. I've reached one goal. As I suspected, that's also a moving target, because now I worry about promotions and contracted sequels.

07-30-2012, 01:03 AM
Did you ever have that moment that lit the fire of confidence in you? When you knew everything is going to work out just as you hope?
Every six months when the royalty statement shows up. :)


07-30-2012, 01:07 AM
A few, long ago, that lit it. Since then, a long string of things that quenched it.


07-30-2012, 01:19 AM
Landing a publishing deal, getting an advance and being distributed by B. Dalton and Walden's with my first non-fic book, back in 1988. For fiction, landing with the Richard Curtis and having my book go to main-line producers and directors in Hollywood, about a year after the non-fiction book deal. Then another non-fiction book deal--TV, radio and newspaper interviews. Lots of limelight back then. Wore an author's badge to my first and second BEA back then.

Today, the fiction is a struggle to match those any of those high points.


C. K. Casner
07-30-2012, 03:21 AM
I had a false affirmation when I unwittingly published with a vanity pub. When I realized I had made a HUGE mistake, it lit a fire in me to see if I truly have what it takes. Its still a work in progress.

I survived the Query Shark gauntlet and refined my query. Too bad the fanstasy element in my historical fantasy turned her off. I would have loved to have her as an agent.

07-30-2012, 03:36 AM
Just an FYI, the Wrinkle is held during very specific hours (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-new-wrinkle-in-query-game-rules-of.html). (So that no one thinks she's doing this 24/7.)

Glad you got a lift from it, Bukarella. Now keep querying!

Mr Flibble
07-30-2012, 04:40 AM
My first R&R on my first ever book - I love the voice, wordcount needs to be slimmer.

07-30-2012, 05:06 AM
I am naturally and insufferably arrogant.

But my affirmation was when I got my first full request. I felt like a REAL writer and that my work was good enough to hold an agent's interest.

The eventual R with very good feedback didn't break my stride at all.

07-30-2012, 05:11 AM
A few, long ago, that lit it. Since then, a long string of things that quenched it.

You are such a wet blanket.

To the OP, my first was an acceptance on my first piece of short fiction, which I'd sent out just for a lark. Since then some other find affirmative moments have included: being asked to judge a writing contest, being allowed to edit an anthology, coaching a super-green writer and seeing her writing improve by leaps and bounds, and some great reader feedback.

07-30-2012, 07:43 AM
I've had a few in writing and art, but so far all the writing ones have been personal, not professional. Still, they keep me at it, so they matter to me.

I had a landlord who was familiar with my art and writing urge me to quit a bad day job because it was distracting me from creative work. When someone you do or will owe money to tells you that, it's pretty affirming.

I had a well established artist who I admired deeply see my art work for the first time, study several pieces closely, and say, "Damn, this is serious stuff."

I've been accepted into several juried art shows judged by Big Playas in the art scene, and gotten very complimentary remarks from them. I've been mentioned in passing but flatteringly in local press. I once enjoyed the delicious experience of seeing artists who won higher prizes than me in a juried competition still get all pissy towards me when they finally got to see my work next to theirs and watch the assembled arterati spend half the reception kvelling over my work while no one stood in front of theirs. ;)

I regularly have people who should be yelling at me to make money instead yell at me to write more.

In some ways that sort of encouragement is frustrating because when the money needs loom and the day job takes precedence, I feel very sharply that I'm on the wrong track again. But it's also wonderful because it gives me hope and confidence.

Right now, I'm clinging to that hope and confidence, because I'm close to finishing my first full length novel, but money needs are looming large (as they are for most of us), and I'm facing the prospect of having the tremendous good luck to have someone else set me up for a potentially lucrative day job, which, if obtained, will solve my immediate money troubles, but which will eat into the creative work very badly. I plan on having to put the artwork on hold indefinitely. I know I'm lucky to have this chance, but I still find it horribly depressing. The affirmations I get from those who've seen what I do is motivating me to make plans to keep my oar in the art scene at least indirectly, and to put all my personal time into writing, to finish and polish the novel. If I didn't have that encouragement, I'd probably be terribly ungrateful for what these other people have done for me on the paycheck side.

07-30-2012, 09:19 AM
You are such a wet blanket.

Truth in advertising. But:

my first was an acceptance on my first piece of short fiction, which I'd sent out just for a lark. Since then some other find affirmative moments have included: being asked to judge a writing contest, being allowed to edit an anthology, coaching a super-green writer and seeing her writing improve by leaps and bounds, and some great reader feedback.

. . . if I'd experienced any of these things, I might feel differently.

To the OP, my major moment of affirmation happened 14 years ago, when I submitted a novel excerpt to two contests associated with major and highly respected writers' conferences, finished second in one (winning some decent money), and being a finalist, among three, in the other (no money).

Felt pretty good about my writing then, did a lot of agent querying. Results? Nada. Zippo. Ditto with submissions of other stuff. I should feel affirmed?


07-30-2012, 10:44 AM
In all that time since, Blacbird, have you had any reasonable consensus on what might be lacking in your writing? My first sale happened back in 1999, and I've had lots of critiques since then. I even listened to some of them.

If you're just writing without feedback, it can be a very lonely crap shoot. It's too easy to judge your writing either too harshly, or too gently. Given the number and level of your posts over the years, you are very literate.

07-30-2012, 03:51 PM
I don't think I will feel affirmed until I am published. I've had some positive feedback on my work but I'm still far away from that point. Hope to make my work good enough for submissions with some beta help.

07-30-2012, 04:26 PM
I sent the first page of my then-WIP through Miss Snark's very first Crapometer, and she said she'd read on. (mood: :D)

Got a form rejection from a Canadian SF&F magazine with a handwritten note from the EIC at the bottom, saying this story wasn't for him but did I have any other work to send along, he'd be interested to see it. (mood: :D)

Maria Carvainis asking me details about my MC over the phone, when all I'd called for was to make sure I'd spelled her last name correctly for the query and didn't even expect to talk to Maria herself. (mood: :eek: and then :e2bummed:, because I flubbed that opportunity and might've cost myself a request right then and there)

I wrote all of these because I truly can't remember which one came first. They were all seven-ish years ago, and nothing substantial ever came of any of them.

But every so often I remember them, and sometimes I just feel good about it and sometimes it lights a fire under my butt.

07-30-2012, 05:09 PM
Good for you, OP. I vaguely remember the first pro writer who looked at my writing and said, "you have what it takes." It was very important to me at that point.

My first sale to a paying market and my first sale to a top literary magazine, guest edited by a writer I admire a lot, were the top moments. Hitting a "best stories of the year" list was heartwarming. Less thrilling, because by that point I was getting more realistic, a letter from an agent soliciting me for literary novels, a letter from my favorite and exclusive lit magazine soliciting a story. Like CAW, since then, with novels, not a moment to encourage me*. Eventually the rejection broke my spirit and I quit writing for publication for over five years. The fallback option now of self-pubbing on kindle made me see novels were worth another try, but my thinking today is not what I'd call "positive" about the industry or my chances. Even if good things happen, I'm too cynical to ever "squee" about anything else, I fear. I'll say "uh-huh" in a very cautious tone, I imagine, but I'm 98% sure I won't get that chance.

I hope none of you at the beginning of your careers have reason to become cynical or disappointed. I hope it's all flowers and sunshine for everyone else, honest.

*My writing I know is solid, and I don't need yet another kid here telling me that I'm deluded about my writing and have I ever tried a critique group--though that certainly would give me the opportunity to expand my "ignore" list.

07-30-2012, 05:17 PM
When I first started submitting my work twelve years ago, the editor called and asked if I was a professional writer.

07-30-2012, 05:59 PM
My first affirmation was way different than the kinds listed upstream. It requires a little explanation.

When I finshed my first novel-length story, I sent it out for evaluation thinking I'd get back the a significant affirmation of my effort and my "talent." What I got back was the equivalent of having a "new one ripped." I had the usual newbie response. How dare that a$$hole not recognize my brilliance, my wonderful writing. He must have an agenda of pushing down the competition. Then, after a little time of thinking about the crits, I came up with the grandaddy of all sidesteps of professional maturity, "It wasn't so much what he said, it was how he said it."

At the time I received the crit, I was a about half-way through my next story. I shoved it aside thinking that if this was the kind of a$$hole I'd have to deal with in this writing business, I wanted nothing to do with it. That lasted a couple of weeks. Then, I started to dissect the crit comments and eventually I realized that if one were to list the 50 most common mistakes new writers make, I not only made them all, I made them in colossal purple splendor.

I picked up the WIP and began the process of re-writing what I had, paying attention to all of the issues noted for the first story. I finished that story and it became Phoenix. Next, I returned to the original (ripped) story and dug into a re-write. That story became Something Bad (that's the title, not a description, although y'all are free to draw your own conclusion).

My affirmation came from two things. My forced learning of important aspects of the writing craft (which still is in progress and never will stop), and the realization that the best way to enhance that learning is to put my work out for evaluation so I can continue to learn how to strengthen and improve my writing. I read many of the books on writing before submitting that first miserable story, but the lessons and examples didn't sink in until I saw them redlined in my own writing. So to me, affirmation comes from peer review, but not in the way you might think. It doesn't come from positive comments, but in the gracious comments of betas who point out issues and problems with my writing, and the resultant feeling of, "I can fix this stuff."

07-30-2012, 06:15 PM
Sadly, I'm still waiting for it. :(

07-30-2012, 08:33 PM
My first rejection, incidently from a top UK agent. It went something like:

Women won't read a [male protaganist.]

Men won't buy this.

Could be wrong, could be bestseller.

After I railed against her reasoning [which I still think is BS], it was actually one of my 'good' rejections. :)

07-30-2012, 09:25 PM
Mrs. Hartigan, way back in high school, read my historical fiction about George Sand (racy!) and said I was a writer.

Mrs. Hartigan was never wrong.

07-30-2012, 09:33 PM
I should feel affirmed?

Not necessarily, but you also don't need to rain on someone else's "happy thread".

07-30-2012, 10:59 PM
When I sold the second story I submitted to the one and only place I submitted it to. (Then later sold the first story, too, after it had been rejected, again to the same place.)

Unhappily, though, I am only published in the mystery field, which is never ever where I thought I'd turn up.

Bah, humbug. I shouldn't complain.

07-31-2012, 06:28 AM
I don't have aspirations, so it's hard to answer the question. My stuff is getting out there, though. I guess I can't complain. I just love writing.

07-31-2012, 08:40 PM
My affirmations are all very small.

In junior high, I won a short story contest (a trophy and everything), and I had a wonderful English teacher who encouraged me. (This is the smallest affirmation because I reason that teachers are supposed to be encouraging and that no one else in my school could string words together.)

I started some small hobby writing, and after a few years, a writing partner was gushing about my characterization and how I take risks with my writing. (Still small because she was a friend and I still haven't figured out where the risks are.)

I started writing fanfiction (I know, I know... that's why it's a small affirmation), and my audience was very complementary of my stories.

I finally submitted a short something to an editor's blog and got praise from the blogger and from the regular blog commenters. (This is the best one, coming from industry people.)

So I have very small affirmations that probably don't mean much, but they encourage me little by little. I'm slowly increasing my exposure as my confidence builds and (thankfully) getting encouragement at every step.

07-31-2012, 10:59 PM
In 6th grade when my parents were forced to take me out of the Christian school I was in because our teacher told us to re-write A Christmas Carol set in modern day and I gave Tiny Tim AIDS. In those days, of course, it meant that he was either a homosexual or a junkie, so the Principal did not approve. Apparently I was "too creative". It was making the other parents uncomfortable. Also, in 7th grade when Mrs. McDermott, my English teacher, called my parents, made them come to the school, then informed them that I had stolen an essay off the internet and turned it in as mine. My mom took one look at it and replied calmly, "No, she wrote this."

People will tell you not to trust your friends or family members when it comes to your writing ability--I say why not!?! Sure, they could be lying to you! But unless your One Main Goal in the Whole Universe is to get published by Penguin... why not enjoy the fruits of your efforts? If I get published, it won't be nearly as much of an affirmation as when the people at my writing group tell me what a good job I've done. After all, many poor writers get published and meany great writers do not. There's too much luck involved in being published for me to rest my ego on that!

07-31-2012, 11:05 PM
Did you ever have that moment that lit the fire of confidence in you? When you knew everything is going to work out just as you hope?

07-31-2012, 11:40 PM
I'm sorry to hear that. Because as cynical as I am, I've still had those moments. I may never trust them completely. I've had enough of them fizzle out. But I remember the warm feeling those affirmations gave me, and treasure it as insulation against the negatives.

I don't operate on 'hope', but on recognizing and following opportunities. Being stuck in apathy and negativity got in the way of those chances, so I stopped.

08-01-2012, 12:43 AM
It doesn't come from positive comments, but in the gracious comments of betas who point out issues and problems with my writing, and the resultant feeling of, "I can fix this stuff."


08-01-2012, 01:10 AM
Just recently my brother said my stories' main villain sounds awesome. I was ecstatic.

Then I turned around and completely destroyed the villain's character, rebuilding him to something much more realistic. Even something that is lauded as great by others (even family) can be better, I think.

And since I'm far from even having a first draft written on any of my stories, I'd say my villain still has a lot more potential.

08-01-2012, 02:40 AM
A few days ago, actually!

Following up on this post in the "things you wrote as a kid" thread:

My brother came out to everybody (as gay, and a crossdresser) when I was in the 7th grade (he was a junior in high school I think), so in his honor, I wrote my "story of the week" for school about a transvestite who met a man much like my brother whom he fell in love with and they eloped in Japan and all that.

Anyway, my English teacher told me it was creative but inappropriate for school and I needed to redo it if she was going to put it up for display at Open House.

So I wrote another story about a girl in 8th grade whose teacher told her that a story she wrote was unacceptable for school and the emotional rollercoaster that teacher's harsh words put her through.

My younger brother went to an extra English class thing she does every summer, and she told them about my stories (which, apparently, she does every year, many kudos to her), and said something about how she'll always remember my gr8 writng skillz. I was so happy!

Also, every time someone leaves me a rep or a nice comment or something on my SYW stuff, it makes me really really happy, because I respect the people of AW so much. It just warms my heart when they return the favor. :heart:

08-01-2012, 08:45 PM
When the first story I wrote sold. Until you actually sell something, until affirmation becomes reality, all you have, even with affirmation, is potential, and people often fail to live up to their potential.

Potential is a word that always worried me. To paraphrase the old definition, it tends to mean "You might be pretty good someday, but that day sure isn't today."

Then again, I never wanted to be a writer. I started writing purely for money, and had that first short story not sold, I doubt I would have written another.

08-01-2012, 09:36 PM
Whenever I get that feeling something always seems to squish it ;)

08-01-2012, 10:00 PM
Jamesaritchie, sometimes your posts stone cold bum me out.

My first affirmation was my 12th grade creative writing teacher stealing my stories so she could hand them off to her daughter in college to pass off as her own work. "My soul is crushed," I thought, "But hey, I must not suck if I'm getting thieved on already!" Sigh.

I'm actually pretty neurotic about my writing... but it's my passion and I can't quit anytime I want to.

08-01-2012, 10:21 PM
Potential is a word that always worried me. To paraphrase the old definition, it tends to mean "You might be pretty good someday, but that day sure isn't today."Actually, it means "you suck right now, but it might not always be that way." ;) The only word that worries me is "hopeless"...

(Well, okay, there's also "fatal" and "highly contagious" and "biological warfare" and whatever, but you know.)