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Once!
11-15-2015, 11:47 AM
Spotted an interesting article on the BBC News website. I thought fellow AWers would be interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34775411

It argues that quantity of work can generate quality and creativity.

shizu
11-15-2015, 01:37 PM
I've heard that story about the ceramics class a few times, and it's always made sense if only from a probability standpoint.

If you're producing a ton of work (and learning from it, which admittedly may not always be the case) then you're more likely to have a few hits among all the misses just due to sheer numbers. If you're laboring over one thing for a long period of time, or theorizing, or anything else that doesn't involve gaining knowledge and experience in your craft, then the odds of that one project being amazing seems much less.

I think this is why the advice to finish first drafts even if you think they're awful is so important; you can't learn from a blank page, and you definitely can't fix it and make it better.

I know I always feel more productive and creative when I've already built up some momentum with my writing. It can be a little frustrating when I've already got a lot on my plate writing-wise, but it's a nice problem to have when it happens!

kennyc
11-15-2015, 03:31 PM
Spotted an interesting article on the BBC News website. I thought fellow AWers would be interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34775411

It argues that quantity of work can generate quality and creativity.

Great article. Thanks!

Ken
11-15-2015, 06:21 PM
Interesting stuff. One thing, though. Art is different than writing. It's similar to writing, but only so much so. Apply this to writing and you may not get the same results. Unfinished art may still rate, but unfinished writing may just be rubbish. Etc, etc. Ultimately, of course, for either do whatever helps you to improve and to sell your stuff if that is what you are into. Thnx for zee link.

Manuel Royal
11-15-2015, 11:17 PM
I think this is why the advice to finish first drafts even if you think they're awful is so important; you can't learn from a blank page, and you definitely can't fix it and make it better.Good point, and I think it's also important to finish them just to learn to effin' finish things.

jjdebenedictis
11-16-2015, 01:22 AM
Yeah, I've been playing Sudoku on "evil" level online for a few years. Originally, if I used a grid and made notes, I could occasionally win a game. Very rarely. Then I got to the point where I was playing at the same level (barely ever able to win a game) except without the grid. Now I can win any of those games provided I just don't give up on them (which happens; it can take me 20 minutes to grind through a bad one).

I got better by nothing more glamourous than failing again and again and again and again without giving up. And everything is like that; if you keep trying, you learn. Someone here on AW has a sig line that reads "Everything yields to treatment. :Headbang:" I love that, because it's true--being bloody-minded stubborn is perhaps more important than being talented (not that talent isn't required too, but you literally build more talent from nothing by continuing to struggle.)

Laer Carroll
11-16-2015, 04:19 AM
I got better by nothing more glamourous than failing again and again and again and again without giving up. And everything is like that; if you keep trying, you learn.
Quite right. The more we write (or paint, sculpt, cook, play basketball, do stand-up comedy, etc.) the more practice we get at our craft. As long as we try to get better at that craft the more we will get better.

Thus even unfinished manuscripts can be a learning experience. Certainly I've been halfway through a work and realized I was doing something wrong and trunked it, at least for a time. Then, when I got better, or inspired by a new approach to the work, I could resurrect it and finish it.

So, rather than being so depressed you could not finish a work that you quit writing altogether, start a new book. Even if you don't finish THAT one. Not writing AT ALL is a sure way not to get better.

Jamesaritchie
11-16-2015, 12:23 PM
Spotted an interesting article on the BBC News website. I thought fellow AWers would be interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34775411

It argues that quantity of work can generate quality and creativity.

The BBC is only about seven hundred years late is saying this about all forms of art, including writing. There has never been any doubt at all about quantity and creativity, or straight to the point, that quantity produces quality. Whether it's da Vinci, or Shakespeare, or Ray Bradbury, or hundreds of others, all have made this statement, and proven it true.

Helix
11-16-2015, 12:41 PM
The BBC is only about seven hundred years late is saying this about all forms of art, including writing. There has never been any doubt at all about quantity and creativity, or straight to the point, that quantity produces quality. Whether it's da Vinci, or Shakespeare, or Ray Bradbury, or hundreds of others, all have made this statement, and proven it true.



We're not all old enough to have heard it the first time around.

Roxxsmom
11-16-2015, 12:49 PM
So is there any hope for us who are inspired (get ideas we love enough to pursue) rarely but invest a lot of time and effort in the things that grab our heartstrings when we do? Or should I give up? :cry:

Are there any examples (besides Harper Lee) of good writers or artists who weren't super prolific, or at least didn't churn out huge quantities of work but produced fewer things that were still really good?

kennyc
11-16-2015, 03:43 PM
We're not all old enough to have heard it the first time around.

This!

kennyc
11-16-2015, 03:45 PM
So is there any hope for us who are inspired (get ideas we love enough to pursue) rarely but invest a lot of time and effort in the things that grab our heartstrings when we do? Or should I give up? :cry:

Are there any examples (besides Harper Lee) of good writers or artists who weren't super prolific, or at least didn't churn out huge quantities of work but produced fewer things that were still really good?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. :)

Once!
11-16-2015, 04:15 PM
So is there any hope for us who are inspired (get ideas we love enough to pursue) rarely but invest a lot of time and effort in the things that grab our heartstrings when we do? Or should I give up? :cry:

Are there any examples (besides Harper Lee) of good writers or artists who weren't super prolific, or at least didn't churn out huge quantities of work but produced fewer things that were still really good?

I'm not so sure that Harper Lee qualifies. She wrote for quite a long period between 1950 and 1959, including the famous one year working solidly on TKAM.

And Margaret Mitchell wrote for about ten years before Gone with the Wind.

That's the problem with many "overnight successes". Their success wasn't as overnight as we might think.

ap123
11-16-2015, 06:16 PM
So is there any hope for us who are inspired (get ideas we love enough to pursue) rarely but invest a lot of time and effort in the things that grab our heartstrings when we do? Or should I give up? :cry:

Are there any examples (besides Harper Lee) of good writers or artists who weren't super prolific, or at least didn't churn out huge quantities of work but produced fewer things that were still really good?

Donna Tartt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Chabon, Janet Fitch. These are modern examples that jump to my mind.


I'm not so sure that Harper Lee qualifies. She wrote for quite a long period between 1950 and 1959, including the famous one year working solidly on TKAM.

And Margaret Mitchell wrote for about ten years before Gone with the Wind.

That's the problem with many "overnight successes". Their success wasn't as overnight as we might think.

To me, that's the answer to a different question. A long time between works, or few works, doesn't make me think the writer wasn't writing or that they were an overnight success, but rather that specific writer's process is different from those that are more prolific.

Roxxsmom
11-17-2015, 12:30 AM
I'm not so sure that Harper Lee qualifies. She wrote for quite a long period between 1950 and 1959, including the famous one year working solidly on TKAM.

And Margaret Mitchell wrote for about ten years before Gone with the Wind.

That's the problem with many "overnight successes". Their success wasn't as overnight as we might think.

Well, I've been writing for years too, so if my "first" novel gets published, it wouldn't be the first thing I ever wrote either.

The difference is, I am the kind of person at the polar opposite of the Heinlein spectrum (churn a novel out in 17 days and sub it with no rewriting or editing at all). I want to make sure everything I write is right. I get very attached to a project and want to make it the best it can be before I send it. If I rack up rejections, it means I screwed it up and need to figure out why it's not good enough and spend more time rewriting and polishing that project before the next round of rejections.

And I've fallen in love with these characters and their world in a way that has made it impossible for me to get caught up in a new project. Writing this was fun and exciting. It's the first time the words flew from my fingers when I wrote. I've felt this way about a handful of projects in my long life (this is the first novel that felt this way).

So how can I change my nature and emotional profile to become the kind of prolific writer who can churn out dozens of things a year? How can I not fall into a deeper miasma of depression and self doubt every time I get a form rejection? How can I stick with a new project that feels flat, stupid, insipid, and uninspired before I get even three chapters in? When I get stuck and have no idea what these people are going to do next, and why should I care anyway? How can I write a good story about a character I don't love the way I love the characters from this book that keeps getting rejected?

Roxxsmom
11-18-2015, 10:04 AM
Well, I killed this thread dead, it seems.

The question I have, I guess, is whether it's pretty much impossible to succeed as a writer if one's process seems to be about investing more emotionally in a smaller number of projects? I don't live under a rock, so I know the market conditions (and statistics) favor the shotgun" approach: those who can churn things out quickly and have lots of irons in the fire at once. People obviously would have an advantage if they're the sort who don't get too "attached" to any one project and who don't fall into despair and get frustrated and discouraged that their ideas and enthusiasm wither on the vine if something they love doesn't get any love from industry pros.

But if you're not that kind of person, is there any way to become that kind of person? Because articles that scold me and tell me I'm doing it wrong don't really help, since they don't tell me how to get more ideas and how to fall in love with those ideas and believe in them, even if they don't feel as good or as cool as the one that got my hopes up early on but has had nada since (and I'm still not sure why and still trying to "fix" it so I can query the rest of my list).

In fact, the scolding articles makes me feel even more discouraged about myself and my process, which makes it even harder to climb out of the pit.

If there isn't a way to be the kind of person most people think I should be, there seem to be three options:

1. Hope that it's at least possible to sell work as a "more eggs in one basket" kind of writer, even if it's less probable.

2. Resign myself to writing only for me and my loyal critting partners.

3. Give up on writing.

Once!
11-18-2015, 11:53 AM
Hmm. Some deep questions there! I'll splatter out some random ideas and see if any of them stick. They might, they might not. That's what you get when you splatter.

It is dangerous to compare ourselves to other people - this writer is more prolific than me, this one had overnight success, this one manages to sell books by the bucketload, this book was far better written than anything I could do. When we look at another author, we only see the final product. We never see other people in the same amount of detail that we see ourselves. We rarely see all the failed books before the breakthrough novel. We don't see all the crappy versions before the final edit. We don't see the pile of rejection slips. We don't see their doubts and despair.

We only see other authors in their best light, compared to the horrible forensic detail that we use for ourselves. So put all other authors to one side. There is only pain in that particular comparison.

While we are putting things to one side, I would also discard any nagging books. We want positive things that build us up, not negative things which do us down. Far too many successful authors confuse "this is how I did it" with "this is how everyone should do it." And that can lead to us feeling inadequate if one particular author's preferred way of doing things doesn't work for us. I suspect we both know who we mean here, don't we?

Next I think we need to be clear about what we mean by "prolific". Yes, at one end of the scale this means authors churning out many many books. At that extreme, it can feel like a conveyor belt, a mechanical process. I can't work like that. I don't think many people can. But that is the extreme end of the spectrum. It is scary because it can feel alien and impossible to emulate. We don't necessarily have to be at that end of the spectrum. We can get results simply by being more prolific that we are now, without needing to be Barbara Cartland prolific.

Why do we think that "prolific" is more likely to lead to success than "not prolific"? I think there are several reasons:

1. sheer probability. The more works we have out there, the more chance that readers and editors will find something they like.
2. practice and polish. The more we write, the better we get at writing.
3. lightness of touch. If we only focus on one book, that book could become too concentrated and overworked.
4. permission to fail. Prolific authors tend not to put all their eggs in one basket. This can mean that their writing feels more effortless and flows better.

So let's take all the negative stuff and filter out anything that isn't helpful or positive. Don't beat yourself up for not being ultra-prolific. All that will achieve is that you get beaten up. Instead, let's take baby steps. Try to be a little more prolific than you are now. Tip the balance a little in favour of writing more. You don't have to tip the balance all the way. Just a little. It's a start.

I have a theory that we tend to get what we focus on. If we focus on our failings and our fears, then we will indeed fail and we will be frightened. Instead we should focus on what we want to achieve. Just write a little bit more today than you did tomorrow. And then do it again. And again. Don't think that you have to become a different kind of person because very few of us have ever managed that trick.

One other thought and I have to say this very gently and delicately. You put a lot of time and effort into this forum. Your posts are invariably well thought out, incisive and all round wonderful. I've often joked that I want a keyboard shortcut that says "I agree with Roxxsmom". If your writing was a fraction of the quality of your posting I am sure you would be a runaway success.

But ... you know what I am going to say, don't you? ... you are putting a lot of your energy and time into those posts. I suspect you do it because you know you are good at it, and that you have a lot to give. If you could give that same amount of energy and time to your writing, who knows what you could achieve? The important thing is not to beat yourself up about it.

Little changes, building on existing strengths. Not big changes based on feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Richard White
11-18-2015, 07:39 PM
I can only echo what Once! said there.

Perhaps if you're feeling overwhelmed, take a short break away from what you're working on and try something different. If you mostly write X, then try to write Y. It doesn't have to be a full blown novel - maybe a piece of flash fiction, perhaps a short story. You may be so invested in your book, all you can see are the warts. If you try writing in a genre that you're not comfortable with, then you can concentrate on technique and you know what . . . if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Then try something else, and something else.

Once you've experimented with some stuff, then go back and I suspect you won't find your original document quite so daunting. Maybe by experimenting with other stuff - stuff you really never meant to send anywhere - you'll spot what might have been the fatal flaw in your story. Fresh eyes and fresh techniques may help you whip it into shape so that agents and publishers are falling over themselves to get it (don't we all wish ;) ).

OR, maybe you'll find you're not quite so emotionally attached to these characters any more and you want to try your hand at a new story with all new characters.

But, you'll never know if you don't take a chance.

kkbe
11-18-2015, 09:15 PM
Well, I killed this thread dead, it seems. No, you didn't. :Hug2:


The question I have, I guess, is whether it's pretty much impossible to succeed as a writer if one's process seems to be about investing more emotionally in a smaller number of projects? I don't live under a rock, so I know the market conditions (and statistics) favor the shotgun" approach: those who can churn things out quickly and have lots of irons in the fire at once. People obviously would have an advantage if they're the sort who don't get too "attached" to any one project and who don't fall into despair and get frustrated and discouraged that their ideas and enthusiasm wither on the vine if something they love doesn't get any love from industry pros.I think the shotgun approach works for some. Not all. Not you, apparently. Not me, for sure. I love the novels I do write, and invest a lot in each one, emotionally, I mean. I love the characters. I am a perfectionist and labor to get stuff 'right'. Meaning, perfect. To me.


But if you're not that kind of person, is there any way to become that kind of person? Because articles that scold me and tell me I'm doing it wrong don't really help, since they don't tell me how to get more ideas and how to fall in love with those ideas and believe in them, even if they don't feel as good or as cool as the one that got my hopes up early on but has had nada since (and I'm still not sure why and still trying to "fix" it so I can query the rest of my list).You are who you are. You write the way you write. Screw those scolding articles, everybody's process is different. Everybody's approach to writing is different. Whether you are emotionally invested in your writing or happy to kick out good stuff with zero emotional attachment to it is a really personal thing, I think.

I do believe that writers tend to question themselves and their abilities. I say 'tend to,' so that's certainly not a blanket statement. But I think doubt comes part and parcel with many writers. The reason, to me, is obvious: we create, and put that creation out there for public scrutiny. And some people may not respond favorably to our work. Any kind of art, put out there, is going to garner subjective responses, which are out of our control. It's tough to accept that sometimes, at least it is for me.


In fact, the scolding articles makes me feel even more discouraged about myself and my process, which makes it even harder to climb out of the pit. Quit reading those articles, that would be my advice. And not offered flippantly. True story: I went to the dr. once, all upset because, I told him, when I tugged at my hair, some came out. His advice: Quit tugging your hair.

:)


If there isn't a way to be the kind of person most people think I should be, there seem to be three options:

1. Hope that it's at least possible to sell work as a "more eggs in one basket" kind of writer, even if it's less probable.

2. Resign myself to writing only for me and my loyal critting partners.

3. Give up on writing. Or 4. Keep writing and learning and getting better at the craft, and keep doing your best work, and stop comparing yourselves to others, and expect good things because sometimes, good things happen.

xoxo kk

kkbe
11-18-2015, 09:34 PM
Spotted an interesting article on the BBC News website. I thought fellow AWers would be interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34775411

It argues that quantity of work can generate quality and creativity. Climbing up on my soapbox again, just for a sec.

I read the article with interest, looking at it as a writer, artist, and former teacher of little kids. When I was teaching kindergarten and first grade, I told my little students early on that everybody makes mistakes, that mistakes are part of learning. That it was okay to make a mistake, okay to x out mistakes, erase, draw a smily face on mistakes. Those kids made a lot of mistakes and, as their teacher, so did I. We owned our mistakes, talked about them, drew support from each other, worked to learn from them, celebrated effort as well as final products. Learning was the main thing, and you learn by doing, I believe that.

As a college student in a well-known art college in Detroit, I had a different experience. Quality was key. Final product was everything. I had a professor once who told me, point blank, that it didn't matter how long a project took, didn't matter how hard I'd tried to do it right, all that mattered was the final project. That's what we were graded on. And sometimes, that grade was based on subjective responses from faculty and fellow students. Some people didn't like my work, some did. That's how it was. Teaching children required a big, big mindset change for me.

As a writer, I find myself in a different boat once again. I work on my own, creating something that I hope will be good, good enough to maybe sell one day. Lot of ifs there. At this point in my writing--I'm about five years into it now--I think I've accepted my own process. I've written more and gotten better at writing. I've grown a thicker skin, for sure. I make mistakes but I'm more aware of the traps I used to fall into, and have learned strategies for avoiding those traps. I am more inclined to fix what's wrong without too much heartache and heartbreak. More willing to do what it takes to get my stuff sold. I will never be a prolific writer, I've definitely slowed down my output since those first couple of fanatical years. . .

Bottom line for me is, I try--try--not to compare myself. And I try to be kind to myself. And while I still make mistakes, I pull myself up and get back to it more easily now. Because I want to get my work out there and sold, and that is the goal I am striving for. And as long as I still like writing, I'm going to keep writing, at my own pace, and on my own terms.

Okay, off the soap box. :)

kennyc
11-18-2015, 09:45 PM
Climbing up on my soapbox again, just for a sec.

I read the article with interest, looking at it as a writer, artist, and former teacher of little kids. When I was teaching kindergarten and first grade, I told my little students early on that everybody makes mistakes, that mistakes are part of learning. That it was okay to make a mistake, okay to x out mistakes, erase, draw a smily face on mistakes. Those kids made a lot of mistakes and, as their teacher, so did I. We owned our mistakes, talked about them, drew support from each other, worked to learn from them, celebrated effort as well as final products. Learning was the main thing, and you learn by doing, I believe that.

As a college student in a well-known art college in Detroit, I had a different experience. Quality was key. Final product was everything. I had a professor once who told me, point blank, that it didn't matter how long a project took, didn't matter how hard I'd tried to do it right, all that mattered was the final project. That's what we were graded on. And sometimes, that grade was based on subjective responses from faculty and fellow students. Some people didn't like my work, some did. That's how it was. Teaching children required a big, big mindset change for me.

As a writer, I find myself in a different boat once again. I work on my own, creating something that I hope will be good, good enough to maybe sell one day. Lot of ifs there. At this point in my writing--I'm about five years into it now--I think I've accepted my own process. I've written more and gotten better at writing. I've grown a thicker skin, for sure. I make mistakes but I'm more aware of the traps I used to fall into, and have learned strategies for avoiding those traps. I am more inclined to fix what's wrong without too much heartache and heartbreak. More willing to do what it takes to get my stuff sold. I will never be a prolific writer, I've definitely slowed down my output since those first couple of fanatical years. . .

Bottom line for me is, I try--try--not to compare myself. And I try to be kind to myself. And while I still make mistakes, I pull myself up and get back to it more easily now. Because I want to get my work out there and sold, and that is the goal I am striving for. And as long as I still like writing, I'm going to keep writing, at my own pace, and on my own terms.

Okay, off the soap box. :)

Excellent. Well said!

buz
11-18-2015, 10:32 PM
The difference is, I am the kind of person at the polar opposite of the Heinlein spectrum (churn a novel out in 17 days and sub it with no rewriting or editing at all). I want to make sure everything I write is right. I get very attached to a project and want to make it the best it can be before I send it. If I rack up rejections, it means I screwed it up and need to figure out why it's not good enough and spend more time rewriting and polishing that project before the next round of rejections. ...

But that's exactly what the article says generates a good creative product. Making mistakes and learning from them, over and over again. The article does not say that quantity of pieces creates quality; it says that failure and learning from it is an essential part of the creative process.

It cites Pixar movies as an example--movies that are, like a novel, one product only, but go through thousands of revisions and tear-downs in order to create the final piece.


"Early on, all of our movies suck. That's a blunt assessment, I know, but I… choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I'm not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them go… from suck to non-suck. We are true believers in the iterative process - reworking, reworking and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds its soul."


So is there any hope for us who are inspired (get ideas we love enough to pursue) rarely but invest a lot of time and effort in the things that grab our heartstrings when we do? Or should I give up? :cry:

This article shouldn't make you despair. If you've made mistakes and learned from them, "dared to fail" so to speak, then you've done exactly what the article says leads to creative success. This is not a "scolding article" for you, at all.

Read the article again, without the despair priming :)

Roxxsmom
11-18-2015, 11:37 PM
Climbing up on my soapbox again, just for a sec.

I read the article with interest, looking at it as a writer, artist, and former teacher of little kids. When I was teaching kindergarten and first grade, I told my little students early on that everybody makes mistakes, that mistakes are part of learning. That it was okay to make a mistake, okay to x out mistakes, erase, draw a smily face on mistakes. Those kids made a lot of mistakes and, as their teacher, so did I. We owned our mistakes, talked about them, drew support from each other, worked to learn from them, celebrated effort as well as final products. Learning was the main thing, and you learn by doing, I believe that. :)

The thing is, I completely agree with what you've said here on an intellectual level. Even so, I've always been (since I was a kid) someone who has a lot of trouble making mistakes. I'm terrified of failure. Maybe it's because the norm when I was growing up was to provide meticulous instructions on how to do something the *right* way and to punish mistakes, not to smile and tell the kid to find their own process, and if it doesn't work to try it a different way, rinse repeat.

Maybe it's because everyone told me I was super smart (worse thing anyone can do to a kid, imo), so if I failed at something it meant I wasn't trying hard enough, so I was actually scared to try my hardest (because if I did and still failed, it meant I wasn't smart after all).

Maybe it's just my internal wiring.

The articles (like the one linked in this thread) that say the shotgun approach works best are right. I agree intellectually with this advice for all the reasons given in "Once's" post. I have critting partners who don't, I think, have a better nuts and bolts grasp of craft than I do, but they get short stories published--mostly in semi pro markets, but now and again in pro ones. I don't. I know it's because they write a new short story each week and shoot them out to every market they can, while I write maybe a couple a year, research markets carefully, and after much hemming and hawing, send it out to a few. When it gets the inevitable form rejections from the ones I thought would be the best fit, I stop, wondering if I should rewrite it, and end up sitting on the thing forever. Because I hate to "waste" this idea if it turns out it wasn't ready to sub or that it could have been tweaked into something better.

As for novels. Oh god, I feel so overwhelmed at the idea of spending the next three years on another one. Even if I do fall in love with it, what if it's also a day late and a dollar short in terms of where ever the market will be when it's finished.

buz
11-19-2015, 12:02 AM
The articles (like the one linked in this thread) that say the shotgun approach works best are right.

That is not what the article says, as far as I can tell. The article says that failure is a necessary and important part of the creative process; I don't see anything about quantity of pieces of work, but the benefits of allowing oneself to produce shit in order to get better. But, as you say, you have trouble with accepting failure and rejection as well, so moving on to that...

Failure is necessary and inevitable, if you try at anything, and is part of the path, and does not make you a lesser person. You know this, I'm sure. You also know that authors can produce works more slowly just fine, even if the mathematical probability works better with more products out there. I hope you know that not every rejection means there is something wrong with the book, and I hope you know there are quite a lot of things in this process you cannot predict or control, and I hope that the idea of accepting some of this chaos into your life is palatable, but--in any case--

It sounds, from your posts here, that you know better, but you are letting your emotional state take you by the soul-beard and yank you down. The first thing to do is acknowledge that this is happening, to separate yourself from that little emotional beard-yanking goblin that hates you and kicks you in the back of the knees when you try to walk, and recognize that the goblin's goal is to drag you into the mud. It does you no good to let the goblin win, no matter how convincing it is.

That said, I haven't gotten very far beyond this first step, myself, and I often find myself in the mud anyway. But realize that it's not reality doing this to you; it's a goblin. <3

kennyc
11-19-2015, 12:14 AM
That is not what the article says, as far as I can tell. The article says that failure is a necessary and important part of the creative process; .... <3

Right and the more times you got through the process from start to finish the faster you will learn/improve. The willingness to fail.....learn from it....and try again.

and yes too, rejection by a publisher is not necessarily failure, it may not fit, they may have too many things to publish....or an infinite number of other reasons...

Roxxsmom
11-19-2015, 12:26 AM
That is not what the article says, as far as I can tell. The article says that failure is a necessary and important part of the creative process; I don't see anything about quantity of pieces of work, but the benefits of allowing oneself to produce shit in order to get better. But, as you say, you have trouble with accepting failure and rejection as well, so moving on to that...

Failure is necessary and inevitable, if you try at anything, and is part of the path, and does not make you a lesser person. You know this, I'm sure. You also know that authors can produce works more slowly just fine, even if the mathematical probability works better with more products out there. I hope you know that not every rejection means there is something wrong with the book, and I hope you know there are quite a lot of things in this process you cannot predict or control, and I hope that the idea of accepting some of this chaos into your life is palatable, but--in any case--

I definitely know that. But I also know that there's this thing called the Dunning Kruger effect where the inexperienced think their own work is better than it is.

The problem is knowing how to get better when I don't know why something's being rejected. Is my writing still klunky. The wisdom is to get feedback on that. I know I can't post even a single sentence as an "example" here on AW without it being picked apart for reasons unrelated to the question I'm even asking. So maybe I can't write my way out of a wet paper sack yet? But I've been told my prose is more than "good enough" by at least some industry pros.

So maybe it's the characters or plot. I realized, to my horror, after I'd finished my first draft of my novel that my protagonist was too passive. I'd subconscious modeled him after some characters I adored in fantasy, people who were in over their heads and very reluctant to act initially. Most of my betas were fine with this, though one excoriated me for it. But reading the general advice out there, I was unsure. So I did some tweaks. I didn't change him into someone he wasn't, but I did try to make it clear that he had wants and goals earlier in the story, even if they changed somewhat as it unfolded.

I still have no idea if I didn't change this enough or if I changed it too much (and should have trusted my initial instincts), because none of the rejecting agents (even the ones who requested fulls) have provided more than general feedback on why. One said she loved the characters but they were too similar to the ones in something she'd picked up recently (does this mean my idea is behind the marketability curve), another said she loved my FMC's narrative but not my MMC's (does this mean she thinks he's too passive, or is it simply a complaint about the fact that he swears sometimes and the FMC doesn't as much, or maybe she wants books with female leads)?

This is the frustration: not knowing what to fix on the next one and so on. Was it a mistake to try and write in a character-driven voice and pov? What do agents mean, exactly, when they say they're looking for something with voice? What is trope subversion, and how can I make it clear from page one of a MS that seems to be going in one direction that there will be a trope-defying twist later on?

And so on...

It's not the rejection that's wearing me down. It's the not having any idea why or how to improve. There are so many variables in a story, and it could be rejected for any or all of them. Someone mentioned (in another thread) that they're running out of time, and they're not even thirty. I'm much older than that. I really don't have time to write ten more novels hoping I get lucky with one. I remember reading that agents and publishers do get leery about age after a while, because they want a new author to have many years ahead of them to build a profitable career.

buz
11-19-2015, 01:08 AM
I definitely know that. But I also know that there's this thing called the Dunning Kruger effect where the inexperienced think their own work is better than it is.

There's also something called impostor syndrome.

I thus cancel out your effect citation. :)


The problem is knowing how to get better when I don't know why something's being rejected. Is my writing still klunky. The wisdom is to get feedback on that. I know I can't post even a single sentence as an "example" here on AW without it being picked apart for reasons unrelated to the question I'm even asking. So maybe I can't write my way out of a wet paper sack yet? But I've been told my prose is more than "good enough" by at least some industry pros.

So maybe it's the characters or plot. I realized, to my horror, after I'd finished my first draft of my novel that my protagonist was too passive. I'd subconscious modeled him after some characters I adored in fantasy, people who were in over their heads and very reluctant to act initially. Most of my betas were fine with this, though one excoriated me for it. But reading the general advice out there, I was unsure. So I did some tweaks. I didn't change him into someone he wasn't, but I did try to make it clear that he had wants and goals earlier in the story, even if they changed somewhat as it unfolded.

I still have no idea if I didn't change this enough or if I changed it too much (and should have trusted my initial instincts), because none of the rejecting agents (even the ones who requested fulls) have provided more than general feedback on why. One said she loved the characters but they were too similar to the ones in something she'd picked up recently (does this mean my idea is behind the marketability curve), another said she loved my FMC's narrative but not my MMC's (does this mean she thinks he's too passive, or is it simply a complaint about the fact that he swears sometimes and the FMC doesn't as much, or maybe she wants books with female leads)?

This is the frustration: not knowing what to fix on the next one and so on. Was it a mistake to try and write in a character-driven voice and pov? What do agents mean, exactly, when they say they're looking for something with voice? What is trope subversion, and how can I make it clear from page one of a MS that seems to be going in one direction that there will be a trope-defying twist later on?

And so on...

It's not the rejection that's wearing me down. It's the not having any idea why or how to improve. There are so many variables in a story, and it could be rejected for any or all of them.

And it might have nothing to do with the story. The agent who said she liked the characters but they were too similar to something she'd picked up rejected you for reasons having nothing to do with any factor you can control.

I totally get the frustration. Completely. I'm there, have been there, all the time. I feel a weakness but I can't see how to fix it. I'm staring at one right now. It sucks, that's the truth. But the fact is that there's a lot you can't control, and one really doesn't learn much from rejections from agents and editors, despite what certain curmudgeons say. All you can do is focus on what you can feasibly learn and control (having trustworthy critters, beta readers, reading published novels, critiquing them yourself, interning for an agent, whatever) and be willing to sacrifice the rest to the gods of What The Fuck Ever.

Also, stop reading general wisdom unless it truly helps. Most of the time it's far too general to be useful. :D


Someone mentioned (in another thread) that they're running out of time, and they're not even thirty. I'm much older than that. I really don't have time to write ten more novels hoping I get lucky with one.I remember reading that agents and publishers do get leery about age after a while, because they want a new author to have many years ahead of them to build a profitable career.

If reading things about the industry is bumming you out, then stop reading about it. It can only ever present one facet of reality and not the complete picture; there's no sense depressing yourself over incomplete information that may even be false. "Agents and publishers" are not a monolith; they are individuals who react differently to different situations. Any article or piece of wisdom that pretends otherwise is not showing the entirety of the realm of possibility.

This whole game is a long shot. It may never happen, for reasons beyond quality of the manuscript. But it might. The only way you have no chance is if you cut yourself off from it. Which is a legitimate course to take, if the idea of it never happening but still hoping enough for it to happen that you bother to send things out anyway is too heavy a thing to bear.
The question is if it does something for you, and if there's any reason to keep doing it. If it does, and there is, then honestly and seriously fuck all the articles and wisdom and everything you read to smash yourself into the mud and people who imply you should give up because you're Doin It Wrong. It doesn't matter. They can't predict how this will go and neither can you. Generalizations have never worked out to determine individual lives.

If you want to keep doing it but want to change how you approach it, give it a shot for a year. See what happens. Just don't cripple yourself before you can see the effect.

If it doesn't do anything for you, then there's nothing wrong with shoving it in the cupboard for a while and letting yourself rest.

Do what is right for you.

ETA: I will note in the interest of fairness that I might be wrong about part or all of this. It is, after all, just general blathering, and thus prone to fallibility, and I almost deleted it but now it's been up here too long so eff it :D But, as with anything, use what is useful to you, discard the rest, even if that is indeed all of it. :)

Once!
11-19-2015, 01:10 AM
There's also an issue here about the laws of probability. We like to think that best stories ought to get accepted and that quality trumps all. But it doesn't actually work that way. Not completely.

What actually happens is that your success with a short story or novel depends at least partly on luck. You might have written the best cowboys versus vampire cheerleaders story that the world has ever seen, but it will go nowhere if you submit it to an agent or publisher who is thoroughly sick of cowboy/ vampire/ cheerleader stories. On the other hand it could be snapped up by a publisher who thinks that is a great new niche.

You might hit an editor on a good day when they are feeling optimistic and good about the world. Or you might happen across one whose dog has just died, his football team has been relegated and his car is a VW diesel. The fact that you are being rejected does not mean that your work isn't good enough to be accepted. It could simply be that you have sent a great story to the wrong agent/ editor on the wrong day.

How do we cope with the vagaries of such an unfair world? By quantity of work and multiple submissions. If a story doesn't work with the first editor, send it the second one, then the third, and so on. Sooner or later the odds will work in your favour.

Many moons ago, I was trained to be a career development adviser in a large organisation (as well as my day job). Working alongside industrial psychologists and HR experts, I helped my colleagues to identify their strengths & weaknesses and how to develop. The one question which nearly everyone asked was "how do I get that next promotion?" Over time, we worked out a standard answer to that question. You see, most people treat promotion as a one-shot deal. They don't apply for new jobs until they spot their perfect job. Then they put their heart and soul into that one job application. And they are heart-broken if they don't get it.

The problem with that approach is our old friend probability. When you apply for that perfect job, you don't know who the other candidates are. No matter how good you are or how perfectly the job suits your skills there is always a chance that you will come up against a better candidate. Anyone can lose an interview on any given day.

So the standard answer that we came up with was to apply for lots of jobs. Even if you don't think that you've got a great chance. Because you never know when the laws of probability are going to work in your favour for a change. You might be the best candidate for that promotion you didn't think you would get.

And something else was happening. By applying for lots of jobs you would get more experience about writing CVs, filling in application forms and doing well at interviews. So when your ideal job does come up you are more likely to get it. And you are more likely to perform well because you aren't stressed. I had several people contact me after that training course to tell me that they had just secured a promotion that they never would have applied for. That one piece of advice worked for them.

I read once about a door to door salesman who had a ... ahem ... unconventional approach to dating. He would knock on someone's door and try to sell them a vacuum cleaner or double-glazing or whatever he was pitching. And if they didn't want to buy he would ask "would you like to have sex with me?" If the story is true, he must have asked thousands of women that question. And no doubt had his face slapped several hundred times.

He also got a lot of sex.

buz
11-19-2015, 01:23 AM
I read once about a door to door salesman who had a ... ahem ... unconventional approach to dating. He would knock on someone's door and try to sell them a vacuum cleaner or double-glazing or whatever he was pitching. And if they didn't want to buy he would ask "would you like to have sex with me?" If the story is true, he must have asked thousands of women that question. And no doubt had his face slapped several hundred times.

He also got a lot of sex.

Sex that wouldn't be fulfilling to many people, though...

Quality also matters. ;)

Once!
11-19-2015, 01:51 AM
Unfortunately I don't even know if the story is true, never mind being able to comment on the quality of the sex.

Or whether he kept his job in the face of the inevitable complaints.

But, hey, it's a story!

buz
11-19-2015, 03:13 AM
Unfortunately I don't even know if the story is true, never mind being able to comment on the quality of the sex.

Or whether he kept his job in the face of the inevitable complaints.

But, hey, it's a story!

LOL, I only meant to extend the metaphor; some people are good with random strange sex and some people only like it when there's a long-standing carefully built-relationship, eh :D

But I'm sure his sex was very nice.

gettingby
11-19-2015, 03:15 AM
I'm not young either so I know the feeling, but I would love to write ten more novels, and I probably will. I like to write often, and I do think writing often has helped me improve at a much faster pace. My question for Roxx is why would you want to put all your eggs in one basket? There are an unlimited amount of eggs and baskets. I consider myself a pretty prolific writer, but it's not because I just am that way. I want to be that way. For me, it's not about having more work to send out and increase my chances of publishing. I like to create stories. I like to push myself to do better. I truly believe that I am yet to create my best work, but I am working on getting there. Again, I am not young. But I still have time to reach greatness or at least improve.

When you throw publishing into a discussion like this, it can seem like it changes everything. Sure, I would be happy to have one novel published, but that wouldn't stop me from doing another. The ultimate goal might seem like it's to have everything you write be published, but it's really not. Writing is about writing. Being published let's us know we're on the right track and is a great acknowledgment of our hard work. But being published doesn't make you a better writer than you are. Reading and writing is what makes you better. So, for me, becoming prolific was just about how quickly I could make that happen. I'm still working at it.

I think everyone is scared of failure to some extent. It is a scary thing when your best might not be good enough. But if you think that you might not have yet created your best or that your best can be even better than what you once thought to be your best, all you are doing is giving yourself more chances. And just like the eggs and baskets are unlimited so are our chances.

LAgrunion
11-19-2015, 05:33 AM
LOL, I only meant to extend the metaphor; some people are good with random strange sex and some people only like it when there's a long-standing carefully built-relationship, eh :D

But I'm sure his sex was very nice.

Well, assuming people are rational actors, the sex should've been good for both parties. Presumably people who preferred sex based on long-term relationships would've turned down this guy's offer, leaving those who said yes to be in the subset of the population who did relish random sex.

Although, I guess, to be fair, there might've been a number of people who said yes even though they didn't prefer random sex. Like they were neutral on random sex but were open to try it, or were too polite to turn him down, or felt sorry for this guy because he failed to make a sale, or thought they could get a discount on the solar panels by having sex first, or whatever ...

gettingby
11-19-2015, 05:41 AM
Well, assuming people are rational actors, the sex should've been good for both parties. Presumably people who preferred sex based on long-term relationships would've turned down this guy's offer, leaving those who said yes to be in the subset of the population who did relish random sex.

Although, I guess, to be fair, there might've been a number of people who said yes even though they didn't prefer random sex. Like they were neutral on random sex but were open to try it, or were too polite to turn him down, or felt sorry for this guy because he failed to make a sale, or thought they could get a discount on the solar panels by having sex first, or whatever ...

Wait. Has anyone here had sex with someone for a discount on solar panels and was it worth it? The idea of saving the planet while getting some just blissful.

kkbe
11-19-2015, 07:07 AM
Wait, what?

:popcorn:

kkbe
11-19-2015, 07:33 AM
Roxxsmom, wise stuff has being thrown out there for you to consider, should you be so inclined. You aren't writing in a vaccuum which is great, the support and all that.

Just wanted to tell you that I am older--like, older. I was told I was smart and was expected to do excellent, no room for error, perfectionist to the hilt, the whole nine yards. Add to that, years of writing and querying and zero takers. Even now, Doubt comes knocking and I answer the stupid door...

You don't do yourself any favors by comparing yourself to others. And you have a better shot at something when you keep putting it out there, than when you don't. I think you need to follow your heart, though. Yeah, it's hard getting published for a lot of writers, and chances are often slim even on our best days, but they ain't none. Like Buz said, don't sabotage yourself. Be truthful with yourself and what you want. Don't let fear or disappointment decide for you.

LJD
11-19-2015, 08:06 AM
It's not the rejection that's wearing me down. It's the not having any idea why or how to improve.

Every few months this year, I've seriously thought about quitting writing, and this is kind of similar to my problem.

I am published with some romance epubs...but my books sell so few copies it hardly counts. Like really, it is just embarrassing. My most successful book has sold 56 copies. I finally, in October, managed to sell a book to the epublisher at the top of my list. They'd rejected me four times before, twice with personal feedback. The two I didn't get personal feedback on? Those are my favourite of all the things I've written. They've been rejected from other publishers as well, all form rejections. I've now sold seven novellas/novelettes (five are now out), and every single one of those? No beta readers. Not even any critiques on the first few pages. The ones I've had someone else read all the way through? Can't sell.

Thus, there is an inverse relationship between how much I like something and its likelihood of selling. Also, having a beta reader seems to jinx it. I really cannot make any sense of this. It seems to be the opposite of what should happen, and I'm left feeling like I should not write the things I most want to write. And if that's going to stay true? I'm not sure I want to write anymore. What is it about the pieces I've sold that made them sell? No fucking clue.

(I guess am "lucky" in that I do not have a job right now and am good at forcing myself to write, so my output is fairly high. It doesn't take me years to write a novel, and I write romance, so selling shorter pieces is reasonable.)

Once!
11-19-2015, 12:10 PM
Blogged about this today:

https://willonce.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/you-are-fabulous/

Old Forge
11-19-2015, 12:42 PM
FWIW, Julia Cameron ('The Artist's Way') offers a prayer - 'I'll take care of the quantity, please God, could you take care of the quality?' For me, that means - stick at it, the good stuff will come. On the subject of letting yourself go (or giving yourself the freedom to play/experiment/make mistakes/learn/move on etc etc), anyone who enjoys watercolour will know the old advice - 'paint for the bin'. In other words, enjoy it, go with the flow and don't worry about the end product. If you tell yourself that your watercolour has to be worth framing and exhibiting, you'll cramp yourself. Instead of luminous, loose watercolours you'll get muddy colours, overworked dross.

layzerphish
11-20-2015, 09:31 PM
I always hear people say "embrace Failure." or to "learn from your mistakes." It IS really difficult sometimes to actually do that though. It is kind of like saying just be happy. It is hard to sway your own emotions.

Kylabelle
11-20-2015, 09:52 PM
layzer phish, I moved your post to the actual discussion thread. The one you landed in was a duplicate that is empty of anything except people being silly. :)

Carry on....