Writing–Rewarding Efforts

Swimming medals
Swimming medals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve read in more than one place that writers should reward themselves for the little accomplishments they have along the way of bigger successes. They should do that because writing is a long slog from first draft to publication and while you’re doing it, it feels like you’re doing it for nothing. You put in all of this work and in the end, you might not see a dime for it. Rewarding yourself during the process helps alleviate that hopeless feeling that tends to creep up when you’re not looking.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea. Eating some ice cream at the end of a first draft, drinking some wine after slogging through revisions, playing a video game after meeting the day’s word count, or going out with some friends after submitting that short story is great. It’s a nice motivator to get through the hard parts and it’s a nice release once you do. Whatever reward you come up with, good on ya. Whatever flips your skirt and rocks your boat.

I’ll just be over here wishing I could do the same thing.

I don’t reward myself. At all. Ever. Even on the rare occasion that a short story gets accepted somewhere, the most I do is pause for a fist pump and then get back to work.

Why?

I guess it’s because of the way I was raised. Yes, of all the things to blame on my parents, I blame not eating pizza after finishing a first draft of a novel. But it’s true. My parents didn’t believe in rewarding us kids for things we were supposed to do. I didn’t get an allowance for cleaning my room. I was supposed to do that. I didn’t get a trip to Dairy Queen for making good grades. I was supposed to do that. I remember when I was a kid finding out that my friends got paid a dollar amount for A’s and B’s. I asked my parents why I didn’t get paid like that.

I was supposed to do that.

So here I am, 32 years old, been writing most of my life, and while I approve of the idea of getting a treat for finishing a first draft or revisions or submitting or accomplishing anything, big or small, related to a writing career, I can’t bring myself to participate because…I’m supposed to do that.

I’m supposed to finish that first draft and finish those revisions and submit that story and do that research and this, that, and the other. It’s part of my job. I don’t get rewarded for supposed to’s.

I would imagine that my attitude won’t change much when (not if!) I get my first novel published.

Because as a writer, that’s what I’m supposed to do. And as I writer, I’m supposed to write another.

So, I’d better get on it.

There’s no time for me to celebrate supposed to’s.

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Writing–When the Brain Has Other Plans

I have trouble with my brain sometimes.

Here’s an example:

Last month, I got pretty tired of rewriting Spirited In Spite. It turned into quite the slog that I couldn’t wait to get through. And while I was doing this slog, all I was thinking about was how much I wanted to work on my short stories. In fact, towards the end of the rewrite and the end of the month, I did start working on my short stories as a kind of reward for getting through the rewrites.

It was easy to come to the conclusion that I was going to spend February working on my short stories.

About a week and a half into the month, I was tired of looking at these short stories (to my credit, I had three of them ready to submit and one of those I DID submit) and wanted to work on something else.

For some reason, that happens. My brain acts like a spoiled child. It gets what it wants, plays with it a minute, and then immediately wants to play with something else. It’s ridiculous and frustrating and clashes with my stubborn self and need to adhere to the goals set for me.

This time, though, I decided to compromise. After submitting one of the short stories, I took a break from them. Instead, I took the weekend and read one of my novel manuscripts (A Tale of Two Lady Killers), making some notes on it. On Monday, I went back to the short stories. The break helped me avoid the feeling of slogging. It helped me to avoid resenting the goals I’d set for myself and in the long run, accomplish them.

I have to remember that my pig-headedness is an asset only when I use it correctly. I also have to remember to be flexible with my goals. Sometimes my spoiled brat brain has a good point and maybe a day or two spent indulging it is for the best.

It’s more cooperative when I compromise.

Writing–Canceling “Playing Chicken”

Last month I learned that due to lack of funds that the anthology that “Playing Chicken” was going to be published in was canceled. This bums me out for a few reasons. One, I won’t be getting paid. Two, I won’t be getting my story published. Three, one of my favorite small publishers (that’s published me in the past) is struggling.

It’s the third point that really troubles me. See, when I ask you to buy an anthology I’ve been published in, I’m not just asking for me. Yes, I want you to read the story I wrote, but I also want you to read the stories everyone else in the anthology wrote. I get paid a one time payment of a certain amount per word when the anthology is published. I don’t make royalties off of it. The money made from you buying an anthology pays the bills, allows the small publisher to keep publishing, and provides me with the future possibility of having another story published with them.

So, while I don’t reap the immediate monetary rewards from all of the copies the anthology sells, you are providing me with the opportunity to get paid by these people again. That’s important to a writer, especially in a time when the short story market is competitive, tough, and not paying a whole lot. Buying the anthologies and keeping the small publishers afloat help out not just the publishers, but the writers, too.

So, with that all said, the “Playing Chicken” ball is back in my court and I am charged with finding a new home for it. On one hand, that’s a pain in the ass. This story was sold, dammit! I should be done with it. On the other hand, it gives me another story to shop around which kind of gives me a boost for my goal to make more of an effort in my submitting. It’s easier to submit a story when you actually have a story to submit, which will be the key to reaching my submitting goals.

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. Let’s hope the next “Playing Chicken” door opens quickly.

Writing–January Projects

New month, new year, new projects on the whiteboard of my writing life.

The big project this month is revising The World (Saving) Series. I’ve been itching to get my revising hands on this first draft since I wrote the last word. I love this story and I want to make it better.

I’m re-reading it and making revision notes on it now and for the most part, there’s nothing major story-wise that I need to overhaul, which is nice. Most of the revisions now are just little story things like fixing some details and turning the telling into showing. I think this time I got the story right the first time.

I’m planning on this round of revisions to take two months. Planning. If I can get them done sooner, I will not complain. However, I know they won’t be done there. Not only will the technical aspects still need to be cleaned up, there are certain details I’m still going to be lacking. I’m writing about places I’ve never been to and in some case, never seen. It’s a challenge I’m going to have to overcome, but at a later date.

As I like to say, one catastrophe at a time.

With a big project that’s going to take me all month and beyond, it’s nice to say that I’ve already accomplished something in submitting three short stories. It’s nice to be able to wipe something off of the whiteboard.

Stories By the Numbers

Submitted: 3
Ready: 3
Rejected: 2 (“Game Night” and “Another Deadly Weapon”; both no response rejections)

Stories By the Numbers for 2010

Submitted: 14
Accepted: 2
Rejections: 23