Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Keeping your spirits up - it's hard

For years and years I skirted on the edge of writing. I read a lot - and I mean a LOT. I read about books, about authors and about writing. I wrote many, many reviews - for various fan sites all over. Then last year I took the plunge - gave it a go and started to submit.

But I still played it safe. The majority of what I wrote were still reviews - although with articles thrown in here and there. For the most part they sold. Not too bad.

However I started to get story ideas. I should have resisted. Since then I have written a dozen or so short stories - mostly horror-lite with comedy (or at least I think they are comedic, I might be biased). And of these I have sold none.

Well to be fair I did sell a 100 word drabble to Necrotic Tissue - so I have sold something and you should have seen the grin on my face for the few days after that.

But of my short stories - nothing. And I have had a number of rejections, none of them too bad in themselves, but they do tend to get to you. Especially when, like today, you receive a rejection for the third day in a row - and to cap it off, today delivered two of them...nice!

The problem with this is twofold. For one thing the confidence levels have decreased. I have confidence issues, always have had - not much I can do to change my basic personality. If I do something I have to be good at it or I tend to give it up. My wife if she ever reads this will agree with that statement. My life is littered with things I would like to have been good at but wasn't.

And they are diverse. Calligraphy - I was crap at that. Can't draw, don't try anymore - to be fair I have no artistic ability at all. I like art but I can't do it. Tried playing guitar, then bass, then drums - guess how well they went. Fortunately I never tried keyboards - mind you that would have just made this list one longer.

I played golf for about six months, then stopped. Mind you this could be partly due to something else. I have tendon troubles in my forearms - and don't think filthy thoughts from this. I am a software designer. I type for a living. I type quickly, but have never managed touch-typing. I make do. I am prone to working long, long hours. I am also over forty - so aging tendons plus overuse is a recipe for disaster.

When I saw the doctor and discussed this with him he suggested I give up anything that could make a bad situation worse, and improve anything that I simply had to continue doing. The mouse changed - to a thumb roller. The keyboard changed - to a split. The guitar went, the golf experiement was ended (I was getting an odd pulling feeling as I finished the swing - and the vibrations from hitting the turf were unpleasant to say the least).

But these are just examples. I've tried lots of things. I know the basics. I know a few words of Japanese, of Greek and German. I got further with French and Italian (posso parlare un po' Italiano), but that's largely because I like visiting the countries a great deal.

I play few games - when I do I tend to play puzzles and mental acuity games. Facebook has me locked in for hours. I play Word Twist - I've been beaten once ever. Pathwords likewise. Scramble I have a perfect record. I loaded up "Who Has The Biggest Brain?" That one is deadly. I wanted to get a higher and higher score - I'm verging on obsessed. I admit it. I like to start off any computing session (and I admit this is nearing "need") with a good score. A high score would be best but they are not common.

Anyway I digress. I often meander, go off on tangents - did I ever mention...no stop!!!

So back to the problem of writing, and receiving rejections for, fiction. The first problem is that writing fiction takes time. I have a day job so spending hours trying to write a short story, then more hours trying to find the market from which to receive the rejection. So that's less time to write the non-fiction, the articles and reviews I seem to be able to sell.

Then there is the fact that the rejections are demoralising. So much that I feel less like writing the other stuff and want to get a fiction sale. I want to be good at this. I've spent over thirty years as an avid reader.

I often quote my first read, the hook that secured me, as Isaac Asimov's Through a Glass Clearly. The story I tell is true. I did find the book when I was 9 years old. It was the cover that attracted my attention, and the contents that made me a science fiction fan. But the deeper truth is I have always been reading. I have always had books in my life. I can remember when I was a kid going to the local library (in Acocks Green in Birmingham should anyone really want to know) with my library cards and borrowing books. The first passion I remember, like many kids I'd guess, was Dr Seuss. I was hooked - the weirdness got me.

Roald Dahl and Asterix were there too - as were comics. Lots and lots of comics.

So my whole life I have read books. My heroes are authors and scientists, your basic intellectuals. My fantasy dinner party would involve no one who hadn't written a book (not a deliberate criterion, just that the choices all do).

I want to be one of them. I want to hold a book in my hand and see my name on the cover. Well rather, not MY name. almost everything I have written has appeared under this I.E. Lester pseudonym. But I would like to hold a book I was resposible for. It's a dream I guess - and a common one.

So I don't want this to go the way of calligraphy (which was a really poor choice as anyone who has seen my handwriting would agree) or guitar-playing or golf or, or, or....

I know writing means you need a thick skin. But it also needs to have a success once in a while. Let's hope my next one isn't too far away...

...wish me luck!

No comments: