Writing Advice and Feedback #3
"You could be writing..."
I find the type of advice and self-flagellation about doing things when "you could be writing" to be toxic and often, untrue. If you aren't writing, could you really be?
If I feel like writing, I am unless there is something more important or pressing to be doing. That's probably because writing is still fun for me. As yet, I haven't imposed unfun things upon it like deadlines, my livelihood, or sense of self-worth. Okay, a little of my sense of self-worth hinges on writing. If I'm not writing and I could be, I'm probably editing because I do have to get pieces edited in order to submit them. Because I want to be read. But likely, I'm doing my day job that pays the bills, taking care of my home or family, or other obligations that currently rank higher in priority than writing. (There are those who feel like those things could all be writing time. For me and many, that way lies burnout and breakdown.)
I also might be reading, which often reading and writing time overlap for me. But reading, whether it's reading short fiction or novels to refill my creative well and know what's currently be published or to give feedback, is a key component to writing. This last leads to two other pieces of advice I'll address in a different post, ie reading makes you a better writer and critiquing other people's work makes you a better writer. (Short version is, these are both true and good advice. The latter I wish I'd been given well before *checks notes* late Fall 2022.)
If I'm scrolling social media, likely I could be writing. But I don't honestly do a lot of social media scrolling and much of it is writing groups or in some way writing related. And if I'm scrolling social media, I probably don't have a large enough chunk of time to write.
So, yes, in general, stop using "you could be writing" against other writers and against yourself.
What kind of writer are you? What are your end goals of writing?
This is another piece of advice I wished had been given as outright advice instead of in a backhanded judgemental way during a workhop I took online one summer. And I'm going to bring this up again in another blog post.
When I ask, what kind of writer are you, I don't mean what genre, form (short or long), style (discovery or outliner), I'm asking about your end goals. Do you write for yourself? Do you write for your friends to read? Do you write and go through the arduous process of getting feedback and improving? Do you write to improve your writing (and all the attendant requirements for improving)? Do you write because you want to be Published some day and get paid? Do you write because you want to be Published some day and don't care about pay?
Answering these questions will lead to the answer of what type of writer you are. People who earn all their income from writing, and professional speaking about writing, are considered Professional Writers. They classify anybody who isn't making the entirety of their income from writing who writes as Hobbyist Writers. I implore you not to google those two for definitions unless you want to read a whole bunch of blog posts full of self-important judgement about who is and is not, essentially, a "real" writer.
Reality check: most fiction writers cannot become Professional Writers if the term is defined as making all your money from writing. For example, I am a highly educated, specialized scientist and I earn an income one might expect for someone with a PhD who is an expert in their field. In order for writing to supplant that income, I need to win the lottery (and in this day and age, it is a lottery) of becoming a massive bestseller via traditional pub or put in the additional time and work for self-pub. But in either case, the people who get to that point have often taken years to get there. Many have support means outside of writing, either a partner or family of some sort. Strangely enough, I spent a lot of time and effort to become the scientist that I am. I love writing. But I already made the sacrifices to become a scientist. I don't have the option to repeat those same sacrifices to become a Professional Writer where 100% of my income comes from writing. I'd have to time travel and make different decisions in my life to fit the definition of Professional Writer. Or I'd have to win the actual lottery to put in the years to make the entirety of my income writing. And if I won that lottery, does that preclude the definition of being a professional writer?
A Hobbyist Writer will generally write for the enjoyment of it, share with friends and readers through direct means, and likely not make any money or earn a pittance from it.
This is where I believe there is a middle ground type of writer. A writer who puts in the hours 20 or more a week, which is equivalent to a part-time job or more, with a goal of getting read by many people through indirect means and strives for pay at a professional rate (either by getting published at, for example, SFWA pro-rate paying markets for short-form genre or by getting a novel traditionally published or via a self-publishing strategy.) This writer improves their story-telling and craft through reading subject matter books, attending workshops, and reading critically. But they aren't going to quit a day job, or can't.
Knowing what your goals are leads into the next question.
What are you doing with your time?
I just listed above generally what I'm doing in those time periods I've been told "you could be writing" and my response is No, I could not. But, more, it's important to understand what "counts" as writing and what doesn't.
I'm not going to define that for you. I've got my list of what counts and doesn't count for me.
But there are writing-adjacent items that probably don't count as writing. These would be the business end of writing if you happen to be one of the people who want to get paid for their fiction writing. This is the querying and submissions portion of the process. I do not count sending query letters or submissions to short markets as writing. Emails and communication with agents and publishers don't count as writing. Networking and attending conferences, much as I love it and would love for it to, don't count as actual writing for me.
When I spend 3-hours in an online workshop or 3 days at an in-person writing conference, these don't count as writing even though the goal is that my writing will be improved by learning the skills presented in those workshops and at those conferences. That's possibly time I "could be writing."
Irony, the time I've spent writing this blog, I'm physically writing. But, it doesn't count as writing. It counts as the business of writing for me.
Funnily enough, the more successful you are, the more time the non-writing business of writing will take up. Time you "could be writing." But if you don't do those things, it won't matter if you're writing, you aren't commiting enough time to that other end of getting paid for writing.
My advice, decide what kind of writer you are and set aside your writing time and a distinct and different business of writing time.
And don't get burned out on "you could be writing..."
Short Fiction Round-Up #72
In February, I suggested nineteen (19) short stories for readers to check out. If you missed them on Twitter, Mastodon, Facebook, or Tumblr, here they are in one list. This is not the order I posted them in. This groups magazines together.
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig by Tonya Liburd was published by Akashic Books
Deathmatch by Chana Kohl in 2022
Moondust by Chana Kohl in 2021
Apex Magazine published:
Hoodie by Tonya Liburd in 2022
Barefoot and Midnight by Sheree Renée Thomas in 2021
Aunt Dissy's Policy Dream Book by Sheree Renée Thomas in 2017
The Black Stallion Exposed: 3 Flash by Megan Giddings was published by Ghost Ocean
Vice published The Binding of Isaac by Tochi Onyebuchi in 2022.
Smokelong Quarterly published Twenty-Five Minute Wait by Megan Giddings in 2013.
"Narratology" by Peter Young written by Cadwell Turnbull was published by Many Worlds in 2023.
I hope you enjoyed these stories. Suggestions pop-up at 8a.m. weekdays on my social media platforms.
Writing Advice and Feedback #2
It's feedback time!
The title and topic of this series is Writing Advice and Feedback and I haven't talked about feedback yet. So, here we go! Today, I'm going to talk about receiving feedback. A later blogpost will talk about giving it.
The best advice about receiving and using feedback is the same as for writing advice, take what works for you and leave the rest!
First, take your time with feedback
Read through your feedback. Let it stew and marinate. Freeze it for a while. Then come back to it a second or a third time.
Two conflicting trains on what feedback to take
How do you decide what works for you? How do you know you're implementing the good feedback?
I've read and been given two completely conflicting pieces of advice about this. A) The feedback that makes sense and resonates with you is the feedback you should follow. 1.) The feedback that hurts the most and makes you cry and suffer is the feedback you should follow.
I tend to think the people giving advice 1 think they are also giving advice A. But, for me, the feedback that hurts the most often makes the least sense to me. The feedback that hurts the most is usually feedback that shouldn't have been given to me. (I'll talk about how you know if you're giving feedback you should be giving in another post.)
The people who give advice about feedback #1 suggest that it hurts because you know it needs to change and you don't want to. But I have found that the feedback that resonates and points out something that should change that I should look at usually doesn't hurt. It doesn't make me cry or hate writing or feel like I should never write again.
Giving and Taking Feedback is something I think about a lot. In my career, I have taught classes of 200 people where evaluations by students were required. I would receive 198 positive and glowing reviews. But those 2 reviews that were just nasty - the person who suggested I was teaching drunk (I have never) or the person who suggested I was bribing students for good evals (just, no) - those stuck with me (more than a decade later). Which means negative comments posed as feedback rather than constructive helpful comments stick with me.
I believe it was Brandon Sanderson on the Writing Excuses podcast who said he takes maybe 25% of the feedback his CPs and beta readers give him. Now, I'm no Brandon Sanderson, but I was floored when he said that. I replayed that minute or so multiple times. Because I felt like if someone was reading my work and commented their take, I absolutely had to address it in some way. But I don't. You don't. You can look at a piece of feedback and say, "That is more about them than my work" and walk away.
I had a CP going through and making comments about unnecessary redundancies in a novel. Nearly every single one was marked on new stuff I'd put in because of a previous reader not understanding something and I thought I had to address it. I struck nearly all of that new stuff back out. Because one reader not understanding something doesn't mean my work wasn't understandable. (This next bit is a real situation about my writing.) If a cis-het-able-bodied white man doesn't understand how misogyny works? That's not my problem. I don't need to make my characters and events more understandable to him. Honestly, once that was pointed out to me, I saw where much of the feedback I received was built around internalized sexism from the reader. Frankly, I had two readers who were so deep in a cis-het-white-able-bodied-NT-man reading of my work that the feedback they gave was completely useless. I wish I'd understood that for the first person and I'm eternally grateful I understood it for the second. PS, neither of those readers were NT. Which means they'd internalized NT thinking about reading. That opens the door to another question I don't have answers to (Do we have to change our work that is meant to show an ND, or disability, or queer understanding of the world and fit it to a different understanding to be published? I don't know but I sure hope not.)
If feedback makes you want to quit writing, run away from that reader.
You should not feel terrible about having given someone your work to read (unless you've specifically ignored their requests about triggering issues or were egregious in your disregard for them as a reader, but you probably haven't.)
You should come away from feedback with the attitude of "how can I make this work better? how can I improve my writing going foward?"
If you come away from feedback after letting it rest and simmer and do not see how it makes your work better or leads you to improvement as a writer, disregard it.
If you have the bandwidth, you can push back.
Here's my last bit advice about deciding what feedback to take. You can push back.
If you think a reader is giving poor feedback, you can cut them loose. But, you can also tell them that they may need to assess the feedback they are giving. This may help them improve the feedback they give. This can work out for you if you want to keep them on as a reader. Or you may just be helping the next writer they give feedback to.
My example: I gave another writer feedback on their novel and they very politely told me a specific portion of my feedback was bad and my framing needing adjustment. I am so happy they did so! I thought about why I was giving that feedback and corrected a portion of what I think about and consider when giving feedback. They could have just thrown out that feedback and never said anything. And I wouldn't have learned until later (or never) that I had a bad path in my feedback programming.
tl;dr Be discerning in the feedback you internalize and use.
Short Fiction Round-Up #71
In January, I suggested twenty-two (22) short stories by other authors for readers on my various social media. Every weekday at 8:00 am on Twitter, Facebook, Mastodon, and Tumblr I post these links (see connected social media on sidebar for links). I do this because if you like what I like to read, though I'm aware my tastes are pretty wide and eclectic, you might also enjoy my writing. I don't have a ton of it published yet. There's also so much incredible writing and many incredible stories out there, I want readers to get a sampling of stories and maybe find new writers to follow and new magazines to subscribe to.
With that said, I point out, as I have in the past, that I do not wish to promote problematic people or magazines. Please let me know if one of those exists in my suggestions. Feel free to comment on a blog post, on a social media post, send me an email, or a DM.
This particular reminder comes up due to a discussion in a group of short fiction writers about such markets.
The Arcanist published
Cross-Generational Cryptid Theory by Hailey Piper in 2022
A Dream, A Bee, A Storytree by Wendy Nikel in 2022
Solarpunk Magazine published
The Lantern Festival by Ai Jiang in 2022
Maybe We Are All Witches by BrightFlame in 2022
Smokelong Quarterly published He Called Me Honeybunch by Karen Serk Chio in 2015.
Paper and Pencil by Andrew Griffin was published by The Dread Machine in 2022.
The Maul published A Hand to Hold, a Mouth to Speak by Ai Jiang in January.
Curses and Cake by Sarah Beth Durst was published by The Sunday Morning Transport in 2022.
Fireside Fiction published Song of the Balsa Wood Bird by Katherine Quevedo in 2022.
Writing Advice and Feedback #1
What is this?
For a couple of years now, I've been threatening one of my writing groups to write blog posts about writing advice and feedback. I get a little cranky on these topics. They say, "Do it!" and then I never do.
That is about to change. More than a month ago, I was reading through multiple online writing groups and social media, and statements were made that were both in the good advice and bad advice range of my Writer Advice barometer. I may have written some responses, and may or may not have actually hit enter on sending them.
This will be a monthly, posted on the second Monday, blog post about Writer Advice and Feedback based around one or two or a slew of Writing Advice or Standard (or non-standard) Feedback and consists of advice within. Because it's not really feasible to comment upon advice without giving some of your own.
Because I made this plan more than a month before the first post, it means I wrote a bunch of these in advance based upon advice or feedback I've been ruminating on for years. Or it could be on advice or feedback I literally just received and wrote about - months before actually posting.
I could probably write a whole book on this, and twelve blog posts seems a reasonable start.
Who am I to give advice?
Unless something dramatically changes by January 9, 2023 (and it could), I am a published author with two pro-rate published pieces of flash, a third token-rate piece of flash, and one self-published short story on my blog/website. (Oh, and whatever flash and excerpts readers of my newsletter get.) I've also queried and trunked one novel in the hellscape of 2021-22 querying.
I am not a big name. Which makes me an excellent source for the first piece of advice I'm going to give.
What I have is advice and feedback I received in the 1990s when I was trying to write and publish back then, advice I've recieved throughout the years since then, and actively sought out advice and feedback in the past three years after writing ~350,000 words in a 4-6 month period that eventually split into short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels, plus all the words I've written in the years since that outpouring. And I know what it's like when you're first trying to figure out Things About Your Writing and What Advice to Follow.
My posts will be aimed for newer writers, those who are searching for answers more than for established writers who already know all of this stuff. But maybe there'll be a few gems for those who have been writing for a bit.
I'll give you this for free
Take all writing advice and feedback with a grain of salt. Seriously.
This is why I'm the perfect person to give this advice. Because I'm not some big name and readers will tend to take my advice with a grain of salt. But when writers seek the advice of Big Names then the advice becomes Laws That Must Be Followed. All advice is given within context. But it's often relayed stripped of the context in which it was given. All people giving advice have who they are and where they come from to take into account.
Everyone has a motivation for giving advice and feedback. Some people are kind, caring people who want to help other writers. Some actively want to shut other writers down. Some are angry. (Most of this advice will come from an angry place for me. Just so you know.) It's kind of important to figure out why someone is giving their advice. Have they sold millions of copies of fiction and are constantly asked for advice so they wrote a book about it? Are they on their publication journey and have a few nuggets to share to help along those behind them on the same path? Are they someone who, whether consciously or subconsciously, wants to pull the ladder up behind them because they believe Publishing is a finite pie with only crumbs left?
Everyone has credentials for giving advice and feedback. I literally just listed mine above. Is the person giving their advice a writer or editor? What have they written and edited? When did they publish or edit? How accepted are the stories they published or edited? People who are bestsellers in the 1990s and people who are bestsellers in the 2020s probably actually have slightly different advice. Because markets change. Following older advice may improve your craft or storytelling, but it may not get you published today.
Okay, all my advice is free.
As you read through my picking apart or trumpeting the awesomeness of pieces of advice, consider what your goals are as a writer and what your goals are with advice and feedback.
Writers tend to give advice about Writing and Publishing assuming your goals are the same as their goals. I have definitely received advice that was not meant for me given as though it were personal. Because it was the advice that writer needed to hear when they were at the stage they thought I was. And maybe they misassessed my stage. Or maybe that advice just wasn't meant for me even if the stage assessment was appropriate.
Of course, I'm taking Generic Advice and giving Generic Advice. Some if it will be given as stage specific and I already suggested who might find my monthly posts on this topic helpful.
Enjoy the ride!
There you go, two pieces of advice already given with a little bit of shade thrown at all advice on writing. Stay tuned next month for more.
Reading Reflection 2022
2022 Reading Reflection
You can see by my Goodreads banner that I did manage to make my 2022 reading goal - 18 of 15 books! If you read my 2022 update about 2021, you'll know that this is actually quite an improvement over last year.
I had an amazing reading year in 2019 with 105 books. I also wrote 350k words in the last 4 months of the year. And bought a house and moved. I'm not sure how I did all of that in 2019. But 2020 came along and well, 2020. I didn't have a huge issue reading or writing during most of 2020. But many of the books I was reading in 2020 came from a reading group for discussion - all chosen by the reading group leader. And when books are chosen for you because you want to participate in a discussion, well, sometimes your reading speed drops off.
Everything caught up to me in 2021 and I read only 8 books. I read a bunch of work that was unpublished, and if I'd managed to track that then my reading would have been much higher. But the slowdown was, in fact, everything becoming more like wading through molasses rather than letting up.
Unfortunately, that slowdown continued well into 2022. Of the 18 books I read, 15 were completed in the last 4 months of this year.
Last Quarter of 2022
I went from a goal of posting about my favorite monthly read to quarterly read to silence. I'm back at giving quarterly faves and suggestions. I sort of did an entire year update back in September after reading 4 whole books in a few weeks!
Favorite Reads of 2022
All my favorite reads I read in the last quarter of 2022. Here they are.
Short Fiction Round-Up #70
I took the last week of the year for writing and reading reflection, planning my next year, and overall re-centering myself. Today, I have seventeen (17) stories for you to check out if you missed them when I posted on social media.
Apparition Literary Magazine published Silver Bells by Jaime Marvin in 2022.
Medusa and Herophile by L.M. Spann was published by Cul-de-Sac of Blood in 2022.
The Dread Machine published A Mortal in Armour, Among Immortals Walking by Ai Jiang in 2022.
Smokelong Quarterly published in 2015
Things You Won't Tell Your Therapist by Colleen Kearney Rich
The Butterfly Effect by Marc Joan
The Arcanist published in 2022
Dead-Go by Matt Tighe
Entropy in a Fruit Bowl by Nicole Lynn
Happy New Year! I hope to suggest many more stories in 2023.
It's the last Friday of the year and time to assess my success at meeting my writing goals for the year and set new goals for 2023!
Click my Goals category to read previous goal setting and updates. But I'll review the previous year's throughout.
Short Stories Written and Polished in 2022:
In 2021, I made a goal to write and polish thirteen (13) stories and completed seven (7).
In 2022, I made a goal to write and polish ten (10) stories.
I completed and polished four (4) stories and updated one (1) finished last year and started submitting them.
This goal received an incomplete. ❌
Story Submissions in 2022:
In 2021, my goal was to submit 39 stories and I submitted 40.
My stated goal in my review and goal setting post was forty-two (42.)
However, pretty quickly, I determined this was not a sufficient goal, as described in my First Update of 2022.
My new goal became a stretch goal of sixty (60) submissions. I submitted sixty-six (66) times.
This goal receives a succes ✅
Rejections in 2022:
My goal, as before, was 100% rejection rate. That way, I'm successful whether I meet it or get acceptances.
According to my Submission Grinder stats, I had a total of 65 rejections AND one (1) acceptance.
Calling this one a success ✅
Acceptances in 2022:
I don't make acceptance goals because I have little control over them. However, for completeness, I report that I had one (1) story accepted and published in 2022, "A Dress of Flowers" published at ZNB Presents.
Published in 2022:
I published three (3) stories in 2022. One (1) was published by a publication, one (1) on my website, and one (1) in my bimonthly newsletter.
Stories under consideration at this moment: Three (3)
After meeting my goal of sixty submission in early October, I ceased my normal resubmission policy in order to focus on two different novel-length projects. The short story submission process was eating into my mental space. Having reached my goal, pursuing more for the sake of more walked a path towards burnout. Instead, I only submitted for particular windows and specific stories.
Goal: Short Stories Written and Polished in 2023
In 2023, I will be participating in a story-per-week short story drafting group through Cat Rambo's Patreon and Chez Rambo Discord Group with the goal of one new short story draft per week. Polished? Unlikely. My goal is one drafted short story (flash through novelette) per week newly written with polishing as many as I can, ideally one per month.
Goal: Short Story Submissions in 2023
When I changed my goal for 2022, I plotted out new goals through 2025. This gets me to a large number of submissions in a reasonable manner without burning myself out.
Goal: Short Story Rejections in 2023
Goals for 2022: Were vague. Keep querying. Keep editing. Go with the flow.
I did all of those. Over the course of 2022, I sent forty-five (45) queries. I still have nineteen (19) queries out that I haven't heard back from nor have marked CNR. I'll probably CNR a large number tomorrow to round out my 2022 querying year.
Goals for 2023:
I am finishing revising another novel, which already has one full request for when the revisions are done. I'll be sending that out and querying. My first goal of send that full MS is the only quantifiable goal I have for novels at this time.
At the end of April, I will update this goal, not just with noting the quantifiable one, but with new goals for the remainder of the year.
Unexpected Goals Achieved!
One of the Discord groups I'm in celebrates 100 short story rejections, which I achieved this year.
A slightly more positive achievement came earlier in the year. One of my goals for 2023 was to qualify and join the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association.)
With my 2021 and 2022 sales combined with the SFWA membership requirement changes, I joined the SFWA in April! This goal has already been achieved!
See you next update!
Short Fiction Round-Up #69
In November, between social media meltdowns and power outages and holidays, I was a bit chaotic in my suggested story posts. I have twelve (12) stories for today's blog post, in case you missed my various social media. Several, not all, were featured in Lauren Ring's Short Fiction Fridays, where I first heard of them. I recommend subscribing to her weekly newsletter for more great selections.
The Sprawl Magazine published What Not to Do When You're Polymorphed and Stuck in a Time Warp by Stewart C. Baker in October. Just a fun little romp!
The Arcanist published Head in the Grave, Listening by Elizabeth Guilt in October. I like the slight open-endedness of it.
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky was published by Apex Magazine in 2013. This is another that I learned of from Lauren Ring's Short Fiction Fridays. This story is about expressing your love in the face of grief.
Travel Guide to Spaceport Rest Stops by Seoung Kim was published by If There's Anyone Left in January. This story is a story by reviews. I really love stories in this format.
Short Fiction Round-Up #68
I apologize for the delay in this post. Normally it goes up the first Monday of the month, rounding up all the previous month's short fiction I suggested. I normally write the post the weekend before that first Monday. Unfortunately, I had a major power outage at my home, limiting my ability to do things like blog posts.
Hopefully this November you're still in the mood for creepy because October is the spooky month and I focused on that, for the most part. Not all of these stories are horror or dreadful, but they are all speculative under my SFF/H umbrella that I enjoy. I've sorted them by magazine. Enjoy!
Recipe by Tina S. Zhu was published by Fireside Fiction in September. It's a 500-word piece and I love the format!
The Arcanist published
Door to Door Detaial by Michael James in September. This short had good creeping dread factor.
Treat Me Like the Sea by Taylor Rae in September. Another creeping dread one about what we give of ourselves.
We Watch the Nimble Dancers by Megan W. Shaw in October. This one was so bittersweet!
The History Eaters by Marissa James is a surreal short story.
Lisa's Garden by Jennifer Hudak is a short story about emotion and expression.
Writer of spec fic.