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.
Quarter 3 of 2022 Reads
First Time for Everything
This is my first quarterly reading update, despite making a goal to have these each quarter in 2022. That's because I read about three published books along with several beta reads prior to August 2022. I've been struggling to read for most of 2021 and 2022.
Audiobooks and novellas save the day!
I have no idea why, but I asked a group of avid readers about the best audiobooks a couple of weeks ago. Reading print is still a struggle for me. The only published book I've read in print for most of the year was Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire on a plane flight to go to a close relative's funeral this summer. That book is a) written by one of my favorite authors, b) filled with characters I already know from a series, and c) short.
And if I may make a confession, I hear that title sung in the same cadence as "Where the Down Boys Go," which both dates me and tells you some of the music I listened to in my formative years.
My group made suggestions and I cross-referenced them with books already on my wishlist. One was All Systems Red by Martha Wells. I already owned both a physical copy and an e-book copy and had yet to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed Keven R. Free's rendering of the story and the story itself.
Okay, you may see a trend here, of novellas that are also Hugo and Nebula Award winners or part of a series that is. Sometimes when in a reading funk, you have to go with what you know is good and easy.
I'm pleased to say that in the past ten days, I've completed four published books. In June, I read two books, and a single book in February. This doesn't count beta reads and critiques (on which I'm constantly behind my promised timelines.) This doesn't count short stories, of which I read 20-100 monthly.
As of the writing of this post, I'm reading the third Murderbot Diary novella. I'm interspersing them between longer reads as pieces of candy. Hopefully, this reading streak will continue. I'd had high hopes after reading Beowulf A Translation by Maria Headley, but they were for naught.
That's my 2022 Quarter 3 reading update. Do you have some excellent audiobooks to recommend?
The Story of Gnashing
Gnashing Teeth from the Deep and the Children Hang on Tight - A Checklist
On the one year anniversary of the publication of my non-standard form flash fiction published in Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters learn the story behind the story. Be sure to go read the flash before reading this blog post, for there are spoilers ahead. You will want to buy a single issue (and buy both issue 1 and 2 because they are both great!) rather than use the subscriptions.
This publication will always be very close to my heart. In the fall of 2020, I attended a Writing Prompts and Games session with Cat Rambo via her Discord Server. Cat read this prompt, which was what became the title, "Gnashing teeth from the deep and the children hang on tight," and I immediately thought this was a checklist. And I was off writing my story.
I am a pantser and other than write a little snippet per word or phrase, as told from this Nightmare Monster's perspective, I didn't know where this was going as I wrote for the ten minute writing time. For the Monster, who has no name, it is a transitional time, a coming-of-age of sorts, moving from a young and shallow voice into a more mature and motivated voice.
When our ten minutes was up, I'd mined some of my own trauma for the resolution - because when I got to the phrase "children hang on tight" I asked myself, why would the children hang on tight to a monster from the deep that I've created here? And the answer is that the Nightmare Monster become a savior from the terrors in life. Terrors I knew well as a child.
I volunteered to read my story during the reading time. I recall a couple of the other attendees that day. As I read along, the sing-song nature of some of the prose and the inital voice elicited smiles from Cat and the other Zoom members. And at the twist, the smiles faded and it was silent. We mute ourselves when we aren't reading, but it took a moment for Cat to say anything. And I wasn't sure if the faded smiles and silence was a good sign or a bad sign about the story.
I don't recall what Cat said, to be honest. But I polished it, taking the somewhat blunt twist and wrote it a little less extreme and severe from its initial course.
Submission and Acceptance
In December 2020, I began submitting my fiction to markets. My initial method involved finding best fits as I saw them. The call for Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters was opening. I spent an afternoon in an early December co-writing session from Cat Rambo's Discord polishing the story specifically for this call. At least one other person on the Zoom session mentioned they were also polishing a story for this call.
Polished and ready, I submitted "Gnashing Teeth from the Deep and the Children Hang on Tight - A Checklist" on December 15, 2020 through the Constelación moksha portal. It was my second fiction submission since the 1990s. I generally just consider it my second fiction submission ever since I was not paid for any of my 1990s fiction. It was the first submission of this story to any market.
I continued to submit other stories to other markets, a total of six that December. I used The Submission Grinder to track my submissions. I watched rejections turn the Constelación graph from purple (pending) to red (rejected) while my story stayed purple along with a chunk of others. I am supersititious about nudging for responses and only do so under duress. I simply waited, along with those other purple lines.
On Monday, March 29, 2021 around noon local time, I received an acceptance email from Coral Alejandra Moore and the Constelación Team!
Many authors have dream markets. By March 2021, I hadn't really made my list of dream markets, but Constelación Magazine would definitely be on it.
Issue 2 was supposed to be published April 15, 2021, according to the Constelacion Kickstarter. As a new publishing author, I didn't know much, but I knew that would be a tight turn-around. It didn't matter. I was thrilled for the acceptance and to be a part of this publication and its journey. This also signified my first pro-rate sale.
I attended the Flights of Foundry virtual convention in 2021, where the Constelación editors were guests of honor. I attended their panels and their open room. I may have fallen all over myself and possibly (definitely) cried in excitement at meeting Eliana and Coral. (I'm not cool. At all. And my ND brain cries at any opporunity, much to my dismay.)
I waited six months for my second story to be published. Spring acceptances with fall publications is currently a 2-point trendline. On October 5, 2021, Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters was published with my story in it. With this publication, another wishlist item on my author dreams was achieved - have my work translated from English to another language. Natasha Besoky wrote the translation into Spanish.
The publication announcement was met with wonderful tweets and an amazing review from Charles Payseur. It also earned me a spot in The Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index.
On September 2, 2022, Coral Alejandra Moore announced the closure of Constelación Magazine. I am gutted for her and Eliana. They and Constelación were fabulous, and I wish them and the Constelación Team well in their future endeavors.
Writer of spec fic.