Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections 2010 - The Bad Stuff

2010 was an insane year, wasn't it? Am I the only one who feels like it was just insane? So much has happened this year that I can't reflect on it all in one blog post. Thus, Reflections 2010 has been split into two.

For me, at least, 2010 was a year of learning. I climbed a very steep learning curve this year, and many of the lessons hurt. For some of them, I'm still trying to figure out what the lesson was.

2010 was a year of firsts.

I sent my first query (for The Third Prince) in 2010, and I received my first literary rejection. To be perfectly honest, I was quite satisfied with that one rejection. I'm being totally serious. I was. I even felt a little bit excited. I opened the letter, read the (form) rejection and thought to myself, 'Here I go!' It was the first step to becoming a true blue, honest to goodness, published author. It was exciting. However, by the tenth rejection, the novelty began to wear off, and I started to get dejected. I'm sure the people who have been reading this blog regularly will know all about my roller-coaster response to querying and rejection.

It wasn't fun. It still isn't fun. It's frustrating. It's infuriating. It's downright depressing.

I went through almost a full year of rejections before I gave up. That's when Carlos stepped in and gave me a hand. The biggest problem - format. How could I have not thought of it? Everything has a format. Why did I not look into the proper format for novel manuscripts? I am SUCH an idiot! I had researched everything else. All I had to do was plug in 'proper format for novel manuscript' to, and I'd have the proper format.


Though I believe my story is good, agents probably didn't even read it because it was presented so poorly. That explains the form rejections, at least. The thing is, many agencies don't allow resubmission. I had materially damaged my chances of success with The Third Prince.

Writing Yoda says: 'A lesson there is to be learnt here, young writer!'

Format is important. Sigh.

I shall have to put away The Third Prince now for some time. I won't shop it around again, even though it's been formatted correctly now, for perhaps a number of years. Who knows?

I also learnt that I am not as good a writer as I thought I was. Sure, I have the imagination, but when it comes to the technical stuff... meh, not so much. My biggest problem (aside from format) is passive voice, apparently.

This is something I have to work really, really, really hard to fix. I have a tendency to write as I speak. Perhaps I speak with a passive voice? I have also been primarily writing academic pieces prior to taking up fiction as a serious pursuit. A friend of mine was kind enough to point out that academic writing uses passive voice almost exclusively. This passive voice thing will be a hard habit to break.

I also have been told that I have an archaic turn of phrase. I wonder if this has anything to do with my passive writing style? I'm not sure.

2010 was the year I had to swallow my pride - my first real editing experience.

This actually came as a shock to me. I take great pride in my work, but I was certain that my pride wouldn't interfere with my improvement. I'm a pretty grounded person, normally. I can take criticism pretty well. Yet when my short story Her Father's Eyes was chosen to be included in the anthology Unlocked (YAY!) through my friends at, I had a hell of a time with the editing process.

Part of it was that I was quite unused to the editing style. Most of my writerly friends and Beta Readers leave little comments for me without actually changing any of the words on the page itself. They will say such things as: "This sentence doesn't make sense. What are you trying to say here?", "You're not serious? Find a better word!", "wtf?" and even, "This paragraph is utter crap." They may, if I'm lucky, leave suggestions for improvements without changing the sentences themselves.

I was quite taken aback when I found large sections of the story rewritten. I got defensive, which was idiotic, really. I mean, I must listen to the editors if I'm to improve (though, there are some things which I still find I was justified in standing my ground for, but many things I was not). After all, I've only ever written for pleasure, and my audience has only been (largely) my mother. What the hell would I know?

I had to swallow my pride. It was a tough thing to do. It was tougher still realising that it was what I needed to do, if that makes sense.

I learnt so much writing this year - which is a very good thing. However, I should have known it all before I started submitting. That is to say, my research was sub-par. I'm a little upset at myself for being so hasty with my submissions. I've certainly learnt from that, I'll tell ya!

On a more personal level, 2010 was the year of disappointment.

Not that this has anything to do with my writing, but I've been single a very long time, and, seeing as how I want a family, I figured I ought to be more proactive about it.

I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, EVER try online dating ever again. Ever. Go me for being proactive, but I am now so disillusioned by humanity, I think I'll become a hermit. Oh, there were the typical terrible first dates. There are some real, uh, morons out there. One evening (first date) ended like this:

Date: "Can I come in?"
Me: Um... No...
Date: But I bought you dinner!

I have never slammed a car door so hard in my life.

There was one hopeful I saw very casually... until I saw him lock lips with someone else, just by chance in the supermarket. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't that upset by it. Angry on principle, but not really upset. There was worse to come.

2010 was the year of heartbreak.

This one caught me entirely by surprise. September of this year, my heart shattered quite unexpectedly and very inexplicably, rendering me a useless, sobbing lump for the better part of three weeks. It struck like a solid kick to the chest. I lost my breath and my heart ceased beating for a long, painful moment. I didn't blog about it because it had nothing to do with my writing.

Heartbreak is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. It was the first, and hopefully last, time that it has happened to me and I am now filled with a better understanding and deeper appreciation for the struggles the heartbroken face. I used to get so annoyed with people who moped about after others. Indeed, I got really annoyed at myself (still am, a bit), but now I can approach others faced with the same situation with empathy.

I've been there.

I really was useless. I could barely get out of bed in the mornings. I burst into tears rather suddenly in public places (like on the bus or at work) as many as five times in a day. I had to force food down my throat. I cried myself to sleep nightly.

It. Was. Hard.

I'm much better now (thanks for asking), though every so often my heart cramps a little and tears hit my eyes.

There were some really tough moments in 2010. I've struggled through some incredible lows related to my writing... and not. It wasn't all doom and gloom however. I'll take you through the best bits tomorrow.


Swadhi said...

Hey there,

it's my first time reading your blog and I just wanted to say, I'm really liking your writing so far! I wish you all the luck in the world with getting your novels published! :)

S.M. Carrière said...

Hi Swadhi,

Thanks so much! That kind of encouragement is lovely to hear.

You're an English student, I see. Which university?

Thanks again.

Swadhi said...

I'm studying at Ottawa University, in my second year now. :)

S.M. Carrière said...

That's excellent! I studied Celtic Studies there. Good luck!