I was reading a post from Escape Pod editor Jeremiah Tolbert entitled An Editor’s Perspective on Rejection which raises a lot of good points, and I got to thinking about all I’ve learned this year about writing. I think I finished a grand total of two stories in 2008–this year so far I’ve finished seven short stories, three pieces of flash fiction and a host of twitter stories (and one “flash script”). I’ve also received my very first rejection letters, and, as Jeremiah says in his post, those do hurt.
However as he also says, everyone gets rejected, no matter how good a writer you may be; it’s just part of the writer’s life. That’s one lesson I’ve learned about writing in general and my writing in particular since the year began–here are a few others:
(1) I Need Raw Material: I think the biggest breakthrough I had was realizing that I’m much, much better at constructing a story from a bad story than I am at generating one on the fly. I can–and still need to–outline a story before I begin, but I’m rarely able to make it work without looking at a complete first draft; I just don’t have the right perspective without seeing the entire narrative–or at least a version of it–play out. Without a complete draft, I’m like a sculptor chipping away at air.
(2) First Drafts are Allowed to Suck: I think I first heard this made explicit on Mur Lafferty’s podcast, and given lesson one above, it was such a relief to internalize. The goal with my first drafts is now simply to finish the story: all the bells and whistles can come later.