So often it is we judge literary success only by the quality of our rejection – Hey, they spelled my name right on the rejection letter! – that it’s easy to lose faith in one’s path to publication. In and of itself, even publication won’t guarantee less rejection from book critics and book buyers, family and friends, whether traditionally published or not. Rejection is just part of the process of being a writer. Yet despite facing an industry awash in rejection, an industry in which incalculable competition already exists and grows exponentially each year, emerging writers glom onto hope. Truly, emerging writers remain the world’s most insufferable optimists. Why? Because stories matter.
Good stories matter even more. Good stories grant readers permission to escape. They allow readers to forget; or force them to remember. Good stories entertain us, or educate us, embolden us or make us think, even dare fill us with wonder, sometimes all at once. Because above all else, good stories make us feel. Something. Everything.
As a writer, and more importantly as a reader, I need desperately to feel. I demand it. We’re all suckers for a good story.
But a good story well told is more than words strewn shrewdly across a page; more than clean structure and dialogue that pops; vivid scenes and imaginative sequences; breathless action and rich, compelling characters. A good story – scratch that – a good author of an exceptional story recognizes the reader’s needs, embraces them and delivers. A good author crafts an exceptional story that makes us care.
Here in the thick of November, with so many SCWCers and over 40,000 other NaNoWriMo writers immersed in the challenge of committing 50,000 words to a rough draft, in a month, one can lose sight of the why, let alone how to, write a good story. Which is where the SCWC has historically fit in.
Once words are laid naked on the pages of that initial draft, now the real work begins.
Whatever you’re currently writing, be it a hard-rocking adventure, killer murder mystery, YA fantasy, NA rom-com, spellbinding sci-fi, literary, memoir, historical, transformative narrative, prescriptive nonfiction or anything else, you need to know what’s working, what’s not working, and possess the tools to ready it for commercial viability.
The SCWC provides a safe, welcoming environment to do just that. The SCWC prides itself on encouraging bold voices who strive to distinguish themselves by bolstering the quality of their work.
We are about the excellence of craft and clarity of message in your efforts. Your manuscript. Your career. And honesty is our policy. It’s a subjective thing, of course, but SCWC staff can only respond to what you’ve got. What you might think you’ve got doesn’t change that. That’s what makes writing hard. That’s what makes rejection sting. That’s why honest, empirically qualified, professional feedback is so intrinsically valuable to writers.
So, in the giddy haze that often follows the end of NaNoWriMo, or the grim wake of disinterest expressed at a recent pitch to an agent or editor, or yet another inexplicable rejection notification, do know that there is a place for you to get a reality check on where your work is now; figure what’s broken or not; what needs to be fixed and how.
Publishing a book is an affirmation of purposeful being. But publishing a good book, an exceptional book, a great book, requires a community. This is the time — your time, our time — to join the chorus of singular voices offering distinct perspectives on today’s world, yesteryears’, and beyond tomorrow’s to make a difference. A contribution. A declaration. Or just to give the reader one rip-snortin’ wallop of a good story well told.
Effectively communicating the movie in your mind to some faceless stranger across a page is a noble goal well worth making the effort to achieve. One that the SCWC is most proud in serving so many to do so.
Be the best writer you can be. Inform. Inspire. Entertain.
Because stories matter.
(You can read my take on an old favorite, “A Book Worth Reading,” here.)
Good “Muse” and More
Lots to report on San Diego 31, though most of it can wait ’til the next update – including some especially great news for one of our favorite workshop leaders. What’s important now is that the Advance Submission Readers are open for selection, including literary agents Leticia Gomez (Savvy Literary), Amanda O’Connor (Trident Media Group), Eve Porinchack (Jill Corcoran Literary) and John Rudolph (Dystel, Grosset & Dunlap). Do keep in mind that several more readers will be added as we begin finalizing the remaining staff for February’s event.
Now on to some of the most recent SCWC successes…
Frederick Ramsay’s tenth book in his long running Ike Schwartz Mysteries is actually a prequel to the contemporary series. Set in 1920, Publishers Weekly calls Copper Kettle, “a genuine pleasure to read.” It’s out February from Poisoned Pen Press… The third in workshop leader Claudia Whitsitt’s award-winning “Kids Like You” series, Broken Lines, is out January, also just in time for the conference.
In her third Meg Pennington novel, Nancy Churchill weaves a tale of lies, love, money, and murder in A Deliberate Lie, out now… And majorly longtime SCWCer and good friend Simon Mayeski has a fine contribution to the newly released science fiction anthology, Chronicle Worlds: Paradisi. It’s also out now.
Congratulations and best of success to all!
That’s it for the time being. There’ll be another update before we hit December, regarding workshops and additional staff. Be sure and subscribe to the SCWC .COMmunity for periodic email updates and announcements. And definitely join us on Facebook to be privy to all sorts of valuable insight and inspiration. Our winter event is limited to 175 writers. Discounted pre-registration is now open. Your words are worth it. Be there.
Now be sure to watch the video below to understand why and how you need to take control of your writing career.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC