Cover letters are death

So, I owe an apology because I didn’t post last week due to the holiday. One of my best friends comes to visit us every year, and I admit that I didn’t think about posting until after she left. I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you and your family/friends do anything for turkey day.

Now that we’re done with Thanksgiving, and the big holiday season is coming up quickly, I find myself thinking about the different journals that I want to submit to at the beginning of the year. Many that I want to submit to have submissions in January, which is what I’m aiming for, but it means that I need to start working on my  cover letters.

I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but cover letters are something that I struggle with writing. I have so little to say about myself that my cover letters look a step below pathetic.

I’ve been told that some publishers don’t read the cover letter until after they’ve read the submitted work, which is probably good in my case, but I still spend a great deal of time stressing out over them. I always spend about half an hour on each because I want to personalize each letter I send out. I feel like a generic letter is a little insulting to the editor and gives the impression that I don’t care who I’ve sent my work to.

Pathetic cover letters aside, the piece that I’ve been working on for several months, and the one I was planning on submitting, still isn’t coming together like I want. I’m aiming for about 4000 words, and I’m about halfway there.

I think the concept is decent, but I’m having a hard time adding enough detail to keep the story intriguing. I got a comment during my graduate work that my writing seemed more directed to a young adult audience. I have several friends who are excellent YA authors, but that’s not what I want to write, so I keep worrying about whether the content and the prose are too elementary.

I’ve been playing around with varying sentence structure in different parts of the story to try and evoke different emotions within the reader, but I’m afraid I might be trying to do too much given my word limit.

Still, I have a little less than a month if you factor in holiday breaks, and I see my family so infrequently that I often feel guilty trying to find time to write while visiting. My parents and my husband’s parents only live ten minutes from each other, so juggling between two families during holidays is sometimes challenging because I always try to split the visit 50/50 between our two houses.

We’re also going to try and go skiing this year. Colorado is blessed with some of the best skiing, and I do my best to keep up even though I haven’t spent much time on the slopes. I hoping to improve this year.

Hopefully I’ll have a better grasp on my story next week.

Fingers crossed.

Being your own boss must be the easiest thing in the world, right?

As a freelance writer, I get asked this question a lot. I never know quite what to say, and it’s not that the question is hard, it’s just that my general thought is, “Well, not really, and this is awkward because I don’t really want to talk about it”, and that never lets the conversation continue.

In truth, I’ve struggled with it a lot post grad school because I often feel guilty when my husband leaves for work and I’m still in my sweats. Am I working? Yes. Do I have work to show for myself when he gets home? Yes, although he doesn’t keep tabs on me. (I get pretty self deprecating if I haven’t completed anything for the day, and he can usually tell right away.)

Working from home has been a more difficult adjustment than I imagined, and it’s not for the reasons one might think. I don’t have a problem staying “on track”. I don’t often find myself distracted by the t.v. or the internet, but I would always feel as though I needed to be chained to my work all day, and under no circumstances was it acceptable for me to take a break to cook lunch or take the dog for a walk.

This line of thinking usually resulted in me feeling completely burned out by early afternoon, but I had to constantly be working for it to be acceptable that I stay and work on my career from home. I don’t know if other people (regardless of profession) have come across similar feelings when it comes to working from home.

It certainly wasn’t making me happy, even though I was doing what I’d always wanted. I should have been happy, but being constantly stressed over the fact that I got up to take a break and eat a snack wasn’t doing me, or my work, any favors. I thought that was how it worked.

Upon finding this out, my husband promptly told me I was crazy for not taking breaks during the day. His average day is twelve hours long, and he told me that even when he’s super busy he tries to take a break ever couple hours. He does something completely non-work related so that he can recharge for the rest of the day. He plays a game on his phone, he gets something to eat, or he talks with his friends. Now, with him being gone so long, and us only able to have one car, I spend most of my weekdays without leaving the apartment very often. The animals and I have developed a highly intricate secret language.

Even writing this, it makes stupidly clear to me that I need to take breaks. I can’t physically separate work and home because they are in the same place. I don’t really have the ability to leave work at the office because my office is my dining room table.

Even in the past two weeks I’ve tried to be more lenient with myself when I take breaks. I try not to feel bad about it, I make myself take time for lunch, and I always take our dog on a walk after my work day is done.

I thought working from home would be easy because I can be very dedicated in my work, but it ended up being more difficult in ways I had not even imagined. Are my days more broken up, and have I let loose the mentality that I must be shackled to my desk all day every day? Yes, but I am writing this post as I’m eating lunch.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Is Self Publishing Really Worth It?

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in Texas. The heat is something that I’ve never gotten used to while we’ve lived here, and the cooler weather is beyond welcome. I always find it easier to work when the weather is cloudy and cold. Probably because I enjoying wrapping myself in blankets while I work.

The change in the weather spurred me into action in finding out more information about self publishing, and whether it is really what I think will benefit me the most. In the past week I have learned a bit about self publishing, and what it is to be a writer in the post-graduate world I find myself in.

One of the main things I found out about self publishing is that it is a rather big gamble with your own money. Everything from the editor to the cover picture needs to be paid for by you, which does allow you to be more specific in keeping with your vision, but it also means that the upfront cost of getting something published is rather pricey. I found several websites that would direct you to reputable people in each field that you need to get your book off the ground. Although, the nice thing about self publishing is that you could publish your book without any of these services, but the chances of it seeing any success are slim.

So, freedom of expression is a significant pro of the self publishing track, and with kindle and e-readers so popular these days, there is a market for self published works to make a name for themselves.

If you’re willing to take the risk, and if you are dedicated to overseeing each and every aspect of your work, then self publishing might work for you, but I had to think about what I wanted.

As I said in my previous post, I do want to try and get something published by a house, but I don’t have that much work at the moment, so I emailed some advisors and friends who are have found success in their years as writers. I don’t want to say that self publishing was a last ditch effort for me, but I did feel as though I wanted to go the more traditional route.

So, am I still on the fence? Yes, but my gut tells me that I need to try and get something published by a journal. And it was certainly a surprise to me to learn that novel excerpts are rarely accepted. Looks like I’ll be brushing off some of the short stories I have to see if they can be improved to the point where I can send them out.

It’ll take some work because all of those stories have been shelved since before I started my degree, and I know they will need a serious overhaul. Still, it gives me something to strive for, and for me that’s a large part of the battle right there.

 

So, you’ve finished your MFA. What now?

Since I’m just getting things back up and running, I thought that I would tackle one of the reasons I’m starting this blog up again.

I finished my MFA this past summer, and I was proud of what I had accomplished. My MFA was unlike a traditional school in that all work and scheduling was my own responsibility. I didn’t have anyone that I answered to daily, and my progress was solely judged on what I snail-mailed to my advisor every three weeks.

I met people at Goddard that I know will be my friends for years to come, and when I got my diploma I was happy. I felt like I’d done something solely for me, and that I would finally feel confident in saying that “I am a writer”.

Fast forward several months…

Am I still happy? Yes. Of course. I don’t have any regrets in getting my degree. Do I think I was a little optimistic in thinking that my degree was going to solve my problems? Entirely too optimistic.

I have diligently written almost everyday since I graduated, and I see no other way that I can improve my craft other than doing just that, but with that said, I still feel rather conflicted by the fact that I haven’t done anything with my degree other than that. I certainly know that it will take longer than a few months (try many years) before I will likely see the results of my hard work, but I’m someone who needs goals to stay motivated. Sure, a long term goal of potentially getting published one day is great, but it’s still a rather abstract goal, and I need something more immediate to keep me going.

Que my newest idea, which might or might not prove to be a smart idea. I think that I will try to self publish a collection of my short stories. That way I can start to get my name out there. It will at least allow me to say that I am published. Now, I am a complete stranger to self publishing, so I have a lot of research ahead of me, but I think that it will give me something to strive towards. I already have a collection of pieces that I can edit and improve for the collection.

I’m still rather old fashioned, and I would like to try and find an agent and publishing house for the novel that I’m working on, but just because I want to have my book published through a house doesn’t mean that I need to have all my work produced that way.

I’m just trying to keep a delicate balance between being optimistically driven and paralyzing self doubt. I do tend to lean towards the later, so this will certainly be an experiment in pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Next week I’ll hopefully have a better idea of how to start down the rabbit hole that is self publishing. If anything, I’ll have a good story to tell.

Be well.