You ask, I answer, part two

Taking another question each from B.C and Nicki:

How do you stay motivated to send stuff out into the wide world of publishing?

Random digression: I grew up in Reno. As you might have heard, there are slot machines there, at least a couple. Casinos will advertise things like “97.3% payback!” Right — for every $100 you bet, you lose $2.70, and people keep playing. You have to ask yourself why.

Intermittent reinforcement. Basically, animals and people are more likely to continue a given behavior if they’re only rewarded some of the time. Those random payoffs? Keep people gambling, even if overall they’re losing money.

From a psychological perspective, the fact that I had an early success (short story sale), followed by intermittent other successes, predisposes me to maintain the pattern of behavior that leads to that reward. Fortunately, I’m only losing time, not money, to the process, and along the way I’m getting better at my writing.

That’s the other thing that keeps me going — as time has gone on, I’ve had more near misses, more personal rejections, more successes in the various ways that I define success. My writing is getting better, and the chances of selling it are going up. And as my thesis advisor often said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” If I don’t submit my stories to markets, the answer is automatically “No.” The only way to get a “Yes” is to send it out.

It also helps that I’m a stubborn woman from a family of stubborn people and most of the time, I treat “no” as meaning “You just haven’t tried hard enough yet.” (This is also why I spent much longer bashing my head against my thesis project in grad school than any rational person would have done.)

Best book you’ve read this month, whatever it was

I’m in the middle of a few, and some are really excellent. But I did recently finish an older how-to writing book, Writing Novels That Sell, by Jack M. Bickham. I took a while to read it because some of the chapters really required time to sink in. I wrote a review, and if/when it’s available online, I’ll post a link. Meanwhile, that’s my current nonfiction recommendation.

Oddly enough, most of my current TBR pile is MG or YA, and I’m actually feeling stressed because I’m getting so little of it done.

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  1. I happen to like that philosophy. 🙂 It’s nice to have the psychology behind it explained.

    • Glad to oblige. 🙂

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks (at least sometimes) before hitting the Send button, “This could be it, the Big One.” Just like a slot player…

      • Ashe Elton Parker

        At least with writing, there are rewards all over the place, and they’re all gains: the reward of writing, the reward of those being *good* words, the possible reward of a personal rejection, the possible reward of an actual sale. The only real “loss” is a form rejection, and even then you’ve already had the gains of writing and all and those being *good* words.

        • Maybe. I don’t know if I consider the words themselves, or even the act of writing to be a reward. They are things I enjoy, but that in itself is not enough to be a reward for me. (And we won’t even get into how to decide whether or not they are good words.)

          The closest I come to a reward on that front is enjoying my final story — and, hopefully, knowing that someone else did, too, even if it’s just snippets that I’ve shared in chat. I think that’s why I treasure personal rejections; they tell me that someone else cared enough about something I created to try to explain why it doesn’t work for their market or for them. It says there is extrinsic value to the story.

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