Renewed Goals

At the beginning of the year, my goal was to submit something to someone for publication.  Whether it was a publishing house, an agent, or something of the sort, my idea was to give it a whirl and get my first rejection (or, if I were extraordinarily lucky, an acceptance).

I’m not sure I’m going to meet that goal – and it won’t be for lack of a polished novel.

It’ll be because I’m not sure it’s worth trying.

This is my long-winded update on where I am with my writing and what I want to do next.

The Mercury Dimension

The Mercury DimensionThe Mercury Dimension is the book I finished a first draft of on January 2, 2018.  It’s not my first novel.  Not counting the drivel I wrote in high school, it was my 18th.

Since then, it’s gone through 2 complete rewrites and about 10 full edits.  I’ve had 3 alpha readers, 5 beta readers, and even went so far as to look for an editor (it’s complicated, but I’m not looking for a new editor at the moment).

Lastly, I submitted it to the Twitter contest, PitchWars.  The contest is an ‘author mentoring’ contest in which already agented or published authors help new, unagented authors.  I submitted because, as somone told me, there was nothing to lose.  Even if I get nothing out of it, I at least gain practice writing a query.

I regret the experience in its entirety.

I regret it to the point where I question my publishing goals.

I put off, without concrete plans to take it back up, the idea to submit to agents or publishers.

‘No, don’t give up on your dream!’ You may say

And I answer: why not?

Last December, I asked my mom to read The Mercury Dimension’s first chapter, and she said, “My eyes are too bad.  I cain’t read your small font.”

Instead of questioning her abilities with MS Word, I just made a new file with bigger font.

“My eyes are too bad.  I cain’t look at screens that long.”

I offered to get it printed at a print shop.

“Don’t waste the money. I cain’t change the font on paper.”

TMD visual

Art that I made for The Mercury Dimension. It’s in the dumpster now, save for this digital version.

I decided the answer was to get published so that I could see it turned into a professional audiobook.  She could listen to it.  Her eyes wouldn’t be an issue.

But I can’t help asking: is the problem that my mom has bad eyes, or is the problem that I’ve written something she doesn’t care about reading?

Or, more realistically, is the problem that I crave validation? Was the goal of publishing supposed to replace the fact that my mom doesn’t want to read my stuff?  That my art isn’t hung on the fridge, so to say?  Is the audiobook plan just a distraction from the fact that I’m not investing my time by spending it doing what my mother wants (which is watching British TV on mute, no subtitles, while drinking tea with diabetes levels of sugar)?

If all that is true, then why go through the trouble of submitting and getting rejected?  I already know, just from watching self-published authors’efforts, that going the self-publishing route would sap all the joy I get from writing.  If the efforts of getting published aren’t likely to be fruitful (a.k.a. bring satisfaction), why do it?

So I waffle.  I think, on alternate days, that I should just give it a whirl.  At other times, I think that putting effort into it is a waste of time that could be spent more joyfully.

Back to PitchWars

Like I said earlier, I submitted to PitchWars.  As you probably expect, I received no requests for partials or fulls, and of course I didn’t get accepted into the program.  Fine – I think it was a long shot anyway.

But then one of the mentors I submitted to had a blog post that said no requests in PitchWars meant you were barking up the wrong tree.  That maybe you should rethink whether or not you’re ready.  If your book didn’t get any requests, it’s probably a bad book – write something new.

I wasn’t, obviously, even in the top fifth of submissions.  After all this work, where was I going? What was worse was that all of my betas and alphas except one had pretty good feedback.  Most of the bad feedback was contradictory or focused on easily fixable minutiae.  One beta reader, though, seemed not to enjoy it.  I updated based on their suggestions, but a couple things from that read are dangling still. I don’t think it possible to fix the issues without destroying the plot. The story is, if that reader was correct, irreconcilable.

So that blog post in combination with my last beta reader’s feedback was pretty rough.  TMD is my 18th novel.  Just ‘write another one’ isn’t good enough advice for me right now.  I realized that, on top of my day job, blogging, and taking care of just general life crap, dealing with that rejection might just be unnecessary.  I may be one of those writers you see who is actually terrible but chooses to believe in a delusion (please let me know if that’s true).  If, after 18 novels and what I consider to be a prodigious amount of self-guided study, I am still pumping out garbage, I should probably alter my hobby’s outlook.

But wait! There’s more!

I still really like pumping out that garbage, though.  And, you know, I’m about 2/3 the way through a new novel.   It’s working title is ‘Redneck Spider’ and is about a bunch of rednecks who find and decide to keep a giant spider that had been secretly created by the government.  The story begins after these white trash folks are discovered, arrested, and safely housed in a secret facility in northern Nevada (Tom Darby has invaded my psyche, I swear). The story is told through a series of interrogation flashbacks and interviews conducted by ‘the interrogator.’

Anyway, it’s a really weird tale.  I don’t know where it’s headed or what I will do with it.

Looking for Critique Partners

I would like to start a serious writing and critique club.  If you have stuff you want to share with critique partners, I am game for a swap.  I am also game to hold an online critique club, if I can get participants.  Comment below if you’re interested.

I’d like to thank Marnie Heernan for her encouragement and E. Kathryn for being so open about the self-publishing process!

23 thoughts on “Renewed Goals

  1. Alexander Elliott says:

    I understand a lot of your frustration and self-doubt – writing isn’t for the faint of heart! If writing makes you happy but publishing does not, then WRITE and enjoy yourself. You may change your mind in the future, but even if you don’t, life is too short to be miserable. Introspection is often difficult, and you are to be commended for taking an honest look at your goals and ambitions. It demonstrates strength of character and a refreshing level of honesty. I believe you are on the right track.

    Not sure I’m ready for the critique swap idea (fragile ego here!), but it seems like a great idea. Keep us informed!

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      We’ll see! If I only have 1 or 2 people, we’ll just schedule a critique swap. If I get more, that would be really interesting – and I’d have to think about how to work that out. I’ll tag you if I make another post about it.

  2. Marnie says:

    Wait. Do I have it correct that you have a polished novel you’ve literally never submitted anywhere other than a Twitter thing?!

    If your mom doesn’t want to read it, she doesn’t want to read it. I assumed my parents would order the book I got my first short story published in. They didn’t.
    You put in all the time already. You have an obvious love for writing, and you should admit that you deserve to work on this for YOU.

    You’ve already done the hard part. You’ve written the whole book. The next step is some clerical work: filling out forms and sending emails.

    I don’t think it’s everyone’s path, and I am not one of those people who talk about dream fulfillment blah blah blah. Can you truthfully say you won’t regret it if you never take a chance on yourself in this way? Actually, it isn’t even taking a chance because you have nothing to lose, except the time you’ve already invested.

    Okay I’ll stop lol. Sorry if my message sounds disjointed; I’m on mobile.

    The redneck story sounds amazing and fun and I would totally read it!

    I am interested in joining up with anything you get started. I will hopefully have a complete first draft by December. 🙂

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      The thing for me is that the ‘rejection’ from PitchWars was pretty devastating. It came right on the heels of some pretty big let-downs at work, and I know that being a scientist comes first in my life. I try to put in 1-2 hours a day with blogging/writing, but I put in 8-10 hours a day with science (sometimes more, but rarely less). That’s the way it’s been for 10 years now, and that’s the time investment I anticipate following in the future.

      The loss I would experience is with sanity. Do I have the time to donate to getting over rejections? Someone (if it was you, sorry for forgetting!) once suggested to gamify the situation and just submit while I work on new stuff, allowing rejections to roll in. But I know myself well enough to realize I won’t treat rejections that way.

      • Marnie says:

        Finally getting around to replying to this. I know rejection stings. When I get those emails I tell myself it’s fine and that it happens to everyone doing poetry. And then the rejection will pop into my head an hour later, and I’ll just feel like ARGH WHY DO THEY HATE ME?! WHY IS MY WRITING NOT GOOD ENOUGH?!

        But after those little episodes I’m fine, and the acceptances make everything worth it. I was the one who suggested turning it into a game. 🙂

        If you know you don’t want to put yourself in that situation (which is perfectly legit), I agree with the other person who suggested self-publishing. I would add: you only have to do a bunch of marketing if you want to. Perhaps publish the novel and throw the link up on your blog and twitter. Would you be happy with 5 or so of your loyal fans buying it and that’s that? And then maybe a few more sales down the road depending on your blog traffic?

        Just my thoughts, I debate these things internally all the time. Hopefully I haven’t been preachy! I believe there is no single/correct path writers must take, and everyone should just do what makes them the happiest. (Plus, not everyone who writes needs to be a full-time author.)

  3. Tom Darby says:

    First — write for yourself, no one else. That’s how I got around the ‘looking for validation’ issue. Some people, especially family members will never share in your dream — so stop asking them too. Secondly — jump in and splash around. Publish, even if you go the route of self-publishing. You are a very good, if not a great writer. I say give it a shot — for yourself!!!

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      Thanks for the confidence! I wonder if social media makes it harder. I started blogging and tweeting partially to establish an author website, but it’s easy to get bogged down by it all. I see what other people do, and I am like, “Gosh, that doesn’t look fun. Is that really the next step?”

      I don’t really want to be the primary marketer of my work. At that point, I might as well stop writing for myself at all and turn this mess into a job, which is the fastest way to kill the joy in something.

  4. joanne the geek says:

    Whatever you do please keep writing. I enjoy reading your work. If you like writing just keep doing that. There are a lot of good books that never get published, and a lot of very bad books do. Just because you didn’t get anywhere pitching your book it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, it could mean the genre or style might be something different than they’re used to.

    The publishing world can be pretty soul destroying. I’ve had many poems published in journals and magazines in several countries and I’ve had a book of my poetry published, and I’ve never the publishing process that much. For example when I write a poem, it used to take me up to several months to get the poem in publishable form. Then you submit and there is a long wait, and if they accept it (or you resubmit it elsewhere) there is yet another long wait as you wait for publication. When it finally appears it can be 1-2 years since you began writing the actual poem and it goes out in the world and that’s it. Usually you get no feedback and it’s remarkably unsatisfying. That’s why I’m enjoying WordPress. I’m putting stuff up and getting feedback and reactions to it, and this is spurring me on to write more work.

    Don’t take your parents lack of interest to heart. My father loved poetry but would never read any of my work. He said he didn’t understand it. So you’re not the only one.

    You are a good writer. Just keep at it and don’t lose faith in yourself or your abilities. Maybe start small. Send some stories to a magazine and see what happens. For all I know you may have already done this.

    I would say more here, but I’m using a phone and this is taking a while. If you ever want to talk about stuff feel free to email me at

      • H.R.R. Gorman says:

        First, I meant to respond more quickly – but then I didn’t. Thank you so much for your confidence and advice – it means a lot. And, you know, my post was a bit of a ramble! Even if I thought your reply was rambling, it would be cherished.

        I think what I need to decide is what kind if fulfillment could come from publication. That may spur my decision what to do with TMD.

  5. Sophia Ismaa says:

    Everybody else above have given great feedback. I agree that if you enjoy writing, you have to keep writing first for yourself. If being published is a dream, go for it, there’s no harm in trying. Maybe you’ll send out queries to a hundred publishers, 99 might hate/ignore it, but one of them might love it. And as you carry on, you can keep editing. If you have many stories, it might be good to send multiple stories out there to publishers and they might not enjoy 3/4 of them, but they might like 1/4 of them and it might even surprise you as to which one they like. Perhaps one of your other stories is a hidden gem. I would suggest in the meantime to also submit short pieces to magazine and publications so your name is out there. That might be a long an arduous process, but hey, you have Excel to help you keep track of publishers and magazines and you can keep yourself organised.
    I wouldn’t worry too much if your mum doesn’t enjoy it or not, she just might not be the right audience for your story. Perhaps you might make it, and have a niche audience, but you have your select tribe. There are a lot of possibilities, just try and see, it might surprise you.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      Thanks! We’ll see what I do – two of the stories are on the website, 12 are a series (that I might post here? It’s weird), one is 300k words long (and drivel), 1 is a DnD story that I wrote for my friends’ campaign, 1 is hand-written, and 1 is fairly polished, ready to go. The main goal is to continue enjoying writing, just like most people say!

      • Sophia Ismaa says:

        That’s interesting what you said about your friends campaign, do you mind if I ask more about this? You could also use that information and your blog when you send queries to show examples of your writing and showcase that you’ve put your name out there.

      • H.R.R. Gorman says:

        I was a player in the campaign, and my job was ‘scribe.’ When the campaign fizzled due to adult commitments, I fancied up the group’s notes in effort to make an enjoyable product for the DM. It’s not a normal story because he wanted it closely based on the sometimes strange antics of our party, and the plot follows a very DnD format that I didn’t control on my own (I mostly just took care of style and arranging events that happened simultaneously).

        Since I don’t own all of that story, I am thinking about putting up the first part of my 12 book series on the blog. It’s a weird tale that I don’t think would do well in a traditional setting, but someone might like it.

      • Sophia Ismaa says:

        That sounds really awesome! I had no idea that DnD could be so complex, those tv shows haven’t taught me enough, I guess. I think that should stand in good stead, especially as your passion of writing is rooted in fantasy.

        Go for it! See how the response is, you could also submit to fantasy magazines and websites, I think they’d love that. And then that could help establish a portfolio for you. There’s no harm in trying, if you love it, it’s really go hard or go home, and I’m sure you’re not ready to give it up just yet. 🙂

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