Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thoughts on rejection

Yes, I'm still alive. I'm not writing. I'm not even editing. I'm working. Lots. And submitting, so hey, at least there is that. With two novels and six shorts bouncing around, I've been gathering a sizable rejection collection.

In general, the size of my collection doesn't get me down. I have only to look at my submission spreadsheet to see that rejection after rejection after rejection does sometimes end up with a big, cheery SOLD. Yes, it's in all caps in my file. I need them to stand out and remind me that there are happy endings. Okay, probably not for many of my characters, but for my writing.

The fun...should I really consider it fun? Probably not, so we'll put that in air quotes, shall we? The "fun" part is the rejection of short stories, many of which make the rounds to the same magazines over time.

A few things I've discovered:

I'm probably not alone in taking some small comfort in hearing, "I'm glad to have read your story, but it wasn't a good fit for us." At least they were happy to have read it, right? It wasn't torture. Hooray for that. Except multiple submissions have revealed this is a form rejection. Goodbye small comfort.

There really are awesome magazine editors out there that offer feedback. I haven't hit upon many of them, and they all specify not to email them back to thank them, so I'll say it here: Thank you! While it doesn't light up my day like an acceptance, at least I have some pointers on how to hopefully, eventually get one.

There is one story that I really like that no one seems to get. Why can no one see my brilliance? Come on. people! Yeah, yeah, fine, it might be time to set that one aside for now.

One day rejections are far less annoying that two month long rejections. If the story isn't right for you, yes, thank you, I'd love to move on as soon as possible. All these no simultaneous submission markets are killing me.

The rejection updates on The Grinder help us all remember that we're not alone. Most of us are getting rejections. And then there's that game we like to play / torture ourselves with: That market I submitted to has eight reported rejections today and I haven't received my response yet. Maybe they're considering my story. They must be, right? Aaaand, there's the rejection email. Never mind.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Well that was interesting

I was standing on my driveway, painting a screen door we'd recently purchased, when I overheard the commment, "She looks skinny enough."

Now, I had no idea what to make of this when I glanced way from my Sunday afternoon project and spotted the neighbor's house sitter tentatively creeping down my long driveway. My first thought was that I hadn't considered myself skinny for a good fifteen years, so I was rather nice to hear. Then I realized it was kind of all a matter of persepective. She was far less "skinny". The woman still standing in the neighbor's driveway across the street was of the same build.

Our lovely neighbors, you know the sort, the ones that leave their trash can at the roadside for half a week, their Christmas wreath up on their front door for years on end, and who only mow when the weeds are done flowering in the front yard...uh huh, those ones, well, they had been gone all week. I was rather enjoying this fact, except that the garbage can had been out all week and there was no hope that the weed field would be mowed down, and the wreath, well I was used to hating it by now. At least their loud pickup truck was only heard a couple times a day when the house sitter showed up to care for whatever she was caring for. I hoped it was their three dogs that I'd not heard or seen in quite some time.

House sitter lady crept closer and shouted, "Could you help me?"

I set down my paintbrush and went to see what this was all about.

"My key doesn't seem to be working. I think I did something to the lock when I was here earlier," she says through panting. Sweat beads run down her face. She's standing next to me now, pointing at the house across the street. "I got a window open, but I can't get in."

Well that explains the skinny comment.

"I got stuck," she whispers. "I took me a while to get myself out. I need to get in and don't know what else to do."

Telling a complete stranger that you managed to wedge yourself in a window has to be a sign of her desperation. She's got their truck and I've seen there there several times all week so I'm pretty sure she's legit. There must be a pretty serious reason why she needs to get inside, like three dogs bursting at the bladder.

"Sure. Which window is open?"

"It's on the side. I have a ladder all set up."

It's a single storey house. Does one really need a ladder?

Then I see the window, it's small. We're talking an eighteen inch by two foot opening. No wonder she got stuck. And it's no wonder she needed a ladder. It's either going to take a front dive through the space or a contortionist wriggle to get inside.

I get up couple steps and peer through the opening. There are no dogs, only a typical messy kid's room complete with piles of toys and scattered laundry. And it stinks like a confined space with too many pets.

With one leg through and the woman babbling her thanks beside the ladder, I take a deep breath and wiggle the rest of my body in. Thank goodness for the stack of photo albums on the floor that served as a step or I would have ended up on my face.

"Can you open the front door?"

"No problem." Having prior knowledge of the house from the charming and neat previous owners, I make my way through the house to the front door. On my way down the hall, also littered with toys and laundry, I get to the kitchen to find a large aquarium with a snake in it. I nearly trip over more clothing before I get to the front door. There's no one there. Wouldn't the front door be the logical one to be waiting at? Alas, no, the house sitter and her daughter are knocking on the back door. I fight my way over the mountains of dirty laundry in the space I can only describe as the-place-where-they-throw-all-their-stuff-that-also-contains-a-washer-and-dryer to the back door and let the knockers in.

"Oh thank you!" They both plow inside. "We'll be sure to tell them how kind you were to help us."

There is no sign of the dogs. Maybe they got rid of them? Maybe their buried out back? There the definite odor of small furry creatures in cedar bedding wafting from somewhere and it's making my eyes water. I make my way back to the kitchen. Dirty dishes are piled all over the counters. I am by no means a fastidious person, but whole place makes me shudder and grit my teeth. I consider asking this outside source about the dogs, but I don't want to breathe in any more of this stench than I have to and the more I stop of focus on the mess the more my skin starts to crawl.

Will the neighbors be thrilled to know I helped them out, or will they be mortified I saw the inside of their house? Then again, judging by the state of the exterior of the house, they probably don't care. We're not on the neighborly chat level with these people so I'll probably never know, and that's okay.

Anxious to get back outside into fresh air, I remind them to lock the window and close the doors before they leave. I escape through the tall grass, spotted with yellow hawkweed flowers. By the time I get to the empty garbage can at the end of the driveway, I come to a full stop. Why, oh why, hadn't I taken down that damned Christmas wreath while I had the chance?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Short vs. Long

Short stories or novels? Both, please.

Novels give me the opportunity to sink into a whole new world (even if it's this one), to live life through someone else's eyes and to know everything about them. I get to let the character lose in a world, through obstacles at them, give them subplots and secondary characters, to watch them grow and learn and adapt. Apparently, I get to like them so much that I'm mostly inclined to grant them a happy ending.

Shorts give me the chance to walk a bit more twisted path. I get to focus on one big scene, one character, one big obstacle. I can tell the story in ways I'd not typically use for a novel, experiment, and try new genres or methods without a big time investment. The challenge is to pack a lot of bang into far fewer words, without the sinking into the world, without the getting comfortable with the character, without meandering through the plot idea to wait for it to really get rolling. Shorts really help me focus on the story itself, and that in turn gives me better focus when I'm working on novels.

Writing shorts helped ease me into the idea of writing shorter novels. I'd always been a long involved novel kinda girl until the short story bug bit me. They gave me the freedom to admit that I only had to write the story that needed to be written without having to complicate things with additional subplots and characters. I like to write complicated. I still do if the story needs it. But I don't need to every time. Sometimes a beautiful story is a simple one.

One of these days I'd like to venture into the novella zone. That's one length I've not tried yet. Who knows what I'll learn there?

What about you? Short or long?