Zero word count for me this week. I’m in the midst of organizing and hopefully will have a decent word count next week.
Disecting a Rejection:
Yesterday I recieved a personal rejection straggling in from a semi-pro short story market. It was a brutal one. I thought I’d share it because rejection is such a huge part of the writing life, and you can sit back and say, “It’s not me this time!” 😉
This one was a head scratcher. I think it’s the only one I’ve recieved that had nothing good to say about the story. It was from the editor-in-chief and I tend to think if a story makes it that far and gets a personal rejection that there was at least something that got it that far, but in this case, I think it must’ve been passed up with the note, “You won’t believe this one.”
But the head scratching part was the comment, “The speculative element is slender at best.” It’s a story about a professional piano accompanist who literally gives a part of his soul to the people he’s accompanying to help them to perform better. At the end of the story, the reader finds out the accompanist is actually sucking the soul out of his wife as she sings for him so that he can keep her voice to himself and thus enable him to go out into the world and make a living by giving her soul away to the people he accompanies. I’m confused about that not being speculative. I admit to riffing on musicians feeling that they are giving away their soul in their music, but we literally don’t do that. It’s simply not possible–except in stories.
Her next comment I understood: the conflict comes too late in the story. Fine. But I felt if I put the conflict any sooner, it would really flip the story to being about the wife. I wanted it to be about the piano player and his change at the end. She also said my imagery was overwrought That one made me sad because I thought at least I’d done a good job on imagery.
I’m not going to work on the story anymore or send it out again, but if I did and wanted to follow what the editor said, the story would under go major changes. As a writer, it’s hard to know when to stand by your story, and when to listen to advice. This is the only personal rejection that I’ve gotten for this story, so I have to assume other editors felt similar to her. In this case, I’d be inclined to change it. But other stories I’ve stuck by and they’ve gotten published. Still others I change and change and change and they are now in my hard drive unseen. How do you decide what to stick by and what to change? I’d really like to know.