Spark Tally Friday! Disecting a Rejection

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.

13 thoughts on “Spark Tally Friday! Disecting a Rejection

  1. I’d say gut feelings about the story. If you really like it, there’s probably something worthy in it. I’ll change just about anything if an editor expresses interest as long as it still feels like the original story. I like this story idea you shared. I did one similar, about a muse supplying inspiration by sucking others dry but I couldn’t sell it either. Is this theme overdone maybe? My word count is 1000 words, not real great but better than nothing.

    • Good word count. Yeah, maybe the idea is overdone, but that wasn’t on her list of grievances :) It’s one thing to get a letter from an editor saying she might publish if you change this and this and another with no interest in publishing it but still giving a list of things that were wrong. I do always change it if publication is close at hand, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to decide.

  2. So that’s what I have to look forward too? HooBoy. Sorry for the rough treatment. The minor hero in my WIP is a form of a muse too, (it seemed semi-original when I thought of her and there is no soul-sucking 😉 ) and I am working extra hard to give her a unique real-world twist as she is a real historical figure.

    This was a poor week for my writing as I recovered from a long weekend trip and had yet another house guest. The good news is I am back in the library on Saturday AND I got my office back after a month and three guests. And I did work on developing a Shadow villain whose betrayal of the hero will tie up the plot nicely so that has me more pleased than a good word count this week…which I don’t have…0 words. But this is a new week, so off I go.

    • I’m glad you were productive without a word count. Those are good weeks too. And glad you will have your house back.

      Stories are not original. It’s the spin and voice you give them that is. Muses are popular but not crazy popular like vamps. I have been in love with muses since Xanadu.

  3. When it comes to rejections and suggestions on shorts, I do what feels right for the story. If an editor or critiquing partner makes a suggestion that I outwardly disagree with, I tend to leave it as is. If I receive the same criticism again and again, I reconsider what I’m doing with the story. Sometimes it needs to sit for a while before I know what I want to do with it. One time I received a rejection from an editor I really respected. He said “change X, Y, & Z and this will sell.” So I did, and it did – to the next place I sent it.

    This week I wrote 1000 words on my new novel and 3500 on my sci-fi sequel. I’m nearing 20k on the sequel, but my characters hijacked the story this week and started changing bits of the plot. The overall idea is still the same but they’re tweaking and twisting things in ways I didn’t expect. It’s excited, because it feels more natural than before. It’s really coming alive. But it will involve some rewriting. Next week might see as much cutting as adding.

    I can also announce now that my agent finished negotiations on a 2-book deal with Ace, the sci-fi imprint of Penguin. The deal is for my completed sci-fi novel and its sequel, hence my recent focus on the sequel. I’m still reeling, but very excited to begin this next stage in my writing career.

    • Congrats on the 2-book deal. They must really like it! Did you do anything special to celebrate, or will that come when the books are out the door?

      • Thanks! I haven’t done anything really to celebrate yet, other than crying in front of my bookcase (good tears). This all came together so fast I’m still reeling and finalizing paperwork. But yes, I’ll definitely be celebrating/working on the release day.

  4. Holly, that is so super exciting! I know somebody famous now. I’m counting on you to give me and Melinda some props when you’re a big name writer.

  5. My advice: once you’ve decided a story is good enough to submit, consider it “done” and take any advice editors offer as useful things to keep in mind next time you write something in a similar style. Never assume that editors feel the same about stories – every market is different and every editor will have their particular taste.

    When you look at it from a business standpoint, rewriting is a bad idea – you’ve already sent it to the markets you really want to published in, so even if you improve it, you can’t resubmit it.

    On the other hand, if you finish a new story, you can start your submissions from the top of your submission list. And the old story can keep working its way down the list of possible publications. And, if the old story doesn’t sell, you can trunk it and eventually revisit the concept when you’re an older, wiser writer with a few new tricks up your sleeve :)

    • I really like what you have to say about looking at it from a business perspective. I agree that overall it seems better to push forward without looking back on a particular story. I feel my writing has stagnated. I need a new how to book or something.

      Thanks for stopping by, Peter!

  6. That sounds pretty harsh, Melinda. Sorry. But I definitely think it bodes well that there was a personal response. I can’t help but think that the person wouldn’t have taken the time unless there was something worthwhile in the writing.

    Holly, that’s great news! Congratulations, how very exciting!

    Shari, you beat my word count.

    I’m still chugging along at what feels like 2nd gear, but I’m still chugging. About 800 words this week. Ack. I want to get more done. Glad to be doing what I’ve managed so far.