Sunday, May 9, 2010
Rejections. Everyone gets them if you are an aspiring writer. Sometimes they are flat, emotionless form letters with a simple, "Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately this does not suit our needs at the current time...etc". Sometimes...and most particularly if it is a smaller publisher who isn't as inundated with submissions...you will actually get some hand written corrections and comments by the Editor telling you where you went wrong and what needs to be improved. Some editors supply a checklist too and will check off the boxes of things they felt were weak or lacking, i.e. "poor characterization", "weak plot", "stilted dialogue" or other some such points. The natural inclination of the writer is to take offense or be hurt by the criticisms. Trust me when I tell you I have had my share of rejections. Enough to paper a room. I know just how you might feel when you get one of these. As for the form letters, turn them over...they make great scratch paper. But considering the rejections from Editors who actually wrote some advice and comments. View these in a positive light! Take away something beneficial from the rejection. Sure you would have rather have heard, "This is wonderful. Just what we're looking for!" But chances are few and far between. I've had several rejections where the Editor actually said, "Not a bad idea, but needs a lot of tightening up. SHOW don't TELL." SHOW DON'T TELL was always a big one with a lot of editors. They wanted vivid descriptions of what the character might be seeing or how the action was playing out. The reason for this was they wanted the reader to be able to see in their mind's eye, just what was going on. As if they were watching a movie almost. Take what the Editor said and try to make the adjustments. You'll have to use your own judgement as to how to improve it, the Editor doesn't tell you HOW, just that something is broke. So if they say "show don't tell" and in the story the character is describing, let's say, a speeding car. You may have written somethng like, "the silver car sped quickly down the highway". Okay, that TELLS it, but to SHOW it more perhaps you should say something more like, "the metallic road monster streaked down the asphalt with the lightening speed of a bullet out of a gun." In this way, the reader gets a much more detailed VISUAL of the car and just how it moved and even a simile thrown in of what the speed was like. Of couse don't overuse this kind of thing, but if your writing seems flat, descriptive adjectives, adverbs and similes can always spice it up. Also, the Editor is always viewing any work he or she reads with complete, unattached objectivity. When you are a writer, you tend to look at your work subjecively. It's only natural. But an Editor has no bias toward the material, and will often pick up things you don't, because let's face it; a lot of us writers sometimes think of our work as an infallible, sacred text. I've often made that mistake. As is often said, half of writing is re-writing. I don't know how many times I've written something and thought it was fine "as is", only to go back a few days later and see what a mess certain places were. So always be willing to change, and change for the better. Never take criticisms personally. Even if the person sounds like they are being rude (in all honesty, sometimes they are on a power trip and ARE rude, but usually not). Rewrite and rewrite, and if the Editor thought it wasn't too bad the first time around, maybe he or she will be open to a rewrite submission. So look for the "value" in rejections, rather than just tossing them all in the trash bin. You could be tossing out a very valuable piece of advise!