The Storm is Coming Anthology – Submitted and Accepted!

Sending items out means getting an acceptance or rejection. Sometimes this is too much for writers to take, the waiting and the not knowing and most of all wondering if the writing is good enough.

Good enough is a troublesome concept. It’s not just whether or not a piece is well-written. There are so many things to take into consideration, like the overall market and whether or not the editor likes it. Then when the rejection comes through, you wonder if you’d just worked a little harder, made just one little change, if it would have been okay.

I can’t be the only one wondering these things. I don’t let it stop me from sending things out. I aim high. I get rejected. I try not to let it get to me. It’s not easy.

This time I got lucky, or I just had a great fit with The Storm is Coming anthology.

My story, The Rescuers, is one I wrote a time ago, but it always sounded like Chapter 3 in a novel. I needed time to focus it into something much better. It happens that way sometimes, when you have a good premise but the writing doesn’t quite follow through on the promise.

It helps to not give up on yourself or the story that needs to be told. Sometimes that short story has to be made into a novel, but other times it can work if other pieces are different. I throw out a lot of rough drafts, and some of them I tweak endlessly (or so it seems) and others pop out fully formed and ready to be something.

I guess it just reminds me of that saying where you write what you are ready to write. Sometimes we have ideas we aren’t ready to tackle at the moment. Other times we tackle them and falter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep revisiting the idea until it gels.

There might be more to this Rescuers story later. I can’t say whether or not the characters will try to push their other adventures into my head or if I randomly run across something I know has to fit into their world. For now, I’m extremely excited to be slated for the upcoming anthology and waiting to see what else is in store from Sleeping Cat Books.

Advertisements

About Rejections

As writers, if you’ve sent anything out to try to get published it’s much more likely than not that you’ve received a rejection for your work.

I recently saw a discussion online where the editor said she preferred it when writers thanked her for her consideration, even after a form rejection. I’ve never responded to a form rejection. I hate to waste an editor’s time when her inbox is brimming with slushy submissions. I respond to personal rejections, rewrite requests, and -of course- acceptances.

It didn’t occur to me that some of them would want a thank-you no matter what, but is the slight remembrance you get from a returned rejection better than annoyance from others?

Now I’m curious what others have to say on the subject.

Waiting-

I hate waiting for responses. It isn’t necessarily that I’m impatient. I can hang in there pretty well.

It’s just that once I know the usual response time has ended, I wonder what to do. Is it time to query? Should I wait another day? Another week? It isn’t so bad if I can send a friendly email to the editor, but sending through the post office? What if the original didn’t get there? (I know, send a self-addressed stamped postcard and get a response as soon as it’s there.)

If a response isn’t given in the time generally allotted, some markets just aren’t interested. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which is which.

Submissions

Just because my book is out, doesn’t mean I’ve quit with the short stories. Sent one out this week. Still waiting on one from December. I ought to see what else I could send out.

Admittedly I’ve been busy with book promotion, but mostly it’s the baby taking time. She’s sleeping while munching right now, so I am getting good at typing with one hand – either to blog, or do facebook and twitter, or to edit and polish projects.

I’m also reacquainting myself with the published works I am working so hard to join. “Literary Analysis” according to a friend, though most people call it reading.

On Submitting to an Agent

Read the entire blog post here.

An excerpt, of the list of why an agent would, or would not, read past the first page. Sometimes they don’t make it past the first line. Reading her words, Anne Mini impresses more on me how difficult it is to land an agent.

It also drives home why they say you work hardest on the first page, the first paragraph, and recommend you spend half your time on that very first line. It isn’t to say an agent will pick you up if you do that, but it’s the best chance.

Oh, for the list:

This is Why I Would Not Read Farther:
1. An opening image that did not work.
2. Opened with rhetorical question(s).
3. The first line is about setting, not about story.
4. The first line’s hook did not work, because it was not tied to the plot or the conflict of the opening scene.
5. The first line’s hook did not work, because it was an image, rather than something that was happening in the scene.
6. Took too long for anything to happen (a critique, incidentally, leveled several times at a submission after only the first paragraph had been read); the story taking time to warm up.
7. Not enough happens on page 1.
8. The opening sounded like an ad for the book or a recap of the pitch, rather than getting the reader into the story.
9. The opening contained the phrases, “My name is…” and/or “My age is…”
10. The opening contained the phrase, “This can’t be happening.”
11. The opening contained the phrase or implication, “And then I woke up.”
12. The opening paragraph contained too much jargon.
13. The opening contained one or more clichéd phrases.
14. The opening contained one or more clichéd pieces of material. (The most I counted in a single submission was 5.) Specifically singled out: a character’s long red or blonde hair.
15. The opening had a character do something that characters only do in books, not real life. Specifically singled out: a character who shakes her head to clear an image, “he shook his head to clear the cobwebs.”
16. The opening has the protagonist respond to an unnamed thing (e.g., something dead in a bathtub, something horrible in a closet, someone on the other side of her peephole…) for more than a paragraph without naming it, creating false suspense.
17. The characters talk about something (a photo, a person, the kitchen table) for more than a line without describing it, creating false suspense.
18. The unnamed protagonist cliché: the woman ran through the forest…
19. An unnamed character (usually “she”) is wandering around the opening scene.
20. Non-organic suspense, created by some salient fact being kept from the reader for a long time (and remember, on the first page, a paragraph is a long time).
21. The character spots him/herself in a mirror, in order to provide an excuse for a physical description.
22. The first paragraph was straight narration, rather than action.
23. Too much physical description in the opening paragraph, rather than action or conflict.
24. Opening spent too much time on environment, and not enough on character.
25. The first lines were dialogue. (To be fair, only one of the agents seemed to have a problem with this.)
26. When the first lines are dialogue, the speaker is not identified.
27. The book opened with a flashback, rather than what was going on now.
28. Too many long asides slowed down the action of an otherwise exciting scene.
29. Descriptive asides pulled the reader out of the conflict of the scene.
30. Overuse of dialogue, in the name of realism.
31. Real life incidents are not always believable.
32. Where’s the conflict?
33. Agent can’t identify with the conflict shown.
34. Confusing.
35. The story is not exciting.
36. The story is boring. (Yes, they did differentiate between this and the one before it.)
37. The story is corny.
38. Repetition (on pg. 1!)
39. Too many generalities.
40. The character shown is too average.
41. The stakes are not high enough for the characters.
42. The opening scene is too violent (in the example that generated this response, a baby’s brains were bashed out against a tree).
43. Too gross.
44. There is too much violence to children and/or pets.
45. It is unclear whether the narrator is alive or dead.
46. The story is written in the second person, which is hard to maintain.
47. The story is written in the first person plural, which is almost as hard to maintain.
48. The narrator speaks directly to the reader (“I should warn you…”), making the story hyper-aware of itself qua story.
49. The narration is in a kid’s voice that does not come across as age-appropriate.
50. An adult book that has a teenage protagonist in the opening scene is often assumed to be YA. So if the agent doesn’t represent YA, such a protagonist may trigger automatic wonder about whether this book is not in a category s/he does represent.
51. What I call Hollywood narration – when characters tell one another things they already know. (They don’t call it by my term for it, but they don’t like it, either.)
52. The tag lines are more revealing than the dialogue. (The example used: “She squawked.”)
53. The writing switched tenses for no apparent reason.
54. The action is told out of temporal order.
55. Took too many words to tell us what happened.
56. The writing lacks pizzazz.
57. The writing is dull.
58. The writing is awkward.
59. The writing uses too many exclamation points.
60. The writing falls back on common shorthand descriptions. Specifically singled out: “She did not trust herself to speak,” “She didn’t want to look…”
61. Too many analogies per paragraph.
62. The details included were not telling.
63. The writing includes quotes from song lyrics.
64. Overkill to make a point.
65. “Over the top.”
66. “Makes the reader laugh at it, not with it.”
67. “It’s not visceral.”
68. “It’s not atmospheric.”
69. “It’s melodramatic.”
70. “This is tell-y, not showy.”
71. “Why is this written in the present tense?”
72. “It just didn’t work for me.”
73. “It didn’t do anything for me.”
74. “I like this, but I don’t know what to do with it.”

This is Why I Would Read Beyond Page 1:
1. A non-average protagonist in a situation you wouldn’t expect.
2. An action scene that felt like it was happening in real time.
3. The author made the point, then moved on.
4. The scene was emotionally engaging.
5. The voice is strong and easy to relate to.
6. The suspense seemed inherent to the story, not just how it was told.
7. “Good opening line.”
8. ”There was something going on beyond just the surface action.”

My upcoming novel actually has one of those reasons why not to read on – however, there was a reason in my plot to do it that way, and it wasn’t simply a crutch. I’m hoping to learn more for the next project, but I still have to iron out a few of those items.

Submissions

Now and then, I re-evaluate my current submissions and look for what I could send out.

I’m still waiting to hear from an anthology that I submitted to last November. I know I made it through the slush pile; I’m hoping I made it through the rest, but I don’t want to bug the editor.

I sent a flash fiction piece out for another anthology today.

Later this week I’ll send out a short story to a magazine. Just little tweaks here and there, but it’s better to let it sit a few extra days than to bang your face against the desk when it comes back rejected and you found you hadn’t looked it over that one last time. Or worse, you sent the older version of a file.

Also finishing up a title for Helium. Looks like a productive day.

Graduate School

I wonder what it takes to go to graduate school for an MFA. I hear about people doing it, but while I looked into it, it’s difficult to know if I have what it takes.

I check out the question on the application. I did my undergrad in engineering, which means I haven’t studied much literature or writing in a college setting. Does that mean others have an edge? Possibly. I do know the program has admitted engineers and doctors before.

Friends who know others in the program say the most important part is the manuscript. I suppose that’s for the best, since it’s also the part that I feel most comfortable with. I know how to write. I know I have a lot to learn, which is why I’d like to try grad school.

A friend of mine once said his trouble submitting things wasn’t whether he was good or not. He knew he was good. He just wasn’t sure if he was good enough. Good enough meaning to not be ridiculed with his submission to editors who read far too many pieces to be kind when someone can’t follow rules. I prefer to think of it that way, rather than that some of the writings from others are so awful as to be only fodder for jokes. (But in my head I know both are probably the case.)