David Stevens

My patchwork body, bleeding over the keyboard

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

The world does not need this blog. It is not about huge successes, it is about dreams and memories and scratching away.  It is about little things, like rejection slips and kid’s nightmares.  Still, I have to be professional.  It does not do to encourage further rejection by blogging about how many times a particular story has been rejected, or what a loser or failure one is I am.

I commented previously on the impersonal nature of story rejections these days.  I think though that I prefer a bland general rejection to a one line critique.  Today I received an e mail rejection for a sf story in a near future suburban setting.  That is fine, I am used to it in general, and in relation to this story.   It was rejected previously by the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with the comment “I found your humor quite good”.  It made the second round for Daily Science Fiction with (trumpets blaring) their (I assume standard) e mail for such a thing:

“We have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that your story has made our second round, rarified company that more than 90% of submissions do not reach. While half or more of our second round stories will not ultimately see publication under the DSF rocket, this story has reached the final go/no-go before launch. … thanks for sending us this worthy submission.”

While rejected by both magazines, these were good rejections to receive, at least for my ego.  In neither case was I helped in bettering the story or in improving future stories.  And that is fine.  It is not their job to provide a detailed critique.  I was though left feeling that perhaps I’m doing some things right, maybe I can build on this.

Today’s rejection for the same story went like this:

“An interesting conceit, but the patchwork writing doesn’t do much for the story and distracted me from the plot.”

I accept this as the serious opinion of the writer.  I’m not fighting against the summation, however, I don’t know what to do with it, or where to go with it.  My instant reaction was “patchy writing, shit, what have I done?”, then I re-read it and saw it was “patchwork”.  Is “patchwork writing” a thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Working out the problems from half a line is harder than my usual tea leaf reading.  I assume they mean that a more direct narrative would have been preferred.  It was sent to a genre market, after all.  Over at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, for example, those submitting are told, “We also look for clear, unaffected writing. Asimov, Niven, Tolkien, Yolen, and Hobb are more likely to be our literary exemplars than James Joyce”.   Now, if I was raging incandescently against rejection, this might be the time to try to take some stylistic high ground.  “I’m too good for youse lot, I’m like James Joyce.”  Except its not true, even if I wished it was.  And I don’t want to take any high ground, I want to learn.  However, the few words don’t help me any more than a form letter.

So I flick through a few of my stories, looking for “patchwork”, and I find it all over the place (assuming I know what it means).  Its quilt city here.  Its major scrap booking time.   First and third person narratives about men struggling with the odd in the middle of everyday life.  Often they are the stories I feel closest to.  (He wonders why.)  They came out the only way I knew to get them down, and to me at least, they had the feeling of a lived life, with its incidents that have no meaning at the time, the choices that could have been otherwise.  I’m doomed!

Am I reading too much into one line?  Why is the negative opinion always the right one?

Thank you anonymous rejector of mine.  Your one line has prompted me to think, and wonder whether I took easy choices in my writing, thinking it was “good” when really it was comfortable.  I don’t know whether I will make different choices, but at least I know why you didn’t like my story.  Or do I?  Stuffed if I know!

(Meanwhile, a completely different story of mine, “Good Boy”, has recently been accepted for publication, and I am very excited about that, and will post more details later.)

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  1. […] ranted commented previously about one line dismissals of stories, and how hard it can be to work out what they […]

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