Problems with Word Count Quotas

While writing my first two books, I didn’t pay too much attention to my word count until after I finished the first draft. My first draft of Song of the Forest came close to 200,000 words and my first draft of Power Surge was around 130,000. When I revised, I went through a cycle of cutting and adding. By the time I got to my final drafts, they were 83,000 and 78,000 words.

My third book, Like Birds Under the City Sky, was different. It was national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), so I had set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. I successfully added 50,000 words to a document that started the month off as a 4,000 word short story. As I revised, I cut and added a few thousand words, but the changes were not as drastic as they had been for my first two books.

Initially, I didn’t see this as a problem. It was my third book, and in between it and my other books, I had written dozens of short stories and flash fictions. I polished the book up, and sent it out to agents and a couple publishers. I got about 20 rejections, but one publisher suggested I give the book a complete overhaul and resubmit. Afraid to make that drastic of a change based on one editors opinion, I sought out feedback from another beta reader and heard the same thing.

When time came to start Community Magic, a novel I had been dreaming for nearly a year, I thought Camp NaNoWriMo would be the perfect way to get it done, but instead of motivating me, the word count quote actually made anxious, and made me feel guilty about not writing. This would have been okay if the guilt motivated me, and/or it was the only problem.

The guilt made me write less. I also noticed other issues.

I was overwriting. I sent chapters out to a critique partner, and she kept pointing out all kinds of things that were not necessary and were just filling space – things I may not have written had I not been rushing to meet my quota of words for the day.

The word count was a distraction. Instead of living the story as I was writing it, my eyes kept drifting down the little numbers at the bottom of my document telling me how many words I had written. I was not as immersed in the world as I should’ve been, and as a result, the plot was rambling, the characters were a little flat, and the world contained inconsistencies. I decided that book wasn’t mean to be NaNoWriMo’ed and switched to a different work in progress – Earth Reclaimed – the story I just ran a rather unsuccessful Publishizer campaign for.

I’m waiting until I have a complete draft to start seeking feedback, but I can feel myself doing some of the same things – almost mindless typing to my word count gets closer to the one my campaign said it should be when the word count. At this point, I should be focused on building the word and getting to know my characters. If my word count falls short, I can expand the draft in revision. If it to high, then I can have a party cutting words while I edited.

Word count goals are great, but when they start to detract from the quality of the writing, then I know I need to revisit how and when I use them.

Room for Discovery in Planned Novels

When I was taking a creative writing workshop in college, my professor (Andre Dubus III) told me he never planned novels. He encouraged us to avoid outlines, claiming they would make our writing feel forced. He said if we outlined, our characters wouldn’t feel real, and they wouldn’t come to life on the page.

Shortly after that, I went to a talk / signing to see Jim Butcher, who was my absolute favorite author at the time. He was the opposite. He planned entire series before he wrote them.

 

Both men were successful – they had best selling novels. One was on Oprah and had his books in her book club. The other had fans who went to cons dressed up as his characters. However, they wrote completely different styles of fiction. Dubus wrote realistic literary fiction and Butcher wrote about snarky wizards and monsters the monsters they fought.

In hind sight, I think I would’ve finished my first novel quicker if I’d followed Butcher’s planner approach. However, the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next kept me writing well past midnight. I loved letting my characters develop on the page and shape the plot with their own stubborn whims.

DSC_0750.jpgThe problem was, left to their own devices, my character took the plot down dead ends that didn’t go anywhere or their plots would amble on and on, never reaching a destination.

I started a novel when I was 18. I finished draft 1 when I was 26. I finished draft 10 at 28. Now, at 29, I’ve gotten lots of rejections for it, and am waiting for  four agents who have the full manuscript to make a decision.

It only took me a few months to write a first draft of novel # 2, but that draft turned out to be 200,000 words long. Then it took me two years to cut it down to 84,000 words. I just started querying that novel.

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Goose approves…maybe.

While I liked the idea of the “panster” approach, it was not very efficient. When 2016’s National Novel Writing Month rolled around, I tried to be a planster. I had a short story I was expanding to a novel, so made a very rough outline where it was going to go. There were some cool surprises – like the sentient, genetically modified cats that showed half way through the first draft, and chapters from the antagonist’s point of view that helped me resolve the conflict.

 

After a month, I had a 55,000 word draft that was well plotted with deep, dynamic characters. Seven beta readers and as many revisions later, I’m ready to enter this book into pitch wars.

And that brings me to the two novels I am currently working on: Community Magic and Earth Reclaimed.

With Community Magic, I had a concept and characters in my head, with a very vague plot, so I jotted down a few ideas and dove into the first draft. I’m half way through, but it is a big mess of a draft.

Earth Reclaimed..jpgFor Earth Reclaimed, I wrote out a chapter by chapter outline, wrote a complete synopsis, a pitch, and a query before I finished writing Chapter 2. So far, I have a cleaner, readable draft that I will be able to give to beta readers when I finish.

With Community Magic, I will have to revise two or three times before I let anyone read the whole thing.

Both books have interesting characters, a compelling plot, and I’ve encountered surprises while writing both of them. Even with all the planning I did, I never expected intelligent, self-aware schooners to show up in Earth Reclaimed, but they did, and they’re there to stay.

Outlines and plans are not the evil things I once thought they were. They are not vampires that suck the life out of a story. They just help writers get things done.

 

© 2017 Sara Codair

4 Down, 496 Left to Go / 7 Standards for Publishers

Last night I launched my first Publishizer campaign. I received four pre-orders ranging from $8 to $45. I thought that was good night, but my experience selling online is with jewelry, not books. When selling on Etsy, I was thrilled if I had four orders in one evening.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.44.41 AM.pngWhile I’m happy with the orders I have so far, and really appreciate the support people have shown, I still have a long way to go. My goal is to get 500 orders by August 8th since that is what I need in order for  Publishizer  to query my book to top, traditional publishers publishers. I’d be completely happy with an offer from a small or indie press too.  Publishizer queries them when I hit 250 pre-orders.

However, I will not take an offer from “service” or “hybrid” publishers.

I tried to publish a book with a hybrid publisher last year. They got me really excited, but by book never even went to edits. Its been almost a year since I heard from anyone at that company and I’m not sure they even still exist. The best I can hope for is that they forget about me, so  when my contract expires I can try publishing the book elsewhere.

A bad experience is not the only reason I’m avoiding hybrids, though. From what I understand, they use print on demand and other self-publishing methods. Yes, they edit for you, design a cover and do some minimal marketing, but they are also taking a large chunk of the sales. They’re not saving writers any money.

I suppose if one knows nothing about editing or cover design, and has no platform a hybrid or service publisher might bel helpful. For me, not so much. I already have a cover for my book. I have a platform. I even have an editor. What I don’t have is a giant network of Facebook friends willing to throw their money at me. I need a publisher that is going to get my book in the hands people I’ve never met before, one that will expose me to new readers.

I value my writing. I want to build a career off of it. I need to be selective about who publishes my work. After spending some time in Absolute Write’s Bewares, Background Check and Recommendations forum, I’ve come with a seven criteria any publisher I sign with must meet:

  1. The publisher must not charge the writer anything, ever.
  2. The publisher must provide multiple rounds of professional editing.
  3. The publisher must market my book in ways I cannot do on my own.
  4. The owner, editors, PR people and designers should have prior experience in publishing.
  5. The website must be geared towards readers, not perspective writers.
  6. The covers must be beautiful and professionally designed.
  7. The books for sale must have decent amazon rankings and reviews.

My campaign with Publishizer is a new adventure for me — a new path through the publishing word — but I will still hold any offers I get to the same standards as any I get through more traditional methods. If I get under 50 pre-orders, I do have the option to refund my readers. If I get more than 50, but do not get any offers I approve of, then this will turn into my first experience with self-publishing.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed my post and want to support my writing journey, please pre-order Earth Reclaimed at https://publishizer.com/earth-reclaimed/

Cats and Email Apps = Bad Combination

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“Look at how cute and innocent I am. I’d never send emails on you!”

I’m pretty sure my cat just spammed my entire gmail contacts list — meaning everyone I’ve corresponded with on gmail. If you got an email from me you didn’t want today – I apologize. If your curious how Goose managed to spam my contacts, read on.

 

Earlier in the year, I wrote a detailed book proposal for Earth Reclaimed, which is one of my novels-in-progress. I used it to apply for a writer-residence-program at the Boston Public Library. I didn’t get in.

When I saw Publishizer was hosting a proposal contest, I realized the one I had written more or less met their guidelines. After doing a few google searches and not finding any red flags, I made some revisions, and created a proposal on their site.

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 10.46.29 AM.pngPublishizer is kind of like Kickstarter, but for books. People can use to get pre-orders for works they are self-publishing, however, if an author gets  enough pre-orders, they can also get deals with traditional and indie publishers.

I’m still querying my complete, polished novels to agents. This novel is completely unrelated to those. I thought that while I am trying to make something happen with those projects, I can take a completely different path with this one.

Today, I was getting the campaign ready to launch. One step involved emailing my contacts to see if they want to subscribe for updates. I allowed the app to connect to my contacts list. By default, it had all the contacts checked off. I was carefully going through, unselecting agents and literary magazines who I did not want to bother.

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Mischief Managed

I had only deselected a few people when Goose jumped up on my keyboard and walked across the enter key.

Agents and editors do not like getting mass emails from writers who are trying to promote their books. In fact, many of them tweet about how much they hate it. When I see those tweets, I would think, what kind of idiot would spam agents with their self-published book promotions.

Today, I am one of those idiots.

Not because I intentionally spammed people, but because I let an app connect to my contacts with the intent of sending a group email.

I’ve been pacing around my house in a panic, thinking this is going to lead to rejections. I need to stop. Hopefully, agent’s and editor’s spam filters will catch this so they do not get mad at me. And maybe, some half-forgotten acquaintances I’ve lost touch with will pre-order my book.

Later this weekend, when I officially launch, I will post updates on my blog.

Update: Once I calmed down and asked people if they got my email, no one had actually gotten the email. I logged back onto the site I sent the email from and discovered that Goose had sent a “preview” and it only went to my email account. I am very, very, relieved!

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And Goose needs new mischief to cause….

©2017 Sara Codair

 

Camp NaNoWriMo Take Two

Like Birds (1)

This isn’t an official cover, just one I designed to keep myself motivated. I still need an agent and/or a publisher for this book. 

My first time genuinely attempting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was a success. I finished a short YA novel with a day to spare. My critique groups read it and gave me feedback, spurring three in-depth revisions. This summer, I read it out loud to my mother on the beach, and revised some more. I sent out my first volley of queries and got some rejections.

A friend who wants to start an editing business did a copy edit. I posted my query to three different critique forums and got a truckload of helpful. I just need to hear back from someone about my new opening and closing, I’ll be ready to send out my second volley of queries. I have them more or less ready to go, and my fingers are itchy to hit the send button, but I need to wait for that last bit of feedback on my new opening, since that is the chapter that will essentially either prompt the agent to hit reject or ask me for more material.

I liked it so much that when the first Camp NaNoWriMo came around in April, I was determined to finish my next WIP, Community Magic, in that month, but all I managed to do was add 10K words to it.

A few things went wrong:

  • I was doing a revision of Like Birds Under the City Sky – the novel I wrote in November.
  • I had a ton of grading that month, and students who really needed in-depth feedback on their papers.
  • I had to get my completed works, queries, and pitches ready for #DVpit. This included finishing the revision of Like Birds Under the City Sky so I could pitch it.
  • I was bothered by a lack of short story acceptances, and attempted to remedy that.
  • I also had no clue where Community Magic was going plot-wise, and was lost in character development and world building.

After the month ended and I didn’t win CampNaNoWriMo, I didn’t do much with Community Magic. I posted my queries to forums for feedback, hoping to increase my request rate. I did another revision of Like Birds Under the City Sky. I signed up for an online class intending to use it to write short stories, but by the end of it, I was 10K words into a new WIP.

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I’m not thrilled with this design, but until I take better classroom or campus photos, it will suffice. 

Now it’s July, and the second CampNaNoWriMo is happening. I’ve gotten feedback on the first five chapters of Community Magic, wrote a very rough query for it, and have a much better idea of what the story is, what the conflicts are, and how they will be resolved. Instead of being a pantser this month, I’m going to be a planster. I’m not outlining every plot detail before it happens, but I am writing a general synopsis, identifying my destination, and thinking about the different ways I can get there.

I will finish a draft this month, and if I don’t have an agent by this time next summer, I’ll probably be querying Community Magic.

The Hiking Writer and Speculative Fiction

The Hiking Writer and Speculative Fiction

By Sara Codair

Even though a majority of my stories are speculative in some way, they are often inspired by reality. Sometimes it’s a question begging for an answer, sometimes it’s a piece of news too dark to keep inside me, and often, the seed for the story was found somewhere on a hiking trail.

On Labor Day weekend of 2016, my spouse and I went on a hike in New Hampshire’s Belknap Range. I hate crowds, and the parking lots for the better-known trails were overflowing onto the road. Thankfully, we had done our research and located a more “off the beaten path” trail.

The directions took us down a handful of side roads, the last of which wasn’t paved. I thought we hit a dead end and were in someone’s driveway when Adam rounded a corner and pulled into a tiny dirt parking lot with a trailhead.

Happy that we found a way to avoid mobs of tourists, we checked our gear, traded out sandals for boots and started walking up a steep, rocky fire road.

“I’m not sure any fire truck could actually drive on this,” said Adam.

His words were like a horn starting a race. As the hill got steeper, my legs and lungs burned with effort, and my mind was running, making up histories for the road and stories that could happen on it.

DSC_0147When we reached the secluded mountain pond at the top of the road, my mind was racing faster than my pulse. This lake would be a perfect home for a wizard in a fantasy novel, a hide out for the demon hunters in my YA novel, a good hike for my parents to do with their puppy, and a place to pump water if a flock of phoenix’s or an angry mother earth started a forest fire.

We took a break. Adam consulted his map while I devoured cookies and made up stories. The next part of the trail was a loop, but I was too lost in imagination to pick which way we would do it, so he choose, and soon, we were making our way up Mack Mountain.

Just shy of the summit, we reached a scenic overlooked where two trails merged. A large cairn, painted in the colors of the trail blazes, marked it. For some reason, there was a fork balanced atop the cairn, and there was literally a keyhole on the fork’s handle.

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My mind went crazy, and by the time we were done the hike, I had mentally written a complete story. After a swim and dinner, when I finally got home, I sat down and wrote my first draft. Over the next few months, it endured a cycle of revision, rejection, shortening and expansion. Finally, it found a home on Theme of Absence.

Stories, no matter how realistic or surreal, are everywhere. We just have to keep our minds, hearts, and eyes open, so that when we find them, we can catch them.

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Here is an excerpt from my story, “At The Fork.” Just click on it if you want to read more – it is hyperlinked to Theme of Absence.

The way to the alternate world isn’t through a wardrobe, rabbit hole or a non-existent train platform. You won’t get carried to it by a tornado or by falling through the “gap” you must mind when using the London Tube.

©2017 Sara Codair

Why Bullshitted Papers are Underrated

Why Bullshitted Papers are Underrated

By Sara Codair

It’s the last day of class before finals. While some students have their notebooks and netbooks open, ready to take notes, others are glancing at their phone, counting down the minutes until I give them permission to leave. They’re all exhausted. Most have been working all day, yet they still showed for this last class, hoping to learn something, or get the extra-credit for perfect attendance.

Phrases like “C’s get degrees” and “Night students just want to get their A’s and get home” float through my head as I try to focus on framing the wrap up discussion.

I don’t remember how it began, but the bookworm in the back row declared that every essay she ever wrote, from elementary school through my  English Composition II, class was completely bull-shitted.

I stared for a minute, mentally rereading her essays. She was one of the strongest writers in my class, and an avid reader. She’s someone who, if I met under different circumstances, that I could have been friends with, and I don’t say that about too many people. We could read and talk about books for hours if life didn’t make us do other things.

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Goose thinks writing is snack…

I smiled. “Isn’t all writing bullshitted?”

 

The class stared at me, probably thinking I had lost my mind.

“What’s a novel?” I asked. “Isn’t it just stuff people made up? Isn’t that bullshit?”

And she thought about, and tried to explain that novels are things people are passionate about. Yes, they are made up, but they are crafted and polished before they are sold to people who live for them.

I asked her about her last essay, one exploring and defining dystopian young adult novels. She admitted she actually liked that essay, so she spent more time writing it

I smiled again. “Well, writing is better when you care about your topic. I wish all essays were open topic, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.”

The debate went on, growing from the concept of “bulshitting” essays to the kind of writing we do in college and its usefulness, or lack thereof, in the “real world.” While no one won it, I hope that the students left with a few insights.

The students who claim they bull-shit their papers do not give themselves enough credit. They can sit down, and think, and make words appear on the page. They can generate four or five pages of half-decent prose a couple of hours. Believe it or not, that is a big deal.

 

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Writing might be easy for the students who are over 21…

The most challenging obstacle I often face when teaching writing is getting students to
actually write. Many will stare at the screen, agonizing over each word and sentence, afraid to make a mistake or just unsure how to convey their ideas.

 

I told my students that if they could bull-shit a paper, then they had taken the first step to becoming a good writer. In order to write, first, people need to be able to dump what they are thinking onto the page. Second, they need to shape into some kind of genre or convention. In the case of the students, they need to revise their ideas into an introduction, thesis, body paragraphs and conclusion. Third, they need to edit it and make sure it follows the format their teacher wants.

They are generating ideas inside and putting them outside.

While I didn’t go into any gross details in class, I often compare writing to bodily functions. When I say writing is shit from bulls, I take the metaphor quite seriously.

 

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Horses are good at eating and shitting too.

We consume information like bulls consume grass. We digest it, just like they digest grass. We break it down and use it up. We excrete what is left in the form of words.

 

In a more advanced class, one filled with people who were there because they wanted to be, not  because they were required to take the course, I might get into the nitty gritty details of crafting sentences and fine-tuning arguments. However, in a first year writing course, I am happy if my students leave with the ability to put ideas on the page in a coherent manner, and follow guidelines when they turn it in.

When students get an A’s on bullshitted papers, it’s not because they fooled their teachers. It’s because they weren’t censoring themselves like the students who agonize over every sentence. Getting words down on paper is the first step to developing as a writer. Being able to bull-shit a paper is a sign that  students are already halfway up the mountain.

I can’t make someone a master writer in one semester. What I can do is give them the tools to get words on the page, and empower them. I can help build a grain of confidence.

I can  plant seeds in their bullshit, and hope that one day, there is enough shit their to make the soil fertile so their ideas grow.

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©2017 Sara Codair

Can on only child mentality be the key to a successful writing career?

Writing and Publishing with an Only child Mentality

By Sara Codair

Only children, especially those of the millennial generation, have a reputation for being spoiled: needy, narcissistic, socially awkward brats who always get what they want.

While some of the stereotypes may be true for some people, only children have strengths too. We are often comfortable being on our own, imaginative, and self-motivate.

Many of the writers I interact with in “real world,” meaning people I speak to in-person, not online, often seem to marvel at my ability turn out a high volume of stories, handle rejection, persist, and get my work published.

While I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve only been publishing for a little over a year. I’ve done well for my first year, but I still have a long way to go before I reach my goal of being a full-time, professional fiction writer. I’m starting to think that my initial success, and potential for further successes, is tied into my only child mentality.

To start off with, I’m used to getting my way.

“No” was not a word I liked hearing as a child, and often, I could turn a “no” from either parent into a “yes.” At first, I worried this would hurt me. I do hate rejections, but more a market rejects me, the more determined I am to get published by that market. I know I cannot argue with rejections, so I just keep writing new stories so I can send that editor more stories.

I’ve been sending Daily Science Fiction at least one story a month for the past year, and in December, I made it to their second round for the first time. In the end, they didn’t buy my story, but I know I came close, and sooner or later, they will buy one of my stories.

This past fall, I got a rejection from Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots, an anthology I wanted to be, so I sent them another story, and got another rejection, then sent them a third story, and got an acceptance.

Growing up getting the things I wanted didn’t turn me into a weak, whiny person who cries when someone tells her no. It taught me that persistence, determination, and hard work lead to success.

In addition to being stubbornly persistent, my imagination and comfort with solitude also help me write. When there weren’t other kids to play with, I would entertain my self by making up stories. When there were kids, or adults willing to play like kids, I often directed them in acting out my stories. It was like Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) using my imagination instead of dice or game cards.

Making up stories is a habit I never got out of. I do it when I am sitting in traffic, running, waiting for an appointment and trying to follow asleep. Whenever the current task I am doing is not occupying my full attention, I have a story going in my head, and I don’t mind staying home on a Friday night to type out the story I made while commuting instead of socializing, especially since my friends aren’t really into LARPing.

Even the worst qualities associated with only children can be useful.

A small amount of narcissism can be useful, or almost necessary for anyone who goes into novel writing. The concept writing/publishing is narcissistic at its roots. I have to be a little in love with my self and my words in order to think that anyone would want to PAY for the things I made up while sitting on Boston traffic.

Some might say this is simply confidence, but to me, confidence is believing in your skill to write and tell a story. Believing your imagination is something that needs to not only be shared, but also sold, crosses the line. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, a drop of narcissism can be the difference between wishing you were writer and actually becoming one.

Like other aspiring writers, I have plenty of self-doubt and anxiety. However, I think the difference between me and my colleagues who “want” to write but never finish anything is that I have that annoying drop of narcissism and entitlement that allows me to believe I can and should sell my work.

I’ve grown up believing that with enough persistence, I can get anything I want. Rejection discourages some writers, but I am fueled by it. This mentality has gotten me published in token and semi-pro markets, and its even led to a few pro-sales. Hopefully, it will eventually lead to a career writing novels.

The Dreaded Short Story Query

The Dreaded Short Story Query

By Sara Codair

Querying short stories is the most stressful part of the publication process for me.

The word query has a slightly different meaning in the world of short stories than it does for novels.When you query an agent of publisher about a novel, you are essentially submitting a cover letter and sample to see if they are interested. However, when you submit a short story, you generally include an extremely brief cover letter and the full manuscript. Writers refer to this as a submission, not a query.

 

The short story query is actually a follow up letter. If the publisher does not respond to the story in their advertised timeframe, then you are allowed, and in some cases, expected to follow up with an email. For me, this is more stressful than the actual submission.

The longer a market takes to respond to my story, the more I start over-analyzing their silence. Did they forget about my story? Did they put it in their maybe pile? Are they just really backlogged? Any of these are equally possible.

If they are just backlogged, I feel bad adding more material to their reading list, even if it is just one email, so I always keep my query email short.

I take cues from their submission guidelines regarding how and when I can query. Most publications will provide some information about querying in their submission guidelines. For example, Firefly has this near the end of their guidelines: “if a month has passed from the day you have submitted to us and you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to send a query with either “Query” or “What The Heck” in the subject line. We find the latter more cathartic.”

I queried them once, but in the end, they were just backlogged and rejected my story. Other markets, like the Sockdolager and Museum of Science Fiction, have responded to queries telling me my story has made it past their first round and is being held for further consideration. The most successful querying experience I had was with Helios Quarterly as it turned into an acceptance.

Some markets have made querying unnecessary with extremely specific guidelines and efficient submission managing systems that allow writers to track their stories progress through the queue. However, many smaller and/or new markets can not afford said software, so they rely on email.

The best advice I can offer is keep it short, and make sure you read the guidelines first. If a market says “don’t query until three months have passed” then make sure three months have passed before you query.

Most of my queries look something like this:

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard anything. Could you please confirm you received it and provide an update on its status?

Thank you,

Sara

Or

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard from you. Are you still considering it?

Thank you,

Sara

If I addressed my cover letter to a specific person, I will use their name. Otherwise, “Dear Editors” works fine.

I’ve never had an editor get made at me for querying. Most of the responses I get are sympathetic or apologetic. If a market says you can query after X days or months have passed, then do it. Just keep your letter short and polite. It will give you peace of mind and remind the editor you exist.

When a Form Rejection is Better…

I often find myself cringing at form rejections, wishing that editors would give just a snippet of insight into why they rejected my story. Today, I found myself wishing for a form rejection.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a story titled “George and the Fatal Mistake” merging George Lucas’ sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney with a cross-road/deal with the devil trope. I sent to a few speculative publications, but quickly realized it was too close to fan fiction for their taste. I sent to a few celebrity and pop-culture themed calls for submissions, but also got rejections. After more rejections from humor zines, I was thinking it just didn’t belong in a lit mag, but saw an interesting anthology and thought, “I’ll try one more time.”

That was first of my big mistakes.

The second was that I didn’t reread the story to make sure it was the most up to date, error free draft. I wasn’t confident it was even a fit for theme. It was late. I didn’t think it was worth the effort.

The result: The rudest and most detailed rejection letter I’ve ever received that not only criticized my editing and writing skills, but put me down as a teacher as well. This editor even went as far as telling me that she couldn’t imagine anyone anthology editor would publish my writing.

For the first time since I started submitting stories, I actually wish the editor had just sent me a form rejection, and while I normally don’t let an angry editor deter me from submitting a story elsewhere, but I knew even before I sent this one out that it was the type of thing that belonged on my blog, not someone’s zine or anthology.

Later today, after I finish fixing all the grammatical errors than angered this editor (and a few she didn’t comment on), I will post it on my blog, and readers who don’t know anything about Star Wars can ignore it, and those who will appreciate it can read it.

Next time I get a form rejection, I will think of this angry editor, and be happy with “thank you for submitting, but this just isn’t what we are looking for.”