Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rejection Collection

Just because you get published doesn't mean you'll never see another rejection again. Or that rejections will get easier or that the proportion of rejections to contracts improves. Naturally, for some people, they are so talented that their first manuscript receives a contract and they never need to worry about rejections. Others work through the rejections, get that first contract and thereafter have only a few or none rejections.

That hasn't worked for me. In fact, I'm stumbling around badly at the moment, having just gotten slapped down a few more times and really wondering what path I should be following.

In my last few blogs, I've mentioned difficulties editing what I've written. I really do make things worse by editing them, more often than not. Especially if I'm trying to do what someone else tells me to do. And I've noticed this before. I don't know how unusual this is or if I'm some weird alien creature, but in almost everything I've tried, my first "cut" at it is the best. When I was learning the piano, the first time I played an unknown piece, it sounded the best. After that, the more I practiced, the worse I got. Same with cooking. The first time I made a recipe, it always came out extraordinarily well. Each subsequent time…a little less well. Practicing and repetition, for me, is not generally a good thing. I have no idea why and I fervently wish it wasn't true because a lot of things require practice. And yet instead of yielding better results, repetition and trying to build a skill, in my case, yields declining results.

So I need to learn to wield the editing scalpel a little less vigorously. In fact, I think it's safe to say that I need to not do a lot of editing—I need to add in the things I missed on the first draft (clarification of emotions & motivations and descriptions). Polish and remove actual mistakes. And leave it the hell alone.

I am totally taking Margery Allingham's method to heart.

  1. You write the first draft to get it all down on paper
  2. You add in what you missed or forgot in the second draft
  3. You take out all non-essentials in the third draft
  4. You polish

That's it.

So after the last destructive category 5 hurricane of rejections, I'm going to let some of my manuscripts rest for a while. I'm going to finish a mystery I've been working on, tentatively entitled: Whacked! (A computer geek girl, her elderly completely stoned uncle, a cop who wants to quit and be a writer, and the murder of a man who gist needed killin' in a little southern town called Peyton...).

And I'm going to try a new tactic. After I get most of the first draft done, I'm going to put a little polish on the first few chapters, draft up a synopsis, and send it to my agent to find out if she thinks it is something she can sell. I sure hope so. I may not even wait until I've finished the first draft.

That's my plan. It's the best I can do to avoid sinking into despair, although I'm nearly convinced at this point that I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag even if Margery Allingham dictated it to me. I can't plot, do characterization, or write a comprehensible sentence. But I am stubborn. Really stubborn. And I got one book published. By God, before I die, I'm going to get another one.

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