Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rejection Blues and Burning

I'm editing again. I cannot honestly say that the first draft is done, as I'm never quite comfortable saying that until it is ready to be read by another. And it would be more accurate to say this is, at least, the second incarnation.

This time last year I had just started my collection of rejections. I did my research, soon encountering the vast sea of my ignorance and dived in regardless. I've always found learning by fire a good way to temper knowledge/action, and yes I blundered, a bit, occasionally. Ahem. Instead of the coldly calculating wisps who slid easily into snide that I had been fearing, and seen much moaned about online, I found my correspondence with agents, and their assistants, to be rather friendly. Even the form rejections are written with a hand that holds yours comfortingly, perhaps offers advice from an experienced perspective. It is important to remember that agents are people and, not only that, but people who read. We all want good books.

Over the autumn I carried on writing the next part of the story, carried on submitting, researching, learning. There are some sites that advise that writers can collect a 100+ rejections before getting that longed for acceptance. I've always thought you would do better to try and identify why it elicits such a negative response. A few may just be down to luck or a matter of taste. If it is just based on your covering letter then perhaps that needs to be improved, but if its on a call for your first chapters? That strongly suggests it's your writing, story, or characters (or worse, dread of dread, the whole lot).

"trap of over writing"
"far too overly florid"
"it just didn't grab me enough"
"need to have a better idea of what the main drama and thrust of the plot is"
"the writing can be tightened up and simplified"

Some of the constructively critical barbs that struck. It took a few months for objective scar tissue to form, for me to figure out whether it was just the first three chapters that were a shambles or if the problem went deeper. To figure out how restrictions cause friction, how to utilise that and when to let go and recognise that structure is not rigid, but more a glue, an anchor, a backbone. Your writing does not hang from, nor frame, your plot but flows from it. There is a part of me amused that one of the themes explored is that journey, those concepts of innocence and experience.

In the spring I burned around 51k of prose, plus an unknown amount of sentences, paragraphs, phrases, a few characters; sub plots died or evolved. The 30kish that had been the beginning of book two merged with the old, contracted, expanded. The chronology fell to chaos. The arc in Of Bloody Reflections was shaken down and combed over, redistributed and refined into a duology. I certainly understand the value of a working synopsis (not notes or plans) better now. Like an ultimate spoiler guide/battle plan/literary analysis.

The discordant mess of  Song of Sorrow settled, slowly, into something approaching a story once more.

I've missed my self imposed deadlines, but am not too fraught over it. With every cliff I jump off it gets a bit better. I think. I mean...not just florid, not just far too florid, but overly far too florid! Florid to the third degree. FFS. That haunts me.

But summer is maturing into autumn once more, and the writing has ripened.

Soon it will be ready to be read, again, for the first time.


  1. Appreciate your honesty and am eager to read the first part of your revised epic. Hoping you'll do the same for mine as I too have gone through the very similar struggle of changing that which at first seemed 'ready'.

    Keep streamlining ;)

  2. Aye, not easy but necessary. And the work is much better for it. It originally just started too slowly and indulged too much in description- which is a criticism our writers circle often bought up. I just needed the time to develop as a writer, then the courage to compare that development with old writing....and change or cut as needed.

    Self confidence is tenuous though. More so, I think, because I have not had that rolling feedback.

    And yes, of course our beta exchange agreement still stands ;) All going well I should be sending mine out by end of this month. What state is yours in? Are you still presenting episodically or as chapters in a whole?