Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rejections of the Future

I just set up another 4 submissions to send out. Yippee!

Now, off to mail them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rejection Connection

Rejection update.

Got a couple form letters.

But I also got a great one from The Missouri Review:
"Although we won't be publishing this story, I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your writing. The style and structure of the story itself sets it apart. Good luck in the future and I hope you'll try us again."

There are two things that are great to see when you get a rejection letter: the first is a handwritten note. That's just awesome.

But the awesome-ness increases with the second bit: the caliber of the magazine.

Who thought rejection could make you smile?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thank your friends...and do the work

All of the critiques of the rough draft of FJR have been returned to me from the saints that reviewed it. Here is what I have to say about that:

Deb, Ali, Nicole, and John--you guys so rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Look, the truth of the matter is, as writers, we jump into something hoping to God that what we're doing will work. We hope also, of course, that we will be able to recognize what goes wrong--if anything--in a manuscript by ourselves. But we just can't. That's where having a good writers group comes in so damn handy.

The good news is, after all their notes and all their hard reading-work, they all pretty much came to the same conclusion. There are two specific scenes that bug everyone.

Here's the news that a lot writers don't recognize:
When only two scenes are off, that's great.
But, that still means you have to adjust the entire manuscript.

I was reading a book called Making a Story (or something along those lines, I'll double check the title later and let y'all know...) and I was in the "Revision" chapter. Basically, the discussion was about writers going on to the second draft...and then to the third, etc....The conclusion was that the first draft is messy but the second draft may be even messier.

Why's that? you ask. It's because a lot of times writers just try to fix the scenes that are messed up, thinking that will fix all of the problems. Generally, it just adds confusion because those couple scenes are not reflecting all of what's in the manuscript now. So the result is this cut-and-pasty thingy but not really a strong draft.

So, I have to thank my friends for saving me a step or two. First, they pointed out the scenes that weren't working and then another thanks to John specifically for pointing what the main issue with those scenes was--and I bet he is not even aware that he did that.

The main issue is the main character. Every other character has pretty defined arcs. My main character, A., is moving around all these people, moving around the situation, but I don't really root her in the conflict while I move her through all these other, layered interactions. The reason everyone nailed me for two specific scenes is because those are the scenes where A. is supposed to come into her own. The reader is supposed to connect with her at those moments...but there is a decided lack of conflict and a lack of her history in those scenes.

What happens if I fix just those scenes?

The story will be off-balance because the history and the conflicts that are presented in the revised scenes will inform the scenes that already 'work'...so the good scenes may or may not work when it's all said and done. Luckily, after brainstorming and reading my buddies' comments, I know I have to re-do the entire thing...but only to make it seamless. Now I know where the problems are. I have a couple ideas on how to fix them and am going through the whole manuscript right now looking for where the stitches have to go.

Drudgery, you say. Nah. If you've put that much effort into a manuscript already, the chance to make it shine shouldn't overwhelm you...it should motivate you, drive you. I'm thinking, in the end, that's what seperates the pros from the amateurs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Historical Perspective

I just finished reading James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder and in the back of the book is the "P.S" section where there are author interviews and whatnot. Apparently, Morrow spent seven years working on this novel...and many years before doing 'pre-writing'--where he got the inspiration and accrued information.

One thing caught my attention. It seems Morrow felt creeped out by the Salem witch trials. He always felt awkward when visiting the museums about the witchtrials. Considering this is a book about the juxtaposition of Reason and superstitions in the 17th to 18th centuries, I found myself wondering why he would steep himself in all this history to create this novel. Then I asked myself this question:

Why spend so much time on a time period that creeps you out...and not in a good way? The amount of effort that has to be put forth in a novel is strenuous at the best of times. Why work on something that seems, in some ways, painful?

Another question for all you good reader/writers out there:
A publisher has said that yes! he will publish you...but only if you write a historical piece. What time period do you feel you could research and basically 'spend time in' for a decade or more while creating your piece?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rhythm Interrupted

Apparently Ali has run out of reading material. Imagine! and she hits me with the refresh of shame....

Anyway, there's a very good reason for not posting. Yes, I'll blame the baby. But I'll also blame everything that comes with a baby. Namely: relatives.

There are mother-in-laws, grandmothers, mothers, uncles, cousins, etc. Everyone wants to see the baby. Not that I blame them; my child is gorgeous. However, driving to and fro so that we can show off her beauteousness and entertaining people who don't regularly live with us has thrown off the schedule. I've been watching far too many soap operas under duress, observing far too much of Dr Phil's opinions, and basically feeling like I'm spinning my wheels and getting a whole lot of nowhere.

Which has thrown off my goals.
Which irritates me.
Which makes me sound bitchy when I don't want to be.

I still plan on hitting the revisions of FJR this month...sometime. That was the main goal for this month after having the baby. (Who, I might add, is taking my typing very well, though it is probably jerking her head around in a most uncomfortable fashion.)