My story to Fault Zone was rejected. Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!
The Fault Zone editors gave a quick critique of my rejected story. That is much, much, MUCH better than empty silence! I hope they keep doing that. And I hope they do not mind that I critiqued their critique. I consider this my first professional rejection, and it is worth writing about.
Supply a hook at the start of the story? That’s good advice. I can supply a better taste of what is to come: a storyline about the irritations of mansplaining. That would be better than “The black and the blue raced to the rescue!”
We Want Information. Information. INFORMATION!
Let readers figure out on their own that this is a fruit-named computer company instead of saying it outright? That’s not so good advice, in my opinion. I want the time and location known immediately, so my first paragraph is “SEASIDE CITY, CALIFORNIA. THE APRICOT COMPUTER CAMPUS. THE PRESENTATION THEATER. A FRIDAY. 3:17 P.M.” Naturally, I will describe the location when my POV (point of view) character sees it. Alfred Hitchcock said his movies were not mysteries, which were about withholding information from the audience, but about giving information, as in there’s a bomb under the table. Also, this banner adds a comic book and cartoon flavor to my story. Others get it: at a workshop last Saturday, editor Charlotte Cook read the start of my story in the louder, slightly pompous tone that I adopt when I have read the banner-type opening of my stories at open mics. She GOT what I was doing.
They (or “I”) “found the prose disjointed and difficult to follow,” and then they did not say why? At Saturday’s workshop, a writer next to me read some of my story and liked it, but she pointed out exactly where she was confused about who was speaking and what was taking place. Them not giving an example of the problem made me wonder if they just did not like my style.
Forced sound effects should only be used in graphic presentations? No, I want a goofy comic book feel, an Adam West Batman sound. Sound effects words are words, why not use them in a prose story? Of course, a POW, THOOM, or SHUSH-SPLUT-SKAAAH (last one stolen from Don Martin) should not be overused, but sprinkled like a spice. And it had better be the right spice, cinnamon in spaghetti sauce would taste weird. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind later. But not today.
More Critique at a Writing Workshop
I printed and brought the story to a writing workshop last Saturday. Charlotte Cook, editor and former publisher, gave me some good advice when she read my story aloud to the workshop (she read several). I have been working on third person deep point of view. Charlotte mentioned close third person, and where I was not using it and thus pushing the reader away from the story. Telling instead of showing is generally a BIG NO-NO. She also pointed out my sentences that ran on too long. Readers should not gasp for air when they read. And she pointed out leading dependent clauses, which I should avoid. Like “Her red cape flapping, Holly flew over Cal and the charging ninjas.” Make the flapping cape its own sentence.
I am feeling better about my first professional rejection. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor. Or a T-shirt or underpants? I remember Isaac Asimov telling how he was with some writer friends, and he asked one of them how he handled rejection. The guy hemmed and hawed, and said he did not know, he had never had a rejection. Isaac said that it was only that this guy was a really nice guy that they did not kill him where he stood.
P.S. I still see myself as an indie author (Amazon, Smashwords, etc.), I do not ever see myself going to a New York publisher. I have thought about Sand Hill Press, or other small publishing house. I’ll see how the novel goes. For now, I get my short stories professionally polished and then I put them out for sale. Or for twisting in the wind.