The terrifying arrival of constructive feedback

I have recently embarked on writing horror (a genre I enjoy immensely – and yes I accept that it is most certainly not to everyone’s taste). I have been putting the feelers out by submitting two short stories to two different horror journals.

“Good start!” I hear you shout enthusiastically.

I was rejected by both.

“Never mind, Chin up.” I hear you say.

But…These weren’t standard rejections. I received comprehensive feedback and advice from both. It was terrifying. Both replies started with the standard “thanks but…”, and then went on to say that they liked a, b, c and d. Then suggested that I “need a little more here on e” and “f” needs rewriting (and what it needs)”.

I know, this is the advice you dream of, right? They didn’t have to give me anything other than the “no thanks”, but they did. I’m taking this to mean that they thought that I was worth the extra time and resources to steer me on the right path. I really appreciate it, but I’m filled with the type of fear I need my horror works to instil in others. What if I can’t do it? What if this is the best work I have in me? What if I change it, and it’s still wrong?. The self doubt monster is knocking on the door (and it’s a big, ugly bugger).

So, what am I going to do? Well, for a start an appreciative email response to both editors who took the time out to give me the advice, is in order. Then I’m going to download the advice, save it into the folders for each story, and leave it until the New Year (less than 4 weeks away). I need to think, reflect and plan what to do next. I also need to relax – I’m not on a deadline and it doesn’t matter a jot if I need to rewrite it 40 times before i hit the mark.

Still feeling daunted though 🙂

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Managing rejections – again!

I regularly receive rejections, and occasionally receive feedback. Why so many rejections? Well for a start, I regularly submit my work to various publishers, journals and competitions. You don’t get rejected if you don’t submit.

Whenever I receive a rejection, I’m left with a feeling of emptiness, and in some cases, feel a little embarrassed and stupid because I sent in a piece of work that didn’t cut the mustard.

Yesterday I received two knock backs for two separate pieces of work. (With most publishers requesting that you don’t submit pieces with multiple pitch enquiries in the market, I find myself with a couple of projects ready for pitching at the same time).

Both of these rejections were very polite, and came with useful feedback. One stated that they genuinely liked my submission, and how I had presented it, but that it didn’t fit with the style of pieces they were aiming for in the current season’s publications. They added that they had a work of similar style, and hadn’t been able to get market traction with it. I believe them. Why would they bother sending a one page response to an emerging author when a “thanks but no thanks” would do.

The other was for a short story. The feedback was that my dialogue “felt a bit flat” in places, and that the formatting of my manuscript was a little unusual. I’m not sure what happened with the formatting, it looks fine on my computer, but I will removed all formatting and start again when I’m next ready to submit it.

The issues with the dialogue definitely need investigating. This had not been brought to my attention by any of the many folk I had read through it. Perhaps they were just being polite when they said that it was great, or maybe some thought that something was a little off, but weren’t sure what it was. Or maybe they didn’t have the expertise to spot it.

One of my fellow writer’s recently received feedback on a piece saying that it was, among other things, “pedestrian”. I had personally found it to be well written and entertaining, but then again, I’m not reviewing 40 pieces of work in the same genre everyday.

I suspect that I’m in need of a writing mentor to get me over some of the stylist hurdles, but I can’t afford to employ one, and don’t qualify under any of the ‘disadvantaged artist’ schemes for entry into a special program. Yeah, I know – me and everybody else. Tough luck, huh. But I will continue to plug away at it, until I get there.

On a positive note, these days I almost always receive rejections with feedback and words of encouragement. This is very different from the ones I used to receive when I started submitting works four years ago (no response, one-liners etc.). Progress is progress.

Rejections in all areas of life are disheartening, but every experience brings you closer to getting that acceptance. So to all of you budding writers out there who are feeling a bit down about your perceived lack of success, hang in there and keep submitting, reviewing, and re-submitting your work. You can’t win the draw if you haven’t bought a ticket.

The journey continues…

Panic editing, pitching and other messy processes.

I am bang, smack in the middle of rewriting (and I mean rewriting) my cosy mystery story. I received some exceedingly valuable feedback from an agent about this piece, and what it needs to reach a marketable point. Scary advice – but once I stopped sulking, and really looked it, I realised that she was right. The suggested changes will make a huge difference to the readability (and saleability) of the piece.

So now I’m in the middle of an anxiety-producing rewrite. I have no idea if I’m going to make the Easter deadline either. Having said that, it cheered me greatly to see a post from a fellow writer on a facebook writers group (of which I am a member). She said that it had taken her 18 months to (a) deal with the feedback, (b) redraft her story, and (c) finish the draft to a submittable level. Good to know that I’m not the only one paralysed by fear at the prospect of a rewrite. So, its onwards and upwards with that one.

And just to make my writers journey more challenging, I’ve finished the rewrite of my new junior grade fiction novel, prepared the pitching materials and synopsis, and am about to embark of the process of submitting it to various publishers. Expect that rejection widget to see some action over the next three months. Hey, you never know, I may actually get an acceptance/show of interest!.

Fingers crossed. Keep up your writing!