Best Written vs the Best

As many of you are aware, I review a lot of books during the course of a year. In my travels I come across a lot of anthologies declaring that they are the “best written” or “best” of a certain genre, and I, of course have an opinion on this.

In almost all cases, I have to agree that the stories on offer are very well written indeed, with beautiful prose and, in some cases, emotion inducing descriptions. I do not, however, regularly consider these pieces to be the best stories. Sometimes all that flowery prose can be tiresome, and even distracting. (Yes, I mean boring, but I don’t want to be rude).

I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that I love commercial fiction. Sure, shabby writing detracts from a good tale, but there is nothing quite like an easy-to-read, rocking story, be it a penny-dreadful, hard-boiled detective novel, non-fiction travel story, cosy mystery, biography, horror schlock fest, or chick lit…and the list goes on. This isn’t to say that I like all commercial fiction, (I’m not a fan of Dan Brown, Jodi Picoult or Matthew Reilly, for example) and I do love some literary fiction and classics

I am aware that there are people out there, who scoff at the reading choices of others. Shame on you I say. There is something for every reader out there regardless of their taste. Read widely, and read what you enjoy without shame or judgement. 

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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…