Thursday, March 29, 2007

Take my story, please!

So, I got two constructive and personalized rejections yesterday. I'll blog about one now, and the other later.

The first was from Nanobison, an online speculative fiction webzine and paying market. I submitted to them last November, and the initial response from the editor came the middle of January, almost two months later to the exact day. That's not bad, considering Nanobison's submission guidelines say response time can be upwards of 90 days. Which, to me at least, is understandable.

Editors give themselves leeway because things like real life and day jobs get in the way of publishing. That was the case with this editor. But I'm jumping ahead a bit. My first response from the Nanobison editor said he'd get back to me within a week, which I appreciated. I understand that not every editor has the time to even drop a one-line email to writers for whatever reason, but I'm sure this editor took time out of his day (or night) to do just that.

Two weeks go by, and the editor sends me another one-line email (again, appreciated) stating my story was on his weekend agenda for feedback he was sorry for the delays. And again, I can't say enough how this is a rarity, and one that has me respect the editor even more.

So February rolls around, and still no acceptance and rejection from the editor. At this point, I'm eager to get the story I submitted to Nanobison out to other markets, for a few reasons. First, it's the second longest speculative fiction piece I've written. Second, while it's not a "sequel" or continuation to the piece I submitted to Electric Spec, it is set in the same "world". And third, it has some elements which could be considered controversial, original (I think), and even far-fetched, and I'm interested in finding out what editors think.

That being said, I email the editor ask the Nanobison editor if I can submit the story to another market. I figure it has roughly been 90 days, and he's wavering on whether or not to reject the story. Me being the pessimist my wife knows and loves, I believe he's leaning towards rejection, so decide I can try to focus on a more accepting market.

I hear nothing from the editor about my latest request until yesterday. Immediately, he begins his email by apologizing for his delayed response, and says he has no good excuse other than real life and his day job.

With the past week I've had, I can't help but understand. He then went on to say he loved the writing style of my piece and enjoyed some of the ideas, but the story just didn't do it for him. He did have some detailed suggestions, though. He wanted me to get rid of the first paragraph and get right into the action of the story--he didn't think my first paragraph was a good enough hook.

Also, he wasn't quite so sold with the "lingo" of my main character. The story isn't set in the far-flung future, but the near-future. Within 100 years of today. He felt I should "punch it up a bit," like in Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. Whatever that means. It's been awhile since I've read Snow Crash, but if I remember correctly, he didn't write about a street-wise African-American kid from the South Side of Chicago.

Lastly, the editor wanted me to trim a certain portion of the story that was, as he put it, "windy." I can see his point with suggestion, and most likely I will look at that section again. I did some editing and trimming before submitting the story, and I'll do some more to make it a bit smoother. The editor finished by saying he believes I have a "very promising style," and strongly encouraged me to submit to Nanobison again.

All in all, this was one of the better rejection letters I've received, but I'm not sure all of his suggestions are suitable. I definitely will trim and edit the passage he found windy--however, the main character's lingo won't be changed. I believe it to be unique and a functional part of the story's narration. I just don't think it worked for this editor.

As for the opening--my hook, or lack thereof--I'm not sure what to do with that yet. I will not begin the story with action (or a caustic or abrasive remark from the main character, as also suggested by the editor). The action of the story belongs at the end, with the narration leading the reader to the action. I understand that many editors look for a solid hook in the first paragraph, and if they don't find it, they don't read on.

I've even played up to that in the past, using gimmicky one-liners to start off a story, or even misleading teasers like television networks and movie studios do with commercials and trailers. But I'm attempting to bring quality elements of writing to a genre often criticized for having very little of it.

This is not to say there aren't writers out there whose writing (not content, but writing) isn't high-quality. If anything, I want my speculative fiction to be high-quality writing. I want to blend the literary and speculative fiction genres. And yes, I'm sure I'm not the first to think of doing this or attempt to do this.

And I realize doing this might turn off some editors. But, ultimately, I'm supposed to be writing for myself, right?

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