I’ve had some amazing rejections lately. You might think that would be slightly depressing – and you’d be right. It is. A little.
But I’ve received three rejections from two different genres of short story market and all three have given me personalised feedback and encouragement. It feels as though – just maybe – I might be nearly there. (I know – there is no ‘there’. Yet I continue to strive for it nonetheless.)
The first rejection regarded two stories that were shortlisted for an anthology. The second referred to two shorts – and had specific advice on where to rework. Re-writing with comments from a respected editor is like walking with the lights on! Makes a wonderful change from walking down a pitch dark highway. In high heels. In the rain.
Tonight, the third submission didn’t quite fit with the theme of the issue but generated some really positive comments. (Maybe I can save them for the book cover of collected stories?) The editor (who I’m now in love with) added that she’d be interested in reading my full length ms.
Deep breath. Don’t get your hopes up. There is no ‘there’. Etc.
How’s your creative work going? Are you ‘getting there’?
‘Why can’t you write nice things?’ J’s dad says to me. Often.
‘No-one wants to read about nice,’ I reply.
If narrative must be filled with conflict and tension, how can it be nice?
Friends can’t always understand why my writing is filled with ghosts of the past – people who inflicted pain upon me.
‘You’re not afraid to mine the toxic seam,’ one friend recently observed. But aren’t writers supposed to write what they know?
But as life reflects art and art reflects life once more, I’m more drawn to ask myself whether I believe writing about flawed people encourages one to remain flawed – vengeful, vindictive or victimised.
Whereas genre writers can allow megalomaniacs, acts of god and evil twins to thwart their heroes, literary fiction must rely on the internal struggle, the flawed heroine. In At the Hour of the Morning Drink I was infinitely intrigued by the woman who made her own problems, stood in her own way.
If you didn’t have ghosts you’d be in a lucky minority. Writing the dirt of the past is an essential part of a writer’s practice, and as I became increasingly empty I built a strong enough foundation in my writing that I could begin working with new techniques – diving with confidence into pure fiction. But there’s still not much room for ‘nice things’ without their opposite.
What conflicts drive your writing? And how does it affect your daily relationships?
Visitors to my blog may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not just because of the Christmas rest period – although that has been a great switch off from constant thoughts of writing.
I have a very strict rule when using social media – I never write anything to another person that I wouldn’t say to their face. To do otherwise would be cowardly.
Not everyone has this rule, and for those that do it translates differently for each person. Some people have no qualms about being rude or sarcastic or arrogant to a person they’ve just met.
A question I asked in a forum before Christmas was replied to in a manner I felt was very rude. It had misunderstood my question (wilfully?) and posted a reply that (ironically, for a writer’s site) didn’t make sense. Yet it was flooded with pseudo outrage that suggested I was asking something not just illegal but also immoral.
Being a (private/hypersensitive/bordering on reclusive) writer I was shaken by this ‘attack’. It reminded me of the hazards of promoting oneself on the internet and the recent words of more than one artist, ‘I only use it to promote my music/photography’.
The experience made me ask myself, ‘Who am I really writing for? What is my true aim?’
It’s rumoured J D Salinger wrote a number of manuscripts that he never showed anyone. We know Emily Dickinson did. Is this such a bad way to work? Is producing a piece of work valid if no-one else experiences it? (Sure. You just can’t use it to pay the gas bill.)
Does anyone else feel uncomfortable ‘putting themselves out there’? How do you balance this?