In which I test myself vs. Rule #3: You must not rewrite (unless to editorial demand)
I got a really nice personal rejection today. That is, I got a really helpful personal rejection today from a market I read regularly, so I can compare it to the stories they publish for added value. My preference for brutal rejection letters is part of the public record, but helpful and nice is good too.
I won't copy it here (that'd be lame for a personal note), but here's the summary: In a quick paragraph, the editor praises the setting and themes, rejects for execution. Then the editor goes on to say that something that didn't help was several scenes of severe violence against women, lingering and semi-explicit (editor's adjectives, but a fair description). Further, the editor says "I may well be oversensitive to such things, 'cause we see a *lot* of stuff along those lines in submitted stories".
Now you may be thinking "Damn, Dave, you're a jerk!" Hold on to those feelings, because I want to redirect them toward something useful. Or at least away from me.
I feel empathy with the editor, because that sentiment was what inspired the story in the first place. Reading fiction, watching TV dramas, living life: It's just coated in violence against women. Apparently if you don't want to go too far out of your way to get audience sympathy, that's the default go to. And, of course, in real life, it seems the default go to in the absence of ... well, the default. So, I would say I'm oversensitive.
But part of being a writer is breaking through sensitivity. I wanted to see if I could do it right, where it wasn't just a lame ploy for audience sympathy, but rather an essential piece of the initial character sketch and thus the development of the main character (who is not the one being beaten) as contrast to the villain. Re-reading the story, I still think it works, and I'm glad I sent it out as-is.
I consider this rejection a Success for two reasons:
1. An editor (whose magazine's speculative fiction I enjoy) noticed my first stab at alternate history and caught the themes I threw in. And wasn't inherently repulsed by two out of three! (66%! Whoo!). As a bonus, I got a useful tidbit of specific market knowledge which I'll be able to apply in the future.
2. Confidence. Earned confidence. I don't entirely suck, I just haven't been awesome in the right way for this particular market yet. That'll happen.
I'm feeling a Rule #3 glow. Had this editor sent me a rewrite request, I'm sure we could have worked something out, but until an editor does, my time is better spent writing the next story.
Don't write in the past, unless it's alternate history.
For any (there can be none!) who still doubt the quality of research and speculation in my Moon Base series, let me be the first to declare that I CALLED IT (a year ago!):
In At The Mountains of Malapert, we meet the Chinese president of the near future for the first time, Mr. Xi Jinping.
Near future, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!
Let's hope that the part I'm writing right now is not similarly prescient...even in this optimistic near-future, shit happens.
I'm in the process of scene-by-scene outlining (yes, you read that right) my action romance serial "Fire in Khartoum". Set in 1884 during the Siege of Khartoum, a young lieutenant finds himself torn between a young wife at home and the beautiful daughter of a local merchant, all the while struggling to survive against the Mahdi of the Sudan.
Here's the cover art. I plan to write it in parts, putting each part up for $0.99 as I finish it, and then sticking them all together at the end for $4.99. We'll see how this goes, because this seems to be the way I enjoy writing books.
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Reading - China Grooms Hu Jintao's Successor, Xi Jinping
(New York Times)